After the pretty miserable conditions on a last resort pitch against Stirling University on Wednesday it was a pleasure to arrive at an immaculate Edinburgh University sports ground on a sunny day on Friday. In front of a crowd of over 300 in the stand the teams were piped on to the pitch in brilliant renditions of “Du gamla, Du fria” and “Flower of Scotland”.
The Swedish U20 team was by now down to 18 more or less fit players against a team of 21 students who were around 3 years older, in the middle of their season and without the strain of a match two days before.
Nevertheless, Sweden started off well, put their opponents under pressure, and Liam Pallin ran round the outside to touch down. Mattieu added the points and the visitors had a spring in their stride. Sweden continued to attack but missed three line-outs in a row and within a few minutes the University counter-attacked and were over in the corner. Play moved from end to end for some tine but then the home team turned defense into attack once again and scored an excellent try after interpassing in the backs. The kick went over to make it 12 – 7. There was stalemate for some time in an open flowing game. Sweden had their chances but the home defense was very solid,
On 25”, the Engineers took a penalty to the corner and in a clever move broke away to score in the corner. Then, just on half-time, after intense pressure the home team got their fourth try via a drive over and it was 24 – 7 at the break. This felt a little peculiar as Sweden had had over 50% possession and territory but couldn´t break down the opposition defense.
But worse was to come. Sweden pinned the university in their own half for an unbroken 15”. But then an interception saw a break-out from near the university line. The runner was caught but support was there for them to score on their first outing into the Swedish half.
Ten minutes later they were back in the Swedish half again and another long run saw a try yet again in the corner.
This made it 34 – 7, but the Swedish team didn´t lose heart and were back on the attack once more. And once again an interception near the home team line saw the students sweeping 90 m. up the field to score again with 7” minutes to go. On the final whistle the university made it into the Swedish half for the fourth time and scored yet again to make it 44 – 7.
By my watch, after the break the university engineers were in the Swedish half for 6”, during which time they chalked up four tries! Sweden on the other hand had spent about 25” around the home 22 m. line without getting over the whitewash.
The scoreboard doesn´t lie, but it certainly didn´t reflect what was in fact quite a close game.
The U20s had run out of players by the end and the pack was chopped and changed throughout but still stood up pretty well, although the lineout was shaky. Anthony R. had a good game, judged to be man of the match, while the biggest man on the field, Alasdair M. had a few useful bursts. Theo was hampered by a twisted ankle from Wednesday but was still given the man of the tour award. Olle H. was once again very steady at scrum half. If Sweden had had the 23 players originally chosen for the trip the score would, I think, have been very different today. But these problems have to be surmounted. Over a dozen of the players from the tour will be eligible for the U20s again next year and with the U18s also showing up well this Autumn there should be the makings of a good U20s team for 2019.
All in all, an excellent tour so far, rounded off today with a visit to the Scotland – South Africa game. Congratulations once again to coach and manager Henry van Niekerk and Sean Logan. It is a pleasure to see how a tour of this type should be administered and managed. And congratulations also to the players. A well-behaved, polite and appreciative group of young men.