Author: Alan Dymock

Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

The End of the ‘Amateur’ Season

Sorry for the belated piece, guys; I’m currently playing rugby in Canada and have been enjoying, *ahem*, what North America has to offer. That is a report for another day, though…

So the Premier 1 season is done! Over! Finito! And what a surprising and refreshing season it has been for Scottish Club Rugby. With all the grumblings about the proposed changes to structure and format for the top divisions and whether it is what ‘amateur’ rugby needs, and a rumoured step away from an allegedly ailing cup competition perhaps it is a good time to reflect on the positives of this season.

Obama, Eat Your Heart Out

Every time you turn on the news these days you are bombarded with the word ‘CHANGE’. The politicians are all screaming it. Travel agents can’t get enough of it. Even the chief exec.’s of Rangers and Celtic seem to be on the streets begging for some spare. So what is set to change in Scottish rugby next season?

The answer to that appears to be the squads of almost every single ‘top level’ team.

Premier Cup Final Decided

Due to congestion a special fixture sits nestled in the middle of a busy fixture list. The match that should crown a glorious moment for one club at the end of the season will pit virgin finalists Ayr against cup specialists Melrose.

The semi-finals finished Melrose 31-8 Currie, and Ayr 23-14 Heriot’s. The final will be held on the 24th of this month, and while Ayr may be more confused than Caster Semenya, competing on two fronts, they will definitely be pumped for their first ever final against record-breaking finalists, Melrose.

Premier Cup Action

This saturday sees the men’s semi’s (classic!) of the Scottish Hydro Premier Cup in which league leaders Currie travel south to face Melrose and Champions Ayr host cup holders Heriot’s. Both of these fixtures are interesting, to say the least. While it has been noted that the league’s trailblazers have been kept apart this does not necessarily mean that Currie and Ayr will play each other on the big pitch later this month.

Prem 1 roundup

A delayed roundup of last weekend’s premier 1 matches. Things are getting tight at the top as Hawks beat Dundee, Melrose got the win they had needed and every top half team is ravenously hunting for a top four spot rumoured to earn the highest placed teams a station in next years British and Irish Cup. Of course this is all supposition right now. Something that is true, however, is that Watsonians are staring into the relegation abyss after losing to Selkirk. It could come to the wire between them and fellow strugglers Accies but with two of their remaining games against Melrose and Hawks, things aren’t looking good for the men in maroon.

Here are Saturday’s results:

A Quick Chat With The Future: Part 2- Richie Vernon

On the 21st of November 2009 Scotland recorded a magnificent result. A win against Australia thought to be nigh on impossible in the days leading up to the fixture. It was some day. Yet while this day was special for everyone lucky enough to see such a spectacle it held extra significance for one young man.

Back to the Future

It’s all changing in Scottish rugby at the moment. A new generation of players are bedding into the national side. Glasgow and Edinburgh could be in the picture for the first ever Magners League playoff. A few club sides have taken part in the first year of the British and Irish Cup. Yep, things are evolving.

So why would we revert back to a system we had previously abandoned?

Prem 1 roundup

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The frost claimed two matches on Saturday as big dogs Currie and Ayr had their respective games against Hawks and West called off. The latter, however, has caused somewhat of a stir. Ayr are claiming their ground was playable. The ref allegedly OKed their seconds pitch. So did John Beattie, by all accounts. The issue comes, though, when a group of ‘senior players’ from the West side apparently didn’t fancy taking to the turf. Cue some angry words from Ayr and no comment from West.

Here are the results from the games that went ahead:

Watsonians 26-13 Stewart’s Melville
at Myreside

Watsonians: J Forbes; A Rowe, D Brown, C Sorbie, M Learmonth; M Ker, J Blackwood; N Hart, G Walsh, K Coertze, H Grant, T Weizman, G Callander, N Dennis, M Fedo.
Replacements Used: S Trotter, G Scott, J Duthie, G Somerville, N Tunnah.
Stewart’s Melville: R Borthwick; M Doneghan, A Cox, C Marshall, J Gordon; R Grant, S Ker; J Charles, S Blackwood, R Merrilees, B Leathes, A Lean, B Tweedie, L Calder, R Sutherland.
Replacements Used: A Edmonstone, C MacIntosh, C Sutherland, A Fraser, C Williams.

