Jed Thistle have been celebrating this week after winning the National Youth Under-18 Cup with a hard-fought, but fully deserved, 11-7 victory over National League champions Ayr.
On Finals Day at Lasswade on Sunday, the enormous potential the Jed squad have shown over the last few years was realised.
“We’ve being doing well in the Brewin Dolphin competitions but the boys have come of age and now they’re national champions,” said Jed development officer Kevin Barrie.
“It’s great for us in Jedburgh to see this.”
What made Thistle’s win all the more commendable was the contrast in player resources compared to Ayr. Whereas Thistle draw mainly from Jed Grammar, with a school role of just under 400, Ayr have players from a vast hinterland that includes some nine schools.
“The pool of players in Jed in comparison to Ayr is like night and day – you’ll be talking tens compared to hundreds maybe,” suggested Thistle coach Callum Brown, who will have the benefit of his entire back division and two of his forward pack returning next season.
Among these young backs, 15-year-old Robbie Yourston played impressively at inside centre, half backs Ben McNeil and Rory Smith controlled the game well, and at full back Calum McNeil showed entertaining enterprise in counter-attack running.
But it was the powerful Thistle forwards who paved the way for victory. Dominant in the set scrum and, in the first half, flawless in the line-out, Jed secured good first- phase possession. With the likes of prop Ryan Gibson carrying ball effectively, Thistle made big dents in the Ayr defence.
Shane Armstrong, another of Jed’s successes, put his side into the lead with a penalty goal, but just before half-time Ayr found the momentum they needed to score a converted try by likely Scotland under-18 hooker Lewis Anderson for a 7-3 interval lead.
The Borderers quickly reasserted themselves with a close-range try from a clever line-out move and then a driving maul to the line ending with inspiring skipper Oliver Ryan claiming the score. Armstrong missed the conversion, but sealed Jed’s win with a penalty goal.
The Borders were also represented on Finals Day by Hawick Wanderers, who were contesting the Under-18 Bowl final against Dumfries. But it was not to be Wanderers’ day as the young Greens faded against a physically-strong Dumfries side that used its big forwards effectively, if rather one-dimensionally, to grind out a 22-5 win Hawick’s only points came from a first-half try by full back Darcy Graham.
Jed Thistle: C. McNeil; J. Amos, R. Marshall, R. Yourston, A. Walker; R. Smith, B. McNeil; R. Gibson, C. Cowan, C. Lothian, C. Skeldon, J. Hynd, O. Ryan (captain), S. Armstron, Gregor Paxton. Subs: A. Storie, A. Richardson, S. Samson, Grant Paxton, G. Munro, F. Duff, R. Douglas.
Hawick Wanderers: D. Graham; S. Chapman, G. Huggan, J. Hyslop, R. Elliot; D. Gillian, D. Lightfoot; R. Linton, F. Renwick, A. Fairburn, D. Redpath, J. Gray, M. Mallin, R. McLean and A. Baillie.
Subs: G. Renwick, R. Hartegan, W. Ballantyne, E. Robson, J. Watson, C. Glendinning and R. Taylor.