Young Reds Through to National Plate Final with fine away Semi-Final Win
St Columba’s School 0 – 19 Linlithgow
Saturday 22 November 2022
Report by Garry Knox
The Young Reds u16s arrived in a dreich Kilmacolm for their National Plate Semi-Final against St Columba’s early on Saturday morning. It was clear from the outset that fast, running rugby was going to be at a premium on a very claggy and sloping pitch which was a whisker away from being declared unplayable the previous day.
Playing down the slope in the first half, the Reds were aware of the importance of hitting the sheds with a half time lead and, after a few skirmishes at either end, they soon started to take a grip of the game. Both teams found it tough to keep possession of the very slippery ball in the tight exchanges; at times it seemed every tackle was dislodging the ball. Rucks were typically messy but the ball the Reds did win was safely marshalled by scrum-halves Cyrus and Finlay B. When the ball did reach the backs Ruairi, and latterly Rory D, ensured the game was played in the right part of the pitch with an outstanding kicking display before feeding out to the outside backs to attack the flanks. It has to be said that every one of the Young Reds backs demonstrated exceptionally good handling in the conditions; Alfie and Robert also carried strongly in the centre throughout with only the clawing pitch preventing numerous line-breaks while Will, Murray, Braden and Finlay S patrolled the wings brilliantly in both attack and defence.
With clean ball (literally and metaphorically) scarce, most of the action remained in the tight whether through good old fashioned scrapping for possession or through our forwards crashing the ball back into their Saints counterparts off our 9 and 10. The Young Reds might have been more dominant had conditions not required most scrums to be uncontested on safety grounds, but the energy saved in the scrums was put to good use elsewhere as every Reds forward gave their all carrying, tackling and clearing out. As the rain became heavier and the strips and pitch muddier it became more and more difficult to identify exactly which forward was doing what!
The Young Reds’ first try came midway through the first half when, after a phase or two from a scrum on half way, Ruairi kicked into space near the Saints goal line. A chasing Robert nailed the covering defender as soon as the ball was fielded and the Young Reds support steamed in to turn over. Within a few phases Finn A picked up from the base of a goal line ruck to score. As, by now expected, Ruairi made no mistake with the awkward conversion. Saints 0 – 7 Young Reds.
Although in command, the Young Reds were aware that playing up the slope in the second half might see the momentum shift and so another score before half time was crucial. From a Saints line-out on their 22 Jacob, not for the first time, stole the ball allowing the Reds to secure before attacking across the pitch. After another strong carry and a quick ruck, Cyrus changed the direction of play and Ruairi kicked into the corner for Will to gather and stretch for the line. He was stopped just short but Kyran was on hand to collect the loose ball and touch down. Ruairi’s touch line conversion attempt was never in doubt.
Half Time: St Columba’s 0 – 14 Linlithgow.
The early stages of the second half followed a similar pattern, the slope not seeming to help St Columba’s gain the territory we might have expected. The feeling was that another score for the Young Reds would kill the game and that sentiment certainly seemed to be shared by the lads themselves as they worked tirelessly to keep the game in the Saints half.
Eventually the Reds worked themselves towards the Saints goal line again and when the home team didn’t release in the tackle, Euan took a tap penalty from the 5 metre line and drove through several Saints defenders to ground the ball. From wide out Ruairi hit the post with his conversion attempt – it would be no surprise if he meant it! Saints 0 – 19 Young Reds.
Linlithgow were unlucky not to increase their lead further when Will chased down a long kick into the corner from Ruairi and seemed to touch down. But the referee, who was unfortunately at least 30 yards behind the play, decided the ball had gone dead before the killer touch.
Showing great heart, the Saints finally gained some ascendancy and had a 10 minute spell of pressure in the Young Reds half. But the visitor’s defence was in no mood to allow a consolation score and smothered the Saints attack at every turn.
As time was running out, the Young Reds regained possession on their 10 metre line and Alfie made a great break down the right wing as his and the chasing defender’s boots plunged deeper into the mud with every step. The tackle eventually arrived just short of the line but a great offload allowed the ball to be moved back inside. Just as it looked as if the Young Reds might finish with a flourish with a score under the posts, a knock on saw the Referee whistle for full time.
This was a real team effort with every lad playing an outstanding part in a great victory. The Young Reds march on to a well deserved National Plate Final at the DAM Health Stadium on Wednesday 7th December against [Glenalmond or Loretto] with a 4:30pm Kick Off.
Full Time: St Columba’s 0 – 19 Linlithgow.