Scotland Club XV retained the Dalriada Cup with victory over their Irish counterparts at a a bitterly cold Netherdale on Friday evening.
The Scots, coached by Melrose boss Rob Chrystie, produced a dominant first half performance as they scored three tries – all from the front row – to take a 23-0 lead at the break.
Craig Jackson opened the scoring with a pair of penalties, before the ill-disciplined visitors lost centre Matt D’Arcy to the sin-bin, the referee eventually losing patience with an Irish side that conceded 11 penalties in the opening 40 minutes.
And that saw the Scots cut loose, as prop Shawn Muir went over for the first try just two minutes after the yellow card, before tighthead Steven Longwell added a second shortly after.
HALF-TIME: Scotland Club XV 23-0 Ireland Club XV
The Irish, who had former Leicester Tigers and Munster back Johne Murphy among their coaching staff, were much better after the resumption, centre Neil Kenneally and wing Dan McEvoy their standout performers.
Shortly after the restart, Kenneally pulled a try back for the visitors, with captain Neil Cronin converting for 23-7.
And it was ‘game-on’ at Netherdale when McEvoy scorched clear of Craig Gossman and Fraser Thomson to touch down in the corner, with Cronin adding a superb conversion from the touchline into the wind to make it a nine-point game.
Rob Chrystie’s side re-took control with two tries in quick succession, Thomson broke down the blindside to put Craig Gossman over, while the roles were reversed late on as the Scots sealed victory.
Irish replacement hooker Patrick Finlay crossed for two late tries, but they were not enough as the Scots held on to retain the Dalriada Cup.
FULL-TIME: Scotland Club XV 35-26 Ireland Club XV
A delighted Chrystie said afterwards: “I’m really pleased for the boys. They put a lot of effort and work into the game.
“I think we built and controlled the game really well. We lost that momentum in the second-half but it shows the mentality of the group to remain calm under pressure.
“When we did get those opportunities we were clinical in our execution.
“As a group, they have been outstanding to work with and they deserved the win tonight.”
SCOTLAND CLUB XV: Fraser Thomson (Melrose) (capt); Jordan Edmunds (Boroughmuir), Ross Curle (Stirling County), George Taylor (Melrose), Craig Gossman (Ayr); Craig Jackson (Melrose), Charlie Shiel (Currie Chieftains); Shawn Muir (Hawick), Russell Anderson (Melrose), Steven Longwell (Ayr), Iain Moody (Melrose), Robert McAlpine (Ayr), Blair MacPherson (Ayr), Thomas Gordon (Currie Chieftains), Jack Turley (Heriot’s).
Replacements: Jonathan Matthews (Boroughmuir), Nick Beavon (Melrose), Struan Cessford (Heriot’s), Hamish Bain (Currie Chieftains), Ruairidh Leishman (Stirling County), Murdo McAndrew (Melrose), Jamie Forbes (Currie Chieftains), Robbie Nelson (Currie Chieftains).
Replacements: Paddy Finlay (Dublin University), Tom O’Reilly (St. Mary’s College), James Kendrick (Cashel), Joe McSwiney (Cork Constitution), Paulie Tolofua (Naas), Angus Lloyd (Dublin University), Mark O’Neill (Tenenure College), Fionn Higgins (Naas).