George Watson’s College won the inaugural U18 Tri Nations Festival at Merchiston Castle with a 7-0 victory over Seaford College.
Schools and clubs from Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland all met at Merchiston Castle for the eight teams tournament. Seaford College and Bedford travelling up from England and unbeaten Ballymena Academy heading across from Northern Ireland.
Dollar Academy joined hosts Merchiston Castle and eventual champions George Watson’s as the Scottish schools, with Stirling County and Boroughmuir the two Scottish clubs.
The tournament was all set to be a two day festival, however heavy rainfall caused a washout on day 1. Somehow though, and with a huge amount of credit to the organizers and the ground staff, the tournament was able to go ahead on Day 2. Adjustments had to be made, the semi final stage was abolished, meaning that the winners of the groups (the eight teams were drawn into two groups of four) would meet in the inaugural Cup final, while the second placed sides from each group would meet in the Plate final.
Right from the start Group 1 looked a tasty group, with George Watson’s College, Bedford, and Stirling County all drawn against the hosts, meanwhile in Group 2 Seaford College, Dollar Academy, Ballymena Academy, and Boroughmuir were all together.
Group 1 saw both George Watson’s and Merchiston get past both Bedford and Stirling County, Merchiston winning 10-0 and 16-0 respectively while George Watson’s were fairly comfortable, with 21-0 and 20-0 victories. That set up a spectacular group decider between the two old rivals, who through everything at it in a tense game of rugby. It was George Watson’s College that came out on top, 14-10, sending them to the final while the hosts would head to the Plate.
Over in Group 2 Seaford College were making smart work of the challenges posed, with a 24-7 defeat of Ballymena Acaedmy and a 20-0 victory over Boroughmuir. Dollar Academy achieved the same outcome but found the going tougher, winning narrow games 9-7 and 10-7. Seaford College took that momentum into their game against Dollar Academy, coming out with another strong victory, 21-6, to reach the final, with Dollar heading to the Plate final.
Over in the Plate Final, Merchiston Castle sealed the silverware with a composed and clinical performance for a 19-0 victory, claiming silverware in this inaugural tournament. While it was a shame not to have a Scottish side at the prestigious St Joseph’s Festival, which took place on the same weekend and in which Merchiston were regulars, the addition of this U18 Tri Nations Festival and a possible expansion to twelve teams is exciting. The prospect of 28 sides playing across two festivals next year is enticing and offers more and more competitive opportunity.
To the final, which proved a close affair between two very good sides. George Watson’s College have been in good form this year, with Dollar Academy and Merchiston Castle already beaten prior to this tournament, but so too have Seaford College in England, whom only a very strong Hampton side had beaten. Indeed three times already this season Seaford have passed the fifty point mark.
As such the final was predictably close and tense, all games were 25 minutes long and that always adds the extra tension, all points proving even more important than in the usual seventy minute games. As it was, only one score would separate the teams, and Angus Hoffie converted score for George Watson’s College proving the difference and handing them the Cup.
Despite the first day washout, the tournament proved that it could become a real fixture on the calendar, and if expansion proves possible then it could become one of the key tournaments each year.
For now, the plaudits all go to George Watson’s College, four wins from four, and a new Trophy with which to head into half term.
Cup Final: George Watson’s College 7-0 Seaford College
Plate Final: Merchiston Castle 19-0 Dollar Academy
Merchiston Castle U18 Tri Nations Festival Groups Standings:
|1||George Watson’s College||3||0||0||9|