George Watson’s College Under-18 captain Calum Davidson believes the experience that a number of his players had of previously playing on the big stage helped them as they lifted the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup last night for the third year in a row.
Back-row Davidson, the man of the match, and five other members of the squad involved in the 23-17 victory over Merchiston Castle at BT Murrayfield also played last year when they won the trophy.
Centre Ronan Kerr, winger Robbie Nairn, stand-off Kerr Stoddart, hooker Jonathan Urquhart and second-row Calum Chalmers were the others who played a part 12 months ago.
Davidson said: “I think it did help us that a few of us had played at Murrayfield before because we knew what to expect. We were able to pass that on to the other guys and I think we all played really well when it mattered.
“We knew that Merchiston are a good team because they beat us recently, but we defended well and when we got the chance we managed to get our dangerous runners on the ball.
“I am really proud of the guys and what we have achieved, and it is a special feeling.”
Watson’s build-up to the match had been far from ideal, second-row Rory Evans pulling out of the squad in the warm-up due to a knee injury.
That meant replacement Calum Chalmers was hastily promoted to the starting line-up and then when prop Calum Eastwood was injured early on Jamie McNaughton, who had not been in the original 22, came on and played a large chunk of the final.
Their coach Ally Donaldson said: “It was a pretty strange chain of events and it could have put the boys off their stride, but credit to them they focused on the job in hand.
“The character the team showed was unbelievable. We struggled to win any ball in the first half, but after the break the team took control and played some great rugby.
“Of course it is nice that it is the third time in a row the school have won the event, but for this group of players all they were focused on was this match and I am very pleased with the way they played.”
For Merchiston, No.8 Zach Mercer was a constant threat and full-back Aaron Tait showed up well, but they could not get their usual game going.
Their captain Dan Nutton, who gave his all from scrum-half, said: “We have to hold our hands up and say that Watson’s were simply better than us on the night.
“We held a slight advantage at half-time, but in the next 15 or 20 minutes they really blew us away. Credit to my team for trying to fight back, but it was not to be sadly.”
Watson’s points came from tries by wingers Calum Fox and Robbie Nairn (2) while stand-off Kerr Stoddart kicked two penalties and a conversion.
For Merchiston, centre Stafford McDowall scored a try in each half with replacement back Tom Bisset also crossing and Nutton kicking a conversion against their Edinburgh rivals.
As well as Davidson, Nairn was impressive for Watson’s and centres Kerr and Lewis Berg were very solid.
They are the first school since Dollar (2002/03 to 2004/2005) to win the tournament three times in a row while Merchiston themselves achieved it between 1999/2000 and 2001/02.
Scorers: George Watson’s College Under-18s: Tries: Fox, Nairn (2). Pens: Stoddart 2. Con: Stoddart. Merchiston Castle Under-18s: Tries: McDowall (2), Bisset. Con: Nutton.
George Watson’s College Under-18s: A Davidson; C Fox, L Berg, R Kerr, R Nairn; K Stoddart, C Davies; E Malloch, J Urquhart, C Eastwood, H Bain, C Chalmers, C Davidson, J Goldring, M Henderson. Subs: C Harris, F Wood, J McNaughton, K Drummond, A Wilson, F Peters, G Tait.
Merchiston Castle Under-18s: A Tait; L Baird, C Gray, S McDowall, L Tang; F Ellison, D Nutton; F Bradbury, J Maran, J Lascelles, S Richardson, T Henderson, K McCormick, Z Mercer, B Kenderdine. Subs: H Burn, M Oliver, G Tarr, S Bate, J MacDonald, B Morris, T Bisset.
Referee: Mike Adamson.