Border Semi Junior League survives midterm disruption


HOWEVER serious the gutting effects of the asynchronous half-term holiday on the youth and school rugby program has been minimal disruption to Scotland’s most southerly competition, the Borders Semi Junior League, which, unlike void elsewhere, had a full dating card last weekend.

That said, Alnwick had to concede their match with Hawick Youth, who claimed the points offered and as such moved up to third in the Borders Semi Junior League table behind leaders Peebles Colts and Morpeth Colts , second.

The Peebles Colts remain undefeated this season, their eight wins in eight BSJL rounds qualifying them for the National Cup quarter-finals. Last weekend they picked up a healthy 33-0 away win over a physical Tynedale side at Hexham, their skillful play generating five tries, two from Cammy Boak and one each by Dylan GreensAndy Dawson and Liam Forsyth.

This weekend, Peebles will face a much tougher task when they take on the Morpeth Colts, whose powerful forwards have caused problems for their opponents this season. Morpeth, enjoying a good run, has only lost once this season, when they were beaten by Kelso Quins.

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Last Saturday, Morpeth showed their all-around strength as they smashed Melrose Wasps to record their biggest home win this season. Wasps appear to have suffered from an erosion of confidence after their last two matches as their manager Nick Alston acknowledged, saying, “Saturday was a huge disappointment. We ended up losing the game 64-12 to a decent Morpeth side.

“Collectively we were miles off the pace and unrecognizable as Team Melrose. For some reason the guys have lost confidence over the past few weeks – I think physically we’ve been outplayed by both Peebles and Morpeth and so we’re now acting within ourselves and allowing the opposition to imprint their mark on the game earlier than us.

“We have to pick ourselves up and regain some confidence – we will face Selkirk and Duns in the coming weeks to decide the league positions, but it’s very much in dispute between us, Kelso Quins, Gala Wands and Jed Thistle for this second place and this qualification for the cup”, warns Alston.

Wasps, despite being physically dominated by Morpeth, still managed to get two tries, both scored by Jay Johnson, one of which was converted by Matthew Gaston.

In the other cross-border game, Kelso Quins was far too strong for the struggling Carlisle Colts, earning a 49-0 away win. Knowing that Carlisle had been the leader of the BSJL, Kelso took the opportunity to play with some of the younger team.

‘They showed well against a bold home side,’ Quins team manager suggested Keith Green. Kelso’s essays came from Finlay MacLean, Mackenzie Shaw and Josh Sullivan before the break and in the second half of Ewan Graham, Archie Barbour, Harris Ross and Angus Uttersonthe latter converting all seven touchdowns.

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It’s turning out to be a good season for Kelso Quins, but their qualification for the National Cup quarter-finals doesn’t just hinge on their results over the next two weeks against Jed Thistle, Duns and Gala Wanderers. “We will definitely be in the Shield but it will probably take Melrose to slip if we are to qualify for the Cup alongside the Peebles Colts,” Green said.

In Netherdale, Gala Wanderers ran in four tries to defeat Selkirk Youth 26-7 with touchdowns from Jon McLean, Aaron McLaren, Luke Scott and Rory Litterincluding three converted by Ethan Wilson. Selkirk’s trial was marked by Archie Morris and the conversion by Finn Mallin.

The remaining game between Duns Colts and Jed Thistle ended in a 30-7 victory for Jed, whose tries were scored by Robbie Duff (2), Matthew Palmer (2), Zander Mactaggart and Aaron Weatherhead. “Duns put up a tough fight but we held onto the ball through several phases without losing form, scoring some really well constructed tries. We’re also learning not to overplay in our own half, which is really nice,” Jed’s coach observed, Michael Harshaw.

Meanwhile, Schools Conference rugby resumes this weekend when top-flight Edinburgh Academy take on George Watson’s College. Both teams are unbeaten in conference rugby this season with three wins in three rounds. Next Tuesday, Merchiston, relatively fresh after finishing second in his own national festival, should be well prepared to face a Dollar Academy team that hasn’t quite clicked this season.

In the Eastern Schools Conference Dundee High School entertains George Heriot’s school in Mayfield, while in the Western Conference there is greater activity with Marr College facing St Aloysius College and table leaders Hutchesons’ Grammar School playing at the Glasgow Academy.

At club level, Ayr/Wellington who took part in the Merchiston Festival are at home against Stirling County while the GHA complete their conference program by facing the West of Scotland at Braidholm.

In the Caledonia conference, travel will not be a problem for Dundee who play in Perthshire, the other game in this section being Highland against Moray/Huntley.

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