Scotland regained the Dalriada Cup for the first time since 2009 when the Scottish Club International XV defeated the Ireland Club XV 30-18 at a chilly Millbrae, with both sides scoring 2 tries and 1 conversion, but Lee Millar’s 6 successful penalties guided the Scottish team to a deserved win.
The first half saw Scotland take a commanding 17-0 lead, as Ireland were consistently penalised at the breakdown, the Scots work there being cleaner and quicker, while the Irish appeared ponderous and uncertain in how many to commit to the tackle contest. Together with excellent line speed, tremendous first-up tackling, and accurate kick-chase when they had the ball, the Scottish team showed a similar resolve to the International team 2 weeks ago against Ireland at Murrayfield, in building up their first half lead, despite losing the possession statistics. Alex Allan scored the only try of the 1st half, with a tremendous run, in combination with other forwards Nagle and Douglas, that took him clear of the Irish defence. It wasn’t his only run of the night – both before his try, and again in the 2nd half he had other long runs with the kind of acceleration that will get him disciplined by the front row union! His fellow EDP Prop Robin Hislop, produced a great 60 minutes of rugby beside him, as they both showed fine technique at scrum and breakdown and put in one hit after another. Two fine young prop prospects for Edinburgh and Scotland.
Ireland had a lot of the ball in the first half, but their forwards were knocked back in the tackle consistently, with Hamish Watson, Mark Cairns, and Fraser Brown all putting in big hits, while the experienced Dean Kelbrick marshalled the young 3/4 line, keeping them disciplined & harrying the Irish backs into a series of knock-on’s, missed passes, and poor decision making. A long injury break 5 minutes from half time, while the medics took care of Irish 2nd Row Brian Quill, somewhat took the momentum out of the first half, but the Irish returned after the break, with greater intensity among their forwards, faster work at the breakdown, and a clear determination to get back into the game.
Dunne got his first points on the board with a penalty three minutes into the 2nd half, and with substitute Sweeney mauling over for a try shortly after that and Dunne adding another penalty, when Fraser Brown was yellow carded on 55 mins with the score at 17-11 it definitely felt like the game was in the balance. However the Scots were to recover their poise & control and took the game away from the Irish when the fleet-footed Craig Gossman, burst through 5 or 6 tackles right down the centre of the pitch and scorched away from the Irish defence to touch down under the posts to a great ovation from the local support. Lee Millar added the conversion and with 2 more penalties in the last 10 minutes, when Ireland suffered two yellow cards, the Scots eventually ran out 30-18 winners, Cogan grabbing a late consolation try for the losers.
Congratulations must go to coaches Phil Leck and Graeme Young who put together an effective game plan with a relatively scratch side. It’s great to see players like skipper Mark Cairns, Melrose’s Ross Miller and Gary Holborn, getting rewarded with a Scotland cap after many years hard labour at the coal face in the club game. It’s also clear to see that players develop at the dif
ferent rates – the likes of Craig Gossman, Lee Millar, George Graham, and Murray Douglas hardly got a look in at age grade level in the national selectors eyes, but with hard work on their part, and good coaching from the dedicated club coaches in Scotland, they are maturing into fine players, maximising their abilities in impressive fashion. There’s no doubt the young EDP’s Hislop, Allan and Watson are heading for impressive professional careers – Watson really is an outstanding prospect at 7, with pace, strength, good hands, and good reading of the game – but there’s no reason why some of the other youngsters in this team won’t join them in making a career out of the game if they want to.
This team now goes on to another challenge, playing France away, but their confidence will be boosted by this win, and their team ethic, clear communication and hard work might just bring them another victory in that game also.