East U20s 34, West U20s 12
Rugby finally came out of the cold as indoor rugby hit Scotland with the staging of the East v West under-20 match at the impressive all-covered Oriam centre in the Heriot-Watt University campus at Riccarton yesterday (Sunday).
The match, a first for indoor rugby in Scotland, was part of the process of selecting the Scotland under-20 squad to play in the Six Nations Championship and then the World Rugby under-20 World Championship in Georgia next June.
In the event, East under-20s, containing a number of Borders players, finished comfortable winners over their West counterparts.
The official man of the match was the Currie flanker Luke Crosbie, but there was no doubt that Hawick’s Darcy Graham was the star of the show.
Graham, the nephew of former Scotland lock, Scott McLeod, provided the fizz in the East back division, with pace, panache and not a little power, breaching the West defence frequently in a performance that endorsed the class of the Greens star.
However, another Borders player, Ross McCann, stacked up his side’s points, with the Melrose wing scoring two second half tries to put his side out of reach.
Controlling the East backline was the Hawick stand-off Kyle Brunton, who showed deftness with his passing and courage in stopping the West’s big men when they rampaged in open space.
“Kyle is a very good passer of the ball,” said Borders Academy manager, Chris Dewsnap. “Crucially, he knows when and how to distribute the ball.”
Also prominent for the East side was the Hawick hooker, Fraser Renwick, who, having played for Scotland under-20 last season, should be a shoo-in for this season’s campaign.
Among the other Border players on show, Grant Huggan, the Hawick centre, was forced to retire at the end of the first half after picking up an injury. But Gala scrum half Connor Adams took his chance after coming off the bench in the second half. The Maroons number nine showed the skills that could give him a place in the squad, despite playing in the most hotly contested position.
Adams is up against Andrew Simmers (Heriot’s), Charlie Shiel (Currie), Kereem Barreto (Glenalmond), Ruairidh Dawson (Newcastle Falcons) and, of course, Jed-Forest’s Gary Munro. The Jed half back has only recently returned from a long-term injury and, as such, was not brought into the East team. But it seems likely that Munro will be given serious consideration.
Elsewhere, former Kelso prop Blair Robertson, now with Hawick, was given game time in the second half, while for the West side, former Melrose centre Craig Pringle showed his continuing improvement.
The perfect conditions made for dynamic performances from both sides but, ultimately, it was the experience of their forwards and pace behind the scrum that gave East an eventually comfortable victory.
The scores were level at half time, with East having scored a converted try by Gordon and West replying with a converted touchdown from the Glasgow Accies back row Ryan Sweeney.
East then opened up a 27-7 lead with two tries from McCann and one by Crosbie, together with a penalty and conversion from Shiel.
West, however, were able to strike back with a try from the Ayr wing Paddy Dewhurst, from a delicate pass by Henderson.
But, in a late flourish, Edinburgh Accies wing Jack Paterson ran in a final try for East, with Hawick’s Kyle Brunton converting to complete the scoring.