Scoring Summary
Watsonians Tries: Callander, Blackwood, Rowe, Forbes. Cons: M Ker 3.
Stewart’s Melville Tries: Borthwick, Cox. Pen: S Ker.
SRB Man of the Match: G Callander

Heriot’s 44-20 Selkirk
at Goldenacre

Heriot’s: C Goudie; J Alston, M Nimmo, P Saunders, A Douglas; G Rutherford, G Wilson; A Dymock, F Gillies, W Blacklock, J Hill, C Osazuwa, M Lee, S Dewar, J Syme.
Replacements Used: S Burnett, J-P Ward, D Wallace, M Goldie, R Tran.
Selkirk: F Harkness; D Clapperton, S Hendrie, D Cassidy, L Jones; G Craig, M McVie; G Patterson, D Grieve, M Murray, R Aglen, S Willet, N Darling, C Johnston, A Renwick.
Replacements Used: R Nixon, S Forrest, D Moussa, R Taylor, J Smyth.

Scoring Summary
Heriot’s Tries: Goudie (2), Dymock (2), Syme, Alston. Cons: Wilson 4. Pens: Wilson 2.
Selkirk Tries: Aglen, Craig. Cons: Cassidy 2. Pens: Cassidy 2.
SRB Man of the Match: C Goudie

Boroughmuir 32-26 Melrose
at Meggetland

Boroughmuir: S Ruddick; T Bury, M Clapperton, J Fish, E Mills; G Cottrell, C Cusiter; F Lait, S McMurchy, B Ross, G Scott, N Patrick, E Matheson, P Cronn, J Doubleday.
Replacements Used: N Fraser, J Va’a, M Stalley, R Cairns, G Blackhall.
Melrose: F Thomson; A Dodds, C Jackson, J King, B Allen; S Wight, S McCormick; K Cooney, L Gibson, N Beavon, G Dodds, G Elder, J Dalziel, G Runciman, R Miller.
Replacements Used: R Ferguson, R Higgins, N McTaggart, J Murray, C Anderson.

Scoring Summary
Boroughmuir Tries: McMurchy, Doubleday (2), Va’a, Fish. Cons: Blackhall (2), Pen: Blackhall.
Melrose Tries: Runciman, Allen, Anderson, Murray. Cons: Wight (3).
SRB Man of the Match: J Fish

Edinburgh Accies 19-40 Dundee HSFP
at Raeburn Place

Edinburgh Accies: S Moffat; D Rattray, G Douglas, R Browne, M Coupar; R Bonner, C Martin; S Patience, D Cherry, C Murray, E Stuart, G Campbell, R Snape, T Drennan, D Teague.
Replacements Used: J Henderson, O Powell, P Jenkinson, D O’Hagen, S Atkins.
Dundee HSFP: J Fleming; M Smith, H Duthie, L Graham, R Lemon; C Ferguson, A Dymock; N Dymock, J Clark, A Brown, C Cumming, R Hawkins, S McKee, G Ryan, D Levison.
Replacements Used: D Russell, D Young, R Cessford, A Horton, S Dryer.

Scoring Summary
Edinburgh Accies Tries: Coupar, Drennan. Pens: Bonner, Douglas (2).
Dundee HSFP Tries Lemon (2), Ferguson, Fleming, Clark, Levison, Cons Fleming (5).
SRB Man of the Match: R Lemon

This coming Saturday every team is in action apart from Ayr and Heriot’s who once again take part in the British and Irish Cup while clubs could lose a few youngsters to the Gael Force. It is getting tight at the bottom of Prem 1 with Watsonians getting closer to the pack at the foot of the table. With Stew Mel definately down Accies, Selkirk and maybe even ‘Muir will have to redouble their efforts to avoid the dreaded drop.

In the B&I Cup Ayr take on Pontypridd at Millbrae on Saturday. Heriot’s, meanwhile, play Bristol away on the Sunday and the Gael Force play Plymouth Albion in Scotland on the Friday. Further details to come later.

Prem 1 matches for this weekend (Snow permitting!)

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After two games and countless shredded nerves the 6N takes a break. Good thing, then, that the weather is taking another bad turn!

Front runners Currie are away, while their nearest rivals Ayr are hoping to claw Currie back with a win at home. At the other end of the table the bottom two, Watsonians and Stew Mel, face off. It could perhaps be a cagey Saturday for a lot of teams with Hawks vs Currie, Accies vs Dundee and Watsonians vs Stew Mel looking to be quite tight and physically brutal. Also expect games like Boroughmuir vs. Melrose and Heriot’s vs. Selkirk to have some end to end action. It could be a much different story with West.  While there could be some smart play from the Burnbrae outfit Ayr are able to tot up a fairly big score in their current vein of form.

