Stirling County capped a hugely successful season by regaining the National Youth Cup under-18 title, they last won three years ago, with a 17-12 win over Ayr on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield yesterday in a match that was a contest between the two forward packs.

In the event Stirling, who are unbeaten this season and who were the President’s Conference winners, emerged the stronger with powerful performances from props Ross Dunbar and Conner Clark and number 8 Harry Henderson, who was forced to retire midway through the second half.

“When we play Ayr the battle is normally contested in the forwards.” said Stirling’s coach, Matt McGrandles, adding : “That game was what we expected of them.”

Behind the scrum, replacement stand-off Cormac Wcislo showed useful touches, while full back Logan Trotter added to his already impressive rugby credentials with an accurate display of goal kicking, a second half touchline conversion and a long range penalty goal proving crucial for Stirling.

For Ayr, who matched Stirling on tries, hooker Robbie Smith and prop Ruairidh Sayce were outstanding, both front rows showing exceptional pace in the loose. “The game could have gone either way. We probably paid the price for our error count towards the end of the match.” suggested the Ayr coach, Stuart Fenwick.

At the end of a first half that presented few scoring chances for eitdher side Stirling led 7-5 after matching a close range score by Ayr’s dynamic hooker Robbie Smith with a try by second row Duncan Hendry, the difference in the interval scores being County’s successful conversion by full back Logan Trotter.

Ayr’s fortunes changed in the second half when Stirling presented Cameron Reece with a too obvious interception allowing the flanker to sprint in from 40 metres for a try under the posts and an easy conversion for stand-off Paddy Dewhirst.

The interception favour was returned as County’s stand-off Kieron Gammie accepted a loose Ayr pass only to be tracked down and tackled by the Ayr centre Calum Gaw. Stirling, though, were slowly beginning to control the game and achieved a decisive score from clever handling that created an overlap try for flanker Wallace Nelson, Trotter’s touchline conversion giving County a 14-12 lead.

Then after a further period of pressure County went further ahead with a penalty goal by Trotter to give Stirling the cushion they needed for victory.


Ayr U18 : J Baird; M Conian, C Gaw, H Lynch, J Roberts; P Dewhirst, A Boyle; G Hollins, R Smith, R Sayce, T Hall, L Richardson, C Reece, S Rae, A Howie Subs S Collier, P McCahill, F Paterson, R Arthur, L Young, T Bunten, R McMurray

Stirling County U18 : L Trotter; M Manners, M Whitton, J Gibson, A McLean; K Gammie, A Holdstack; C Clark, L Brymer, R Dunbar, D Hendry, R Bundy, W Nelson, M Anderson, H Henderson Subs D Morrison, J Cowie, R Murray, J Cooney, A Reddick, C Wcislo, R Campbell

Earlier, in the under-16 final, Ayr confirmed their favourites tag by defeating Highland 36-13 with a performance that blended polished back play with forward strength close to the try line. Impressive for Ayr, four of whose five tries were scored in the second half, was centre Jack Gaw, who not only kicked five goals, three of them from long range, but also distributed skilfully in midfield.

Ayr, however, were made to work hard for their win by a Highland side that defended tenaciously, and which had good control at half back and strength in the driving maul. Highland showed their defensive strength in the first half to lead 6-5 at the break from two penalties by stand-off Jamie Carson to a try by replacement wing Jack Harris.

But in the third quarter Ayr took control to score tries by scrum half Jake Jacobson and prop Jack McDougall before Highland replied with a touchdown from wing Jack Doherty and the conversion by Carson. But in a late flourish Ayr reasserted themselves with tries by replacement Kerr Borland and centre Cammy Black both converted by Gaw to add to his early two earlier second half conversions and a penalty goal.


Highland U16 : A Richards; J Doherty, R Robertshaw, M Grant, J Cook; J Carson, G Hurst; J Ryder, L Marshall, F Weller, T Smith, S Dingwall, C Kent, R Dinnes, W MacNaughton Subs Z Fraser, N Crush, A Wilson, S Gardner, W Moncrieff, J Powell, T Neil

Ayr U16 : G Hutton; O Smith, C Black, J Gaw, C Easton; R McCorkindale, J Jacobson; J McDougall, S Clelland, C Miller, K Beck, J Neil, M Wylllie, O Mossie, R Press Subs J Yuille, J Rennie, D Bryce, J Burns, K Borland, H Ledgerwood, J Harris