1stXV beat Merchiston
And so another hugely enjoyable and entertaining 1stXV rugby season draws to an end, and this group of boys can look back on what has been a very impressive term’s rugby, which must go down as one of the very best in my 16 years here. But how do you define a ‘successful season’? Is it the number of wins? Is it the improvement made by a team over the course of a season? Is it that sense of team spirit which all great sides should have? Is it a whole team working together without any star player? Is it having a Captain who sets the right example both on and off the field, someone who leads through actions and not words? I am not sure it is easy to define ‘success’, but all of the above are certainly important parts of a successful team……but to me, this group of boys have listened and worked incredibly hard every afternoon in training, they have coped with injuries and loss of form to players, they have never given up and have always shown a huge amount of heart and commitment, but above all, they they shown that indomitable spirit, a determination to go out there and give it your all as a team, and if you perform to your best, then the result will usually take care of itself.
Yes, we have been unbeaten in Scotland, beating Dollar twice which is no mean achievement, and beaten Aysgarth when they came up on tour; our only defeats were away to Aysgarth and twice to Sedbergh. By any reckoning, that is a fantastic season, playing 14 matches, two sevens tournaments (winning one of them) and one representative tournament, all in the space of just 13 weeks. That is a considerable physical challenge, especially the five games in nine days just after half term, and yet week after week, this group of boys have risen to the challenges that have been put before them, and often surpassed them. For me, they are certainly in the top two XVs in my time, and that is some achievement, but richly deserved.
So this afternoon, we welcomed our old friends Merchiston to Cargilfield for the final hurrah, with both teams having had excellent seasons, and both sets of players keen to go out on a high. We had won the Loretto 7s, they won the Ardvreck 7s so both teams had high expectations of victory. I have to say that once again, just like the previous two weeks’ matches with Aysgarth and Dollar, this was another fantastic advert for Prep School rugby with huge commitment and skill on show from both sides, and no quarter given or asked; another titanic struggle and a real spectacle for the large crowd of spectators who had come to watch.
The first 15 minutes saw us play the best rugby of the season, and scoring four outstanding tries through some sublime team play, gave us the head start that we needed and which we would never relinquish. The pick of them was a wonderful pick from the base of the ruck by Seb who went blind, drew his man and popped it to Rory to race in to the corner. 28-7 at half time, and despite some strong running from former pupil, Adam, our defence was very solid indeed and the organisation and communication from the whole side meant that Merchiston found it very hard to break through despite their excellent handling in the backs. Our dominance at the breakdown meant that we controlled possession and the way we used it, against a quality opposition, showed the huge strides we have made over the course of the season, kicking intelligently, getting the ball out in to the wider channels faster and always having the option to recycle again and again through our outstanding pack of forwards who again worked so hard winning ruck after ruck after ruck - another herculean effort.
Jack came off the bench at half time and immediately made an impact with a terrific try, which was followed by a wonderful solo effort by Quin who’s dancing feet and fantastic body position in contact meant that Merchiston struggled to contain him all afternoon - it was a wonder try which effectively sealed the game for us. There was still time for Merchiston to score three well worked tries using their powerful centre to break our tiring defence, but Max, the Captain, scored twice which gave us a cushion and there was well deserved celebrations when the final whistle went. Undefeated in Scotland, with just Sedbergh, our old nemesis, getting the better of us even though we had boys playing on one leg down on tour, and we were right in the game at half time when we played them up here; if truth be told, we weren’t far away from beating them.
As I said at the start, winning matches is great but not the over riding factor in having a successful season at this level. We want to improve as a team, we want to play rugby that involves all players on the field, we want to show that determination to keep going, to play for one another and celebrate each others’ success - real teamship and something that will hopefully give this group of boys a real love of rugby as they move on to senior school. Enjoying the game is so important, as is having high standards, both individually and as a team, and in so many ways, this group of boys have risen to the challenge, got better, and showed huge resilience as they returned from tour and played even better rugby these final three weeks of term.
My thanks to all the boys for their efforts this season, and special thanks to Max who has proved to be an outstanding Captain of Rugby, leading his troops by example and playing on one leg, refusing to come off when we were down on tour, said a lot about him and his commitment to his team. A season to remember, and hopefully all those who played will look back and be proud of what they achieved; they played some wonderful rugby, they learned a lot, they came back from adversity and they showed a real never say die attitude when the real challenges presented themselves. And they were not found wanting.
A memorable season in so many ways. Thank you, boys.