GALASHIELS ACADEMY took a step closer to achieving ultimate success in the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Under-18 Plate by reaching the semi-final stage of the competition with a comfortable 43-0 win over a Linlithgow Academy composite at Netherdale last week, writes Alan Lorimer.
The sumptuous victory over Linlithgow was in contrast to the narrow 7-5 win over North Berwick High School in the East Lothian and Borders regional final that took Galashiels Academy into the national quarter-finals.
And that again begs the question of why East Lothian schools and Borders schools were yoked together for the regional rounds of the Brewin Dolphin Plate when both districts contain some of the strongest rugby-playing state schools in Scotland.
Linlithgow reached the national quarter-finals by finishing top of a much less tough competition among central region schools and the difference in standard showed that Galashiels Academy, in spite of playing below their best, were much too strong for the visitors.
“We perhaps tried to force the pace a little too much” admitted Academy coach, Lewis Bertram.
“Overall it was a scrappy match but at the same time we scored some very good tries. I suppose at this time of year things are a bit flat rugby-wise and that can be difficult. But I was happy that we were able to use the entire squad, which included a couple of boys who have just turned 16.”
Outstanding for Galashiels Academy was stand-off Ruari Howarth, who played for Borders under-18s at full back in the national selection game against Edinburgh at Peffermill earlier this month. Howarth, however, qualifies for the under-17 age group, and looks a good bet for national selection in his preferred position at stand-off.
Also in storming form was prop Gary Robertson, the younger brother of Gala winger Craig and women’s international player Lisa, and another to represent Borders under-18s against Edinburgh.
He, too, could receive a call-up for Scotland under-17s.
It was Howarth who opened the scoring for Gala with a solo effort, before setting up a score under the posts for centre Keith Young, who kicked the conversion goal before adding the extra points to a try from Robertson for a 19-0 interval lead.
Then, in the second half, two further tries by Robertson to complete the hat-trick and scores from winger Gary Beaumont and Howarth, and two conversions from Young, completed the rout to send Galashiels Academy into the last four.
The Academy have been handed another home tie for the semi-final round, where they face much stiffer opposition in the form of Madras College.
The St Andrews school, who reached the final of the Brewin Dolphin Under-16 Bowl competition last season, booked their place in the semi-final by defeating Millburn Academy from Inverness by 31-13.
Galashiels Academy: Chris Nicholson; Gary Beaumont, Daniel Nicholson, Keith Young, Kyron Millar; Ruari Howarth, Gavin Hamilton; Garreth Yeomans, Dean Moir, Gary Robertson, Liam Pringle, Euan Pflug, Liam Scott (captain), Jamie Brown, Josh Irvine. Subs (all used) Peter Glenfield, Iain Handley, Lachlan Jonston, Mark Amos, Callum Hunter.
z Borders presence in semi-finals of the Brewin Dolphin competitions was enhanced by Peebles High School, who defeated Trinity Academy 31-12 in the national quarter-finals of the Under-18 Bowl.
Peebles will face the winners of the delayed quarter-final tie between Williamwood High School from Glasgow and the Nicolson Institute from Stornaway, due to be played next month.
Also postponed until next month is the National Under-16 Bowl quarter-final between Argyll Schools and Selkirk High School.