National Schools Finals 2023 | Preview
This Wednesday, 6 December, fourteen school teams will be heading to Scottish Gas Murrayfield for the Scottish Rugby National Schools Cup Finals.
Seven games at U16 and U18 level will be held across the Hive Stadium and the Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium bowl.
Unfortunately, the semi-final between St Columba’s (Kilmacolm) and Strathdendrick/Balfron High School in the U18 Plate was unable to be rescheduled (following recent poor weather) prior to the scheduled Final. The Semi Final will now take place on 09 December and an alternative date and time will be found for the Final which will now go ahead in the New Year (venue TBC).
U16 Shield Final: Hutcheson’s Grammar v Fettes College – Hive Stadium, KO 11.30am
Wednesday’s action kicks-off at 11.30am with the U16 Schools Shield in the Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium bowl.
In a nail-biting clash against the High School of Glasgow in the semi-final, Fettes came out on top with a 38-34 win.
Hutcheson’s Grammar booked their place in the Final just five days in advance, after fending off competition from Strathallan, a 36-5 win securing the Glasgow side’s progress.
Ahead of the clash, Sam Shelley, Coach at Fettes College said: “Coaching this team has been a great pleasure this season. Watching them grow and develop as we’ve progressed through the rounds is why we coach the game.
“They fully deserve to make it to the final, having beaten some worthy opposition on the way. The boys are delighted to be representing Fettes on such a stage, and I wish them the very best of luck against some top opposition.”
Fettes Captain, Glen Gammell, added: “We’re feeling very pleased coming out with the victory in the semi-final but all the focus is now on the final. We’ve prepared well for the semis and quarters and have come out with two really good wins in the end and need to do the same in the lead up to the final.
“Now it’s time for fine tuning and hard work all focusing on the best way to lift the Shield and really make the school and ourselves proud.”
Hutcheson’s Coach, Craig Sorbie, said: “We have had a challenging route to this final with close games against Stewarts Melville, Dollar Academy and Strathallan but we are well prepared and looking forward to another tough test against in the final.
“We have a young squad with a handful of U15 players but the boys have worked hard throughout the season and are looking forward to another close contest.”
U16 Bowl Final: Queen Victoria School v Lenzie Academy – Hive Stadium, KO 11.30am
In their quarter-final round-robin battle, Queen Victoria School edged the win from Gordonstoun School, 12-10 and secured a 5-12 victory over Trinity Academy to book a semi-final spot. They made it all the way to the final after defeating Oban High School 40-5 in semi-final heat.
In Lenzie’s quarter-final, they saw off competition from Oban High School, 35-5 and Strathdenrick/Balfron High School, 0-47. Their semi-final game played on Wednesday 29 November saw them win against Gordonstoun, 61-5.
Ahead of the final, Queen Victoria’s, Mr McCulloch said: “The dream of playing at Scottish Gas Murrayfield one day was a discussion this group of players have been having for years how much of it they believe will come to fruition I’ll never know but who am I to bust a dream. Ever since I joined this group last year they have grown in confidence and belief in their ability to perform as a team.
“Some heavy defeats and injuries early in the season but this group never gave in. Game by game the performances have been building and coming together. With a tough round of games in the quarter-final against Gordonstoun and Trinity in Edinburgh the boys held onto some hope that they had what it takes.
“The semi-final match against Oban High School at home was yet another tough game that put our defence to the test. With a 14-5 lead at half time the message was “more of the same”. The boys did a great job of containing a good side before scoring two tries in quick succession which gave us real moment to continue and get a great 40-5 win and securing the Final place.
“I wish all the boys and their opponents the best of luck today and hope that enjoy the experience.”
Lenzie RFC Development Officer, Adam Rankin, said: “Everyone at the club and school is so proud of the team for making it this far. The team have bonded together fantastically since the start of the season, and they are out-doing themselves each week.
“It is amazing achievement for the players to reach a final of a national competition, and they can’t wait to have their day at Murrayfield. We know it’s going to be a tough match, but the boys are ready and excited to have this opportunity and are going to give it everything they have.”
Lenzie Captain, Harvey Preston, added: “The team has come a long way! We combined two age groups of players to become a strong united team, with many players performing at a great level. I am proud to be Captain of Lenzie.”
