At the end of a long drawn out season the sun came out at the Greenlaw to say farewell to a Stewartry team who had been unbeaten in the league and only lost twice in the cup run to two of Scotland’s best age group teams. 94 tries(48 Conversions) for and 32 against. This team has had a great season; Joint Club Team of Year with Colts, made significant progress and has upheld the pride of the Stewartry against the demographic strength of the urban clubs.

Stewartry U16 XV (22) vs Guisborough XV (17)

This finale to the season was against a touring side, Guisborough, from England and there was a degree of trepidation because teams do not tour unless they are good at what they do. The festival feel to the event was boosted by playing on the first’s pitch and in front of the largest crowd of the season.

The Stewartry kicked off and immediately set up a series of possessions in the Guisborough half. The tackling was however solid and the Stewartry ball carriers did not make the ground they might have expected. A chink in the Guisborough defence was exposed by Archie Nicholson, after good ball won by the forwards in a solid scrum, and he wriggled over to score the first try, wide out on the right.

Guisborough responded from the restart, pressuring the Stewartry into mistakes as they attempted to exit. This culminated with giving away a penalty that Guisborough kicked towards the corner. From the lineout there was confusion about how to combat the well set driving maul and Guisborough squeezed over near the corner for their first try. Not long after an almost carbon copy happened with poor goal line defence by the Stewartry allowing Guisborough to put themselves ahead.

The rest of the half was played out in the middle of the pitch with Guisborough playing a well structured game, close in pick and go’s followed by telling bursts on the inside shoulder by their centres. The Stewartry tacklers led ably by Pacey Ho made good individual hits but did not commit to the breakdowns so allowing Guisborough a lot of possession. When the Stewartry was in possession there was a lot of individual endeavour with solo runs from Fin Telfer, Paddy Traynor and Fraser Forsyth, but little continuity. Neither side could make enough ground to threaten the try line again and so the half ended with Guisborough with their noses in front.

In the second half, the Stewartry pressed hard and pinned Guisborough back into their half. With the pressure building a great piece of individual skill allowed Guisborough to break out from the stranglehold. Their centre took a ball deep in his own 22, chipped the defence, gathered the bouncing ball and ran on to score under the posts allowing an easy conversion. With Guisborough 17 – 5 in front the challenge was now firmly laid down for the Stewartry.

With some urging from the touchline, the Stewartry responded well and competed better in all phases. More people made a nuisance of themselves at rucks, particularly Andrew Bowden, and the contest for the ball on the floor led to turn overs by Fraser Gibson and Rory Sinclair. The tacklers came up in more of an organised line with more tackles by Ho, but now joined by Oscar Kapron and Patrick Quigley, who stopped the Guisborough attacks before they developed momentum. With more ball to play with, Peter Young had the options to bring others into the game and his kicking to the corners allowed good ground to be made on the chase by Luke Thompson and Matthew Coupland. From one of these chases Young sneaked over in the corner from a ruck and raised the Stewartry hopes.

The real momentum shifter came when, after a promising attack on the right with Zak Hunter, Telfer and Young combining well, Guisborough stripped the ball and cleared their lines with a long kick to the left. The Stewartry defence had to scramble back and managed to secure the ball in the ruck. From this unpromising defensive ruck, Ho popped up and raced away, outstripping the cover defence to score in the corner. Trailing by two points the Stewartry now had a sniff of a season affirming win.

The Stewartry now were in the ascendancy and made several breaks, notably by Hunter and Young. A great short lineout, straight from the last practice, ensured solid possession for Gibson who fed Telfer to make a good run down the narrow side. Several breakdowns later Telfer was once again on the ball surging forward, breaking tackles and, ignoring the support outside him, shrugged off the defence to power over for the final try. This one was under the posts allowing Young an easy conversion.

On the day, Guisborough might have been the better drilled team, but the Stewartry had the greater resolve and a few key individuals who kept driving the team forward.

After the match, the teams and supporters gathered for presentations for both teams. The Stewartry awards went to Pacey Ho – players player: Patrick Quigley – most improved; Zak Hunter – team player and Fin Telfer – coaches player. Top of the 18 different try scorers were Ho on 13, Young on 12 and Forsyth on 11, Awards were also given to the coaches, particularly Kenny Young who has been team manager for a number of years and without whom, the matches, training and subsequent successes would not have happened.

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