Here are the games as they are set to KO:

Ayr – West of Scotland
at Millbrae (ko 3pm)

Heriot’s – Selkirk
at Goldenacre (ko 3pm)

Watsonians – Stew Mel
at Myreside (ko 3pm)

Boroughmuir – Melrose
at Meggetland (ko 3pm)

Edinburgh Accies – Dundee High
at Raeburn Place (ko 3pm)

SRB Game of the Weekend: Glasgow Hawks – Currie
at Old Anniesland (ko 3pm)

    Hawks have a few games in hand and at home could be dark horses against Currie. Both teams look at their best with structure so whichever side looks after the ball better for the entire match should come out on top. Currie have a bit of an advantage when they break, but with both back lines having nifty backs able to exploit a space this will hopefully have some exciting tries from both teams.

Players to watch: Hawks stand-off Duncan Weir and Currie’s Richard Snedden

A Quick Chat With The Future: Part 1 – Rory Hutton

When one looks at Rory Hutton, he’ll be the first to admit, he doesn’t look like a rugby player. Tall and slender, slight with a lazy gate you could be forgiven for thinking he was an electrician, or something! Then you put a ball in the kid’s hands.

When Rory played against Cardiff on the 9th of January rugby viewers in the Celtic regions sat up and took notice. While easing into the game in a way natural to his insouciant spirit, it was his feint and dart that made spectators catch their breath. Twice he unlocked the Cardiff defence and made seasoned pros and British Lions follow imaginary passes. If he gets on this Friday he could do it to Munster.

He’s been doing this for years. Just ask anyone from Hawick. He’s got 5 7’s caps to prove he is a talented ball player. Even in his fleeting forays into this season’s Scottish Hydro Premier 1 matches for Heriot’s he has shown glimpses of something special. Is he ready for a professional contract? Most likely. Is he going to be the answer to Scotland’s problems at 10? We will have to wait and see. One thing is for sure; Wherever Rory plays, he will be doing so with a smile on his face.

A.D. briefly caught up (‘Countdown’ style) with Rory this week;

AD: Alright, Rory! How do you feel your season has gone so far?

RH: It’s been ok. A bit stop start with injuries but I’ve had a game with Edinburgh and on the whole it’s going pretty well.

Being, ostensibly, an Academy player stepping into your first pro. game, how did you feel before the Cardiff game?

I did feel a little bit nervous. Training had gone well, though, and I was more excited at the chance, rather than anything else.

Having made an impact on that game how have you coped with the increase in recognition and notoriety? A lot are calling for you to get a contract next season/play for Scotland, after all!

Ha-ha it’s been fine! I’ve not noticed it too much to be honest. I try and just get on with my rugby.

Has it changed your outlook on games?

No I always take every game the same. It’s important to perform at whatever level I’m involved in.

What is your normal match preparation? (Day before: food, sleep, cinema, swimming etc)?

I try and eat well and regularly. Other than that I just chill out, usually with the girlfriend.

How lovely…Away from rugby, what is your Nickname?

For some reason I have now become known as ‘The Eel’ at Heriot’s.

What is your drink of choice?

I am prone to an Irn Bru.

What’s a perfect Saturday night for you?

I like to go out have a good laugh with the boys. Always being sensible, though…

What is your ‘Dream Job’?

I wouldn’t mind being a musician.

If you could be a kingpin in any other sport, who would it be?

Easy. Usain bolt. Superstar.

Which 3 people, dead or alive, would you love to go for a pint with?

Frankie Boyle, Peter Griffin from family guy…and your lovely self!

And finally…Scarlett Johansson or Beyonce Knowles?

Beyonce

Look out for Rory in Edinburgh’s colours this Friday as he lines up on the bench against champions Munster. He could also feature for Heriot’s in their upcoming British and Irish Cup games. It could be an exciting 6N period for the youngster.

I will hopefully be back soon with a quick word with another up-and-coming Scottish prospect…

Less Invictus, more Convictus

Despite the result Saturday had everything a 6N weekend needs. Plus a little more criminal activity.