U18 Bowl Final: Dalkeith v Musselburgh Youth Rugby – Hive Stadium, KO 1.30pm
The U18 Bowl will be contested between Dalkeith and Musselburgh Youth Rugby at Hive Stadium.
Musselburgh Youth Rugby, which combines players from Musselburgh Grammar and Loretto, booked their place in the final with a 64-14 win over Oban High School.
Just one try was all that separated Dalkeith and Hills Rugby in their semi-final on Friday 1 December, but it was Dalkeith who had the edge and made it to the Final.
The players are excited and ready to go and represent our community in what will hopefully be a good game of rugby against a strong opposition in Musselburgh.
Speaking ahead of the Final, Grant Talac, Head Coach of Musselburgh Youth, said: “We have struggled for numbers at times this year with injuries and part-time jobs, so our wider squad took a hit, but it is really rewarding for the boys who have continued to play, turn up week in week out to get this opportunity on Finals day.
“I am therefore so proud that the boys have made it to the Bowl Final and the occasion shall hopefully form a great memory for them all in their final year of colts. It promises to be a good final against Dalkeith as they bring different strengths, which our team will need to be wary off, however the boys I’m sure will meet the challenge head on.”
Dalkeith’s Head Coach, Steven Halliday, said: “Reaching the Bowl final has been an amazing achievement, and just being here is a massive reward for all the hard work of the players, coaches and other volunteers involved over the last few years at Dalkeith and if we were to win it would probably be ranked as the biggest achievement in our youth sections history.
“The semi-final played in the Hive stadium was a brilliant experience that the players enjoyed, but to return and have our families and supporters with us for this match will be even better.”
U18 Shield Final: High School of Dundee v Dollar Academy – Scottish Gas Murrayfield, KO 1.30pm
Caledonia Midlands sides High School of Dundee and Dollar Academy will go head-to-head in the U18 Shield Final on Wednesday.
The High School of Dundee secured their semi-final spot with a one-point win over Marr College, and went on to book their spot in the final by defeating St Aloysius’ College, 14-24.
Dollar faced Kelvinside Academy in their semi-final and came out on top with a 34-12 win.
Dundee High School’s Head Coach, Phil Godman, said: “Three of our starting team in the final today were ball boys from when our U16 team made the Cup final in 2019. We have four ball boys today travelling with the team and this is the start of their journey.
“There is something special about schoolboy rugby and the ethos around it. Today is an occasion where everyone can enjoy the experience, from the players on the pitch, parents, coaches, and everyone affiliated with the school. I am looking forward to an exciting game where both teams showcase their abilities.”
Dundee’s captain, Gregor Byers, added: “I have loved being captain this season and I am glad we can put on a good show for our brilliant supporters, who have followed our journey across Scotland. We have really pulled together and worked hard to get to Scottish Gas Murrayfield. I hope we can maintain the standards and spirit we have shown throughout the season.”
Dollar Academy Head Coach, Don Caskie, said: “After a devastating period that saw us nursing nine injuries throughout the early part of the season, the chances of us reaching a final of any sorts looked very slim, however, it is fantastic testament to the strength in depth and resilience that the senior squad has shown to get this far and the opportunity to perform at Scottish Gas Murrayfield.
“All the players are desperate to do themselves justice and we can look forward to an open, free flowing game of rugby against our old friends, The High School of Dundee.”
U16 Cup Final: Stewart’s Melville College v Georoge Watson’s College – Scottish Gas Murrayfield, KO 4pm
Our U16 Cup Final is an Edinburgh derby as Stewart’s Melville College look to defend their title from last season as they take on George Watson’s College.
Stewart’s Melville College narrowly defeated Merchiston Castle in the semi-final, 22-18, to secure their semi-final place, whilst George Watson’s College put on a dominant display over Edinburgh Academy (49-0) to book their spot.
Ahead of the final Joe Reynolds, Head Coach for George Watson’s, said: “We are really excited to reach the final of the Schools Cup. This is something the team have strived for all season and have worked hard for.
“Stewart’s Melville are a strong outfit, and we will need to be at our best on the night. It’s a really special occasion for the school having both U16s and U18s in the Final and we hope we can do the school and our families proud.”
Watson’s captain, Rueben Philp, added: “All of the boys are so excited for Wednesday, we can’t wait to showcase all the hard work we’ve put in for the last few years and to hopefully make all of George Watson’s proud.”
