Scotland U18 secured their position as the only side to go through the 2018 U18 6 Nations Festival unbeaten after they beat Ireland 19-17 on Sunday.
That followed previous wins over France, 24-21, and England, 32-27, earlier in the tournament. Incidentally, Scotland have now beaten England at senior, U20, U18, and 7s now over the course of the last 6 weeks.
It is an impressive turnaround for Scotland, who only a fortnight before the tournament had beaten 64-0 by England at BT Murrayfield. It was a long way back from there and ahead of this tournament many would have said that they were facing at least two, possibly three, of the top 3 sides in the Festival.
The turnaround has been down to hard work, as Head Coach Iain Monaghan said to the Scotland Rugby website: “Where they were before Christmas to where they are now as people is testament to the work which has been done.”
Against Ireland, Scotland started strong, pressing forward through SGS Filton College fly half Nathan Chamberlain, one of four Scottish Exiles in the starting fifteen. His pass was deliberately knocked forward by Ireland’s Tom Stewart, who was sent to the bin.
Scotland felt that this was a good chance to set up a big early advantage and went to the corner, and the bravery of the decision from skipper Connor Boyle was vindicated as he crossed over from the maul to give Scotland the lead.
Five minutes later they were over again, this time Loretto’s Robbie McCallum capitalizing on yet more good play from Chamberlain to cross out wide. As the half hour ticked by, Scotland scored their third, with Henley College prop Alex Pleasants absolutely smashing over after some powerful carries from the rest of the pack to give Scotland a 19-0 lead with Chamberlain adding two conversions to the three tries.
Ireland were never going to make it easy for Scotland though, and before the break they had a score of their own, with outside centre Karl Martin crossing the whitewash and scrum half Nathan Doak adding the extras to send the sides in with Scotland 19-7 up at the break.
A Doak penalty shortly after the break narrowed things to 19-10, and from there it was almost all Ireland, who came back in wave after wave. The Scottish defence was resolute though, holding Ireland up over the line and knocking them back before it, and it took until the hour mark to crack when Ben Murphy wriggled over.
Doak added the conversion for 19-17, which left a nervy few minutes for Scotland at the closing stages, the young men in blue held out though, completing a thoroughly outstanding campaign.
Speaking to Scottish Rugby after the game, Head Coach Iain Monaghan said:
“We asked them to give us a performance and they did that today, especially in defence. They’ve had three great experiences against three different teams over the last 10 days and they have found themseleves in different scenarios they wouldn’t normally face.”
“Quite a few of the boys will now kick on to the next stage of their development.”
Scotland U18 19-17 Ireland U18
Scotland U18 XV:
15 Rufus McLean (Merchiston Castle), 14 Scott Robeson (George Heriot’s), 13 Matthew Currie (Merchiston Castle), 12 Robbie McCallum (Loretto), 11 Jack Blain (Stewart’s Melville College/Stewarts Melville RFC), 10 Nathan Chamberlain (Bristol/SGS Filton College), 9 Jamie Dobie (Merchiston Castle), 1 Alex Maxwell (Brooksby Melton College/Leicester Tigers), 2 Rory Jackson (Edinburgh Academy), 3 Daniel Gamble (Kelso/Merchiston Castle), 4 Jack Hill (Sedbergh), 5 Cameron Henderson (Strathallan), 6 Archie Smeaton (Yorkshire Carnegie/Hymers College), 7 Connor Boyle (Stewart’s Melville College/Stewart’s Meville RFC, captain), 8 Rory Darge (Borders College/Melrose).
Replacements: 16 Scott Clelland (Ayr), 17 Alex Pleasants (Henley College/Wasps), 18 Ashley Sinton (Newcastle Falcons/Gosforth Academy), 19 Tom Morris (Dollar Academy), 20 Gavin Wilson (Dumfries Saints), 21 Kristian Kay (Stowe/Wasps), 22 Dan Lancaster (Yorkshire Carnegie/Bishop Burton College), 23 Charlie Hudson (St Peter’s, York), 24 Cameron Brown (Kelso), 25 Paul Cunningham (George Watson’s College), 25 Femi Sofolarin (Dulwich College/Harlequins).
Ireland U18 XV:
15 Max O’Reilly (St Gerard’s School), 14 Andrew Smith (St Michael’s College), 13 Karl Martin (St Mary’s School, Drogheda), 12 Angus Adair (RBAI), 11 Aaron Sexton (Bangor GS), 10 Paddy McKenzie (East Glendalough School), 9 Nathan Doak (Wallace HS), 1 John McKee (Campbell College, captain), 2 Tom Stewart (Belfast Royal Academy), 3 Charlie Ward (Tullow Community School), 4 Sean O’Brien (Blackrock College), 5 Tom Ahern (St Augustine’s, Dungarvan), 6 Anthony Ryan (Clongowes Wood College), 7 Ryan O’Neill (RS Armagh), 8 Alex Kendellen (PBC Cork).
Replacements: 16 Padraig McCarthy (Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai), 17 Connor Morrissey (Mayfield CS), 18 Fionn Finlay (St. Michael’s College), 19 Cian Hurley (CBC Cork), 20 Conor McMenamin (Colaiste Ailigh), 21 Ben Murphy (Presentation College Bray), 22 David McCann (RBAI), 23 Ben Power (Campbell College).
U18 6 Nations Festival Results:
Matchday 1 – Saturday 31st March, Ystrad Mynach (Centre of Sporting Excellence)
Scotland U18 32-27 England U18
Wales U18 14-22 France U18
Ireland U18 20-17 Italy U18
Matchday 2 – Wednesday 4th April, Cardiff Arms Park
Italy U18 32-30 England U18
Ireland U18 28-36 Wales U18
France U18 21-24 Scotland U18
Matchday 3 – Sunday 8th April, Cardiff Arms Park
Ireland U18 17-19 Scotland U18
Italy U18 18-27 Wales U18
France U18 24-14 England U18
Previous U18 results this season:
Scotland 30-32 Wales
Scotland 0-64 England
Wales 14-42 England
France 27-5 England
Ireland 20-39 France
Italy 18-5 France ‘B’
U18 6 Nations Festival – Unofficial Table*
*Using NatWest 6 Nations scoring systems.