Any great story or sporting event has certain key components that make it memorable. If you were making a feature film about a game (Take notes, Mr. Eastwood!) then Scotland vs. Wales certainly met all the right criteria. Somehow I think most of us would have rather seen the director’s cut, though!

To make a blockbuster accessible you need clearly defined heroes and villains. Well there were both at the Millennium Stadium. While Parks cut an unlikely figure as the skilful saviour Chris Paterson took on the role of the elder statesman, before taking his final bow for this campaign. On the other side Shane Williams, aka ‘The Milkman’, popped up at the final twist to ensure a disappointing ending for the Scots. Then we come to the bad guys. I actually feel a little sorry for WCP because if I was the last man for Scotland and it looked like a definite try I would probably take the hit and do what he did. Scott Lawson, however, has no excuse. Bang in the middle of the park, slow ball, numbers up in defence. Basically, the kid had a shocker!

We are not even going to talk about the pantomime villain Jonathan Davies…

Another vital aspect of a Hollywood hit is a level of mystery. Thankfully, Clancy (George not Tom – ed.) had that covered. The scrum was a mess and no one knows why. I’m not saying that Murray was scrummaging well, but it should have been an indicator to Clancy that the scrum stopped nose-diving when James went off the park for a stint. In fact, regardless of who the culprit was a yellow card early doors may have discouraged Lawson from being so naïve later on. Precedence has a tendency to influence decisions later. Clancy left himself so much work in the last quarter.

Blockbusters also need tragedy, and unfortunately the game had this, too. 3 players are out for a long time. It is doubtful that Evans will play again this season and it is looking like Paterson and Lamont will have relatively lengthy lay-offs. The good news is that Evans is improving according to doctors and his surgery was successful. There will now be, though, a few spaces up for grabs for the next game and there should be changes. Evans for Evans makes sense, but why, oh why does Robbo not rate Southwell? Maybe bringing Grove back in would be sensible.

Comedy relief is another thing you need but this didn’t come until after the game. Andy Powell has consequently been dropped from the Welsh team. The worse hangover ever? Maybe not, but the drunken use of a Golf Buggy, no matter how funny it is, is not original. If you want a lesson in going off the rails on a golf course look at Italy’s Stand-off Craig Gower’s Wikipedia page. Can you relate?!

Unfortunately for us, the last thing a sports movie needs is an underdog or comeback story. Well Wales made sure of that. It was almost spectacular how well Scotland were playing in the first half but does our nationalistic pessimism have to always manifest itself? We were the agents of our own downfall. We were 10 points up with 7 minutes left and with a bit less harum scarum and perhaps more sensible ‘cheating’ and gamesmanship we could have seen the result out.

Picking on Byrne is a bit silly. If it was a professional foul then we cannot blame him or the ref. We didn’t see it. ‘Diving’ is a big debate in football, and Thierry Henry’s handball begged the same question, as bloodgate before it; is it ever worth cheating? I know a few club players who will occasionally dive when the situation merits it… and I know a lot of coaches would take the rewards gleaned from it, even if they don’t condone it. No one questions Byrne’s hardness or work ethic. If he did cheat, which is up in the air anyway, then he got a win out of it. I digress. The signs are there that we can achieve something and if we play at the pace we were in the first half for 80 against England, we should win. If we play with the width and guile we had in the first half for 80 against Italy, we should win.

Sorry for all the crippling movie metaphors. A bit cringe, but it gets the point across… kind of. We need the sequel, I mean next game, to be better. But not by much. The pack continues to perform and Ford and Murray should play 80 next time round. Hamilton did surprisingly well considering he’s not played much. Beattie continues to carry like a game breaker. Barclay must rack up more events than anyone else in post match analysis and Brown sat more than one taff on his backside. Now if Parks can play like he did in the next test, obviously without flying up and leaving an Alessandro Zanni-sized hole in defence, then the backline could be firing and exciting, regardless of personnel.

The outlook is good… Just as long as Jonathan Davies isn’t behind you.

Here is also a brief Prem. 1 roundup

Watsonians 3 – 7 Edinburgh Accies
at Myreside

West of Scotland 20 – 18 Melrose
at Burnbrae

Dundee High 52 – 5 Stew Mel
at Mayfield

The Highs and Lows of a Scottish Weekend…

We had two wins, a draw and a loss from various national teams. Sounds alright, doesn’t it? However, the public’s opinion of Scottish rugby is shaped entirely by the fortunes of the national side. Every other result is a bonus (or a continued indicator of the fallow years to come; although thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case!). So let’s put each result in context…

The Scottish Women’s team overcame their French counterparts 10-8 at Lasswade on Saturday giving them the perfect start to their 6N campaign. I cannot testify to knowing too much about women’s rugby, but as a result against regular opponents this looks pretty good and show that a minority, in an already minor sport, can still thrive.

