Scotland Club XV were unable to overcome England Counties at Birmingham Moseley tonight (Friday 24 February) as the home side recorded a 45-28 victory in a high intensity encounter.
England came out fighting in the opening stages and it wasn’t long before a penalty kicked to the corner provided an opportunity from the line-out.
Hooker Matthew Miles collected from the top and barged over left of the posts before out-half Joe Tarrant added the extras to send England into an early lead after seven minutes.
Scotland responded moments later with pressure in the scrum resulting in a penalty opportunity of their own, a line-out enabling captain Pete McCallum to take control at the back of a driving maul before Harvey Elms was released on the attack by Murdo McAndrew.
The vibrant wing danced his way through the English defence and released centre George Taylor for his debut try left of the sticks, before fellow debutant and stand-off Chris Laidlaw sailed the ball over to level the scores.
England then responded, setting the ball for centre Steven Leonard to break the line and sprint over for the home side’s second score. Tarrant added the conversion in the 15th minute.
An impressive run down the left wing from Jordan Edmunds revealed his speed and power to the opposition and minutes later the Boroughmuir wing intercepted an English pass from the 22 line to race over the whitewash in the 30th minute. Laidlaw converted to draw level.
A spiralling punt from Fraser Thomson piled on the pressure once more and with the Melrose full-back on the chase, Grant Runciman wrestled the ball only to be pinged for a double movement.
After the interval, Thomson made a scintillating break from deep, racing past several defenders, before offloading to Runciman.
The forwards then moved the ball through the hands and it was Edmunds who got on the end of a pass to power past the English defence to score his second try of the match. Laidlaw struck the ball sweetly on his third conversion attempt in the 43rd minute.
England responded with a successful penalty from Tarrant before Scotland made changes in the front and back-row, Michael Liness and Runciman replaced by Russell Anderson and Will Bordill respectively.
Moments later, Leo Fielding went under the posts for England after receiving from Leonard on the break as Tarrant added the points to take the lead for the home side.
England continued to pressurise with Tarrant kicking the ball through for winger James Stokes to collect and go over right of the posts with the out-half converting.
Scotland then utilised their bench with Robbie Nelson, Kerr Gossman and Blair Macpherson making an impact in their respective positions.
A further two converted tries, courtesy of Fielding and Leonard, sent the English into an extended lead with ten minutes on the clock.
Gary Strain and John Cox made their way onto the field from the bench and it wasn’t long before Scotland found themselves in the opposition 22.
Nelson then made his presence known and was just short of the line after barging past several defenders as the centre released Cox for Scotland’s fourth try.
Laidlaw added the points in the 75th minute with the visitors showing intent in the closing stages, while Gossman and the Boroughmuir out-half impressed on the break.
However, despite several efforts from across the Club XV squad to counter, England remained strong to see out the game.
Image: Harry Burgess
Referee: Dewi Phillips (WRU)
Scotland Club XV | Fraser Thomson (Melrose); Harvey Elms (Currie), Ross Curle (Ayr), George Taylor (Melrose), Jordan Edmunds (Boroughmuir); Chris Laidlaw (Boroughmuir), Murdo McAndrew (Melrose); Stephen Findlay (Glasgow Hawks), Michael Liness (Heriot’s), Steven Longwell (Ayr), Robert McAlpine (Ayr), Callum Marshall (Heriot’s), Iain Moody (Melrose), Grant Runciman (Melrose), Pete McCallum (Ayr) CAPTAIN. Replacements: Russell Anderson (Melrose), Gary Strain (Glasgow Hawks), John Cox (Currie), Blair Macpherson (Ayr), Will Bordill (Ayr), David Armstrong (Ayr), Robbie Nelson (Currie), Kerr Gossman (Glasgow Hawks).
England Counties | Mike Wilcox; Leo Fielding, Markus Burcham, Steven Leonard, James Stokes; Joe Tarrant, Peter White; Trevor Davidson, Matthew Miles, James Litchfield, George Oram, Nile Dacres, Keith Laughlin CAPTAIN, Jack Preece, Tom Baldwin. Replacements: Ted Stagg, Daniel Pullinger, Andrew Brown, Chris Brightwell, Harry Bate, David Brazier, James Williams, Sam Baker.