Jerry Blyth-Lafferty; family, front-row and focus on U20 trophy journey

Jerry Blyth-Lafferty; family, front-row and focus on U20 trophy journey

The nature of sibling relationships are so rarely without competitiveness. To the outsider, it would seem fairly straightforward that there could be no greater moment than standing side by side with a family member to represent your country.

But for Jerry Blyth-Lafferty, an opportunity to play against brother Ollie which nearly arose mere months ago could certainly have rivalled it.

“We were actually due to play against each other in Super Series, but I got called into Edinburgh A instead quite late on. That would have been even better.  He would have got stuck into me at lineout time, that’s for sure!”

Light-heartedness aside, Hive Stadium bore witness to what was a truly special occasion for the Blyth-Lafferty family as the front-rowers became the first brothers to represent Scotland U20 together in a competitive fixture. Not only was it special for Jerry and Ollie, but for their whole family and it particular their parents who were in the stands.

“I’ve played once before with him (for the FOSROC Futures XV) but I don’t think there’s anything that can compare to an international,” Jerry explained.  “I thought it was really cool to take the field with him and have him by my side, especially in the front row. It’s definitely not something I’ll forget any time soon.

“Our parents were just delighted, we got really nice messages from the whole family before the game and it was just nice to do it for them as well. Me and Ollie both really appreciate how much effort they put in over the years, taking us to training. You really appreciate the backing that you get to put you onto that stage.”

It could hardly have gone much better for them. Three tries between the two as part of a 19-try win over Samoa U20 that set a new points record and winning margin record for the World Rugby U20 trophy.

“That was a really good start to the tournament, we’ve set the benchmark a little bit and it’s something to aim for in the next few games. It’s very easy to go off as individuals in a game like that when it can be unstructured and messy, but I thought we did really well to stick to our principles.”

At a combined 234kg, perhaps the front row was always the destiny calling Jerry and Ollie. But the young hooker is quick to point out the influence of their father, Billy Blyth, a regular in Boroughmuir front rows across several of their teams for many years.

“My dad played prop his whole career, so instantly Ollie wanted to play prop. I was messing about in the centre and the back row for a little bit. But scrummaging in the garden when we were younger, little things like that were just fun. We both enjoyed the confrontational side of the game as well. And with Ollie’s size, it definitely helps. He’s not going to appear on the wing any time soon!”

Like his dad, Jerry was racking up the appearances for the Meggetland outfit, including in a National Boys’ U18 Youth Cup final win at Scottish Gas Murrayfield thanks to a last-gasp try from Scotland U20 teammate Liam McConnell and several campaigns with the Bears. But it was all change in this year’s FOSROC Super Series Sprint, as not only did he turn out for Edinburgh A but for West Edinburgh rivals Watsonians.

“I think it was really good for me to get a taste of different environments and dip in and out of teams that play the game in a different way. It makes you look at the game from a more broad standpoint. It definitely benefited me going from Edinburgh A to Watsonians and covering the back row a bit as well.

“My dad certainly wasn’t happy, one of us at Watsonians and the other one at Heriot’s! He did still come to games and cheer us both on. The boys at Watsons, they welcomed me straight away and they were really good socially so I found it quite easy to slot in to that, they’re a good group of boys.”

The team are based in St Andrews between matches. By the tournament’s end, they’ll have spent just under two months in each other’s company, so bonding as a group away from the pitch is a key part of the journey.

“It is difficult being in a rugby environment 24/7, but we do work hard when we need and switch off when need to as well. This year we’re a really close group, and it’s good to just have that social connection, whether it be coffee or the driving range, we’ve been going to the beach a little bit as well.

“Fin Thomson is right into his golf, and so is Jonny Morris. I’ve personally played a few rounds with Liam McConnell. It’s pretty frustrating, he’s just good at everything!”

On to tomorrow’s match. Hong Kong China were also involved in a 100+ point match, though on the receiving end as they lost 105-20 to Japan. But in a shortened format tournament absolutely no slips-ups can be afforded, and the 20-year-old is aware that another strong performance is required.

“We’ve reviewed them a little bit. With the quick turnaround between games in this tournament it’s hard to get a balance between reviewing your previous game and previewing your next one, but we’ve looked at Hong Kong China and the threats they possess, how we want to go about playing against them.

“Win or lose, there’s always work-ons and the boys are really aware of that so going into this week we start fresh, the previous result doesn’t matter but we set a benchmark in that game and it’s about achieving that every time we take the field.”

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