Borders youngsters fall short against ‘pro’ school players

Borders youth rugby at both under-18 and under-16 levels was put under the microscope last Sunday on the 3G pitch at Netherdale in the first of three rounds of the inter-regional series.

But in the event, Borders, who are combined with East Lothian this season, could not match Caledonia at both age levels.

At under-18 level Borders struggled to contain a polished Caledonia squad containing eight players from Strathallan in Perthshire, regarded as a de-facto ‘professional’ school.

“Borders have been finding it hard to improve for some time at representative level,” said senior regional academy manager, Grant McKelvey.

“I think what you’re finding is that in other regions schools and clubs and individual players have been improving at a rate that is going to challenge any team.”

Another reason cited by coaches within the region was the reluctance of a number of talented players to become involved in district representative rugby, a phenomenon which is not unique to the Borders.

In the under-18 match it was certainly not a case of total domination by Caledonia and there was enough in the Borderers’ performance to feel encouragement, notably good displays from Gala Wanderers’ flanker Neil Turnbull, Jed Thistle scrum half Gary Munro and Hawick Wanderers’ wing, Darcy Graham, who scored his side’s only try in the 30-5 defeat.

Also impressive was replacement Nathan Smith (Langholm).

At under-16 level, Caledonia drew heavily on the clutch of independent schools in the region to form a side that had firepower up front and pace behind the scrum to run in four tries for a 25-5 win. Borders/East Lothian’s only try came from winger Cammy MacFadyen (Dunbar).

The next round of under-18 inter district matches will go ahead next Tuesday on the back pitches at Murrayfield when Borders/East Lothian take on Glasgow, ko 7.30pm.

A day later, on October 22, Borders/East Lothians play Glasgow at under-16 level.