Stuart Edwards, Coach at Stewart’s Melville College, said: “Our players are very excited for what should be an incredible game of school-boy rugby. We have been preparing for two years for this date and it is now time to go and express ourselves on the international pitch.
“Both teams are unbeaten so far this season and know each other very well. Several of our players were involved in last season’s U16 final so we’ll be hoping to use this experience to start well and deal with the pressure that comes with this occasion. It is important our players enjoy this experience in front of the Stewart’s Melville College rugby community who will be there in support.”
U16 Plate Final: Dunbar Grammar School v Lomond & Helensburgh – Hive Stadium, KO 4pm
The U16 Plate will be contested for between state school side Dunbar Grammar and Lomond & Helensburgh, a team made up of players from Lomond School and Helensburgh RFC.
The two sides made it into the final four with wins over Howe of Fife/Bell Baxter High School and St Leonards Madras Blues.
Dunbar went on to face St Columba’s (Kilmacolm) and defeated them 44-5 in the semi-final, whilst Lomond & Helensburgh edged a 24-21 win over Lathallan School.
Ahead of the final, Helensburgh & Lomond’s Head Coach, Iain Mackay, said: “The 22 lads here today are part of a larger squad most of whom have been together since Primary 1, who together have consistently punched above their weight with more established teams, of which all the whole coaching team are extremely proud.
“After winning the West Regional Quaich last season, the team has matured and, despite not having the physically largest squad, they have shown a commitment to training and competed for places in the squad which has helped their rugby development.
“This is Lomond & Helensburgh Rugby’s fourth visit to the Schools Final’s Day in seven years and we hope that the achievements of this seasons U16’s, no matter the result, will continue to be an inspiration to the thriving youth rugby section back in Helensburgh.”
Their captain, William Doyal, added: “I am extremely proud of how the team has performed so far this season, and reaching the Final is a fantastic achievement for all involved. It will be an amazing honour to Captain the team at Murrayfield in what we know will be a tough game. No matter the result it will be a fantastic experience and a lifelong rugby memory.”
Dunbar’s captain, Coel Pettet, said: “We are really excited to have reached the Plate Final representing Dunbar Grammar School. This season we have worked hard and played well as a team and got through some tough fixtures to get this far. We have improved due to the lads’ hard work, dedication and the continued support of our great coaches.
“We have developed into a strong team that respects and supports each other on and off the field. I am so proud to captain this side for the final and look forward to coming away with a win to make our club, coaches, and families proud.”
Their Head Coach, Allan McNelis, added: “The pride I have for this group of players is immense; they have improved so much over the last couple of seasons and are such an incredible team. To get to the Plate final is an incredible achievement, and with the quality of rugby I have seen from them this season, they will be a tough ask for any team. I know we will face a great challenge, but I have every confidence in this team to go out there and get the win.
“Go and enjoy the day and the experience, you have already made us all proud of you. Time to show everyone what you can do.”
U18 Cup Final: George Watson’s College v Stewart’s Melville College – Scottish Gas Murrayfield, KO 6pm
The final game of the day sees another capital clash as George Watson’s College and Stewart’s Melville College battle it out to be crowned the U18 Cup champions.
Stewart’s Melville’s semi-final clash against Merchiston Castle concluded 41-29, whilst George Watson’s defeated Edinburgh Academy 36-7.
Speaking ahead of the Final, Michael Ker, George Watson’s College Head Coach, said: “We are delighted to reach the showpiece event at Scottish Gas Murrayfield. The boys have shown a real desire to improve every week through both on and off field training. With one game left we will go with confidence but understand Stewart’s Melville will offer a massive test.
“Here’s hoping for a great final that all the players can take lessons from as they progress on their rugby journey.”
Michael Connor, captain for the Watson’s side, added: “Every single player in this squad has worked so hard to get to where we are now, now there is just one game to go, all eyes on Wednesday.”
Hayden Lingard, Head Coach at Stewart’s Melville College, said: “On reflection, we have had a meaningful run of tough competitive fixtures in the National Schools Conference, such as Fettes, Edinburgh Academy, Strathallan away and Dollar away, which ultimately put us in a good place heading into an exciting semi-final against Merchiston Castle School where we turned in a good performance.
“We are in form, battle-hardened, and confidence is high. We’ll enjoy the remainder of the journey and enjoy working hard together as a squad.”