Something I can testify to (allegedly) knowing about is the fortunes of the Scottish Club International side. The team fought hard to win 13-9 in an intense, if not end to end globetrotter-style, match.  Much like the Women’s match conditions didn’t favour an exciting, mercurial contest but the endeavour was there. Even 2000 folk braved the dreich Border’s weather to watch. Also, the crowd still got treated to a physical display and some hard running from the likes of Kelly and Weston as well as some great defence from Clapperton and co. What this did show was that Amateur rugby here is improving all the time and more than compares with the French opposition (although comparing myself to my opposite man on Friday night was more like comparing myself to my own father- he looked like he was in his 40’s!).

The under-20s drew 8-all with their French foils. While not the perfect score, it was better than losing! Also, the performances of highly rated youngsters like Maltman and McInally shows the potential we have here. We also have yet another Blair at 10, and lord knows we’re all hoping he proves to be a genius! Rory was at the game, so he will be better placed to tell you if they are likely to win against Wales down there, but the future may seem bright in some areas of that team.

And then there was Sunday. I, for one, am weary of over analysing, but when the shortcomings are that obvious it is rude not to point them out. We all know what they are. 1) The backline are standing so deep during second phase it is surprising they can even see Chris Cusiter. 2) While Johnnie Beattie played outstandingly well in the loose yesterday, it was verging on the cruel the longer he left the ball in the back of the scrum. 3) If a team stands in attack in two banks, most standing in a flat line and some standing in a small group deeper and wider, then we become bamboozled.  Twice Bastreaud was in the second group ready to receive passes direct from the flatter group and he scored. Once Clerc, brilliantly tap tackled by Kelly Brown and held up by Evans, broke from a similar situation. 4) Next time (i.e. against Wales) please give the ball to someone quick enough to make an inside break when facing a blitz defence.  5) Jonathan Davies is more annoying than a postal gold advert.

The good thing is, though, that it was still only 9 points we lost by. Look after the ball without forcing the play and we might be alright…maybe?!

So what did you make of the day? What would you do if you were Robbo? And what is going to unlock an equally depressed Welsh team?!

Scottish club International Team

Club International coach Ally Donaldson has named his starting XV and subs bench for Friday nights game against France at Netherdale (7.30 ko).

Glasgow Hawks lock, Rory McKay, Dundee prop Alan Brown and Melrose pair James King (centre) and Fraser Thomson (wing) have all earned their place in the starting XV for the first time. New caps also include Gregor Wood (Watsonians), Alastair Hamilton, Andrew MacMahon (both Currie), Paul Burke and Jamie Hunter (both Ayr) on the bench.

The coaching staff are eagerly looking forward to this game and are hoping to go one better after losing by a point in last years reverse fixture. Club International team manager, Ian Rankin said: “The days of French teams supposedly not traveling well is long gone. This French team will play with the classic French style – huge powerful forwards and lightning quick backs.

“But in this starting XV we have 11 players that faced the French last season, with another two poised to play from the bench who all know what they have to face.

“It’ll be a tough assignment but hopefully we can get a big Netherdale crowd out to back the team. I’ve heard the game is of big interest in the Borders but there are a lot of clubs represented by this team.

“There’s a real connection between the clubs and their players with the clubs taking a lot of pride and pleasure in being represented in the match. I think that’ll be measurable this Friday night.”

Scottish Club International Team to face France: Harkness (Selkirk); Thomson (Melrose), Clapperton (Boroughmuir), King (Melrose), Anderson (Melrose); Wight (Melrose), Snedden (Currie); Dymock (Heriot’s), Burnett (Heriot’s), Brown (Dundee), Kelly (Ayr), McKay (Glasgow Hawks), Dalziel (Melrose) CAPTAIN, Cairns (Currie), Weston (Currie).
Replacements: Wood (Watsonians), Reid (Ayr), Hamilton (Currie), Sutherland (Ayr), Burke (Ayr), Hunter (Ayr), MacMahon (Currie).

Entry is free on the night. Why not head down to Gala and support the Club International lads?