By Ross Young
Wednesday evening saw the first outing for Muir Under 20’s taking on Napier University in an exhibition match at Meggetland
With the core of the squad made up of Colts players who have graduated in recent times to the clubs senior sides, combined with some newer faces to Meggetland – this squad had no shortage of talent. Beefed up with a couple of over 20’s to give us some experience and positional cover – Excitement was in the air!
From the first whistle this game did not disappoint! We elected to play three periods of 20 minutes in order for the Uni to run various combinations of both their experienced campaigners and new arrivals.
Muir U20’s started the game strongly setting a high tempo in both attack and defence. There were notable big hits on the back of some aggressive line speed from Muir which before long would result in the ball being turned over. A well orchestrated attack from fly half and captain Iain Martin got the ball to the midfield where James Armstrong picked the perfect line, powering his way through several tackle attempts and dotting down under the posts for the first score of the game, converted by Martin 7-0.
This proved to be a bit of a wake up call for Napier as they began to show strength in their ability to slow the ball at the breakdown and pressure Muir around the fringes. Whilst one had to admire the ambition of the young Muir side to try and launch an attack from inside their own 22, a series of errors at the breakdown eventually resulted in Napier’s first try of the match at the end of the first period. Conversion missed 7-5.
The second period was one of frustration from a Muir point of view, despite having majority of the possession and territory in their favour they failed to convert it into points. Napier although having made a lot of changes at the stoppage soaked up the pressure, remained patient and similarly to the first half struck a blow this time in the shape of 7 points as the second period came to an end. 7-12
The third and final period saw the teams begin to tire and as a result a lot of turnovers, penalties and missed tackles from both sides. That said the youngsters were not about to disappoint and so it would be one last push to raise the tempo that would secure victory for Muir.
Craig Hunter striking the first of the killer blows with a score between the posts – a well deserved reward after a solid game in the midfield with a lot of direct running and dominant tackling.
Connor McCormack was the man to put the icing on the cake in this match. Having educated the rest of his team several times in the first two periods as to what exactly the infamous “Coco ball” was with his typical barnstorming carries up the middle of the field, there was just enough left in the tank for him to latch on to an overthrown lineout deep in Napier’s 22 and crash over for the final try of the match, Iain Martin added the extra two making the final score 21-12.
This was a successful endeavour for both parties – a great development tool, giving our young rugby players some additional game time and experience can only have a positive outcome as well as being another step in the right direction to strengthening Muir’s club link with the Uni.
Look out for more U20’s fixtures later in the season and a possible return fixture between the two sides.
Finally we would like to wish Napier the best of luck for the season ahead.