Autumn Term sports review
13th December, 2016
During the Autumn Term, 85% of the boys in the School (7-18) have participated in a school fixture and there have been 254 fixtures across 10 different sports. Alongside the games programme, there have been Clan events in basketball, swimming and football for all the middle years. This new initiative is becoming very popular with boys, with Spylaw currently leading the Clan competition overall. Plenty to play for next term in hockey, cross country and badminton.
The rugby season started well on the back of the very successful senior tour to New Zealand in August. This trip was just under 3 weeks long, with 43 boys and 6 staff on the touring party. There were 8 games at 1st and 2nd XV level. The boys won 7 out of their 8 games finishing off with a good win against St Andrew’s College, Christchurch. There have been block rugby fixtures this term against George Watson’s (twice), Edinburgh Academy, High School of Dundee, Stewart’s Melville, Sedbergh, Dollar, Strathallan and Glenalmond. I am delighted to announce that we were crowned winners of the SRU Red Conference for the second year in a row. In the conference matches, we lost just three A team games in twenty and we have fielded every team in all the fixtures. Unfortunately, the 1st XV and the U16As lost both Scottish Cup Semi-Finals against eventual winners, Stewart’s Melville and St Aloysius. However, the C1s remain unbeaten this season and the U13 Sevens team won the Loretto Sevens tournament, with the F1s finishing as runners up.
Over half term, our 1XV performed for the 18th time at the annual St Joseph’s Festival, Ipswich, now in its 30th year. This is an extremely competitive festival, and it is a good arena in which Merchiston continues to develop and learn away from the spotlight in Scotland. 16 teams compete on Day 1 in pools to get through to Day 2, on which two tournaments are run, the main tournament, and the ‘plate’. We finished in 3rd place overall; a fantastic achievement. They played a modern and exciting brand of rugby which allowed us to compete and at times dominate against some of the top schools in the UK. This tournament is a valid learning experience for the boys and year on year Merchiston continues to gain the respect of its competitors south of the border. Our U15XV again, travelled down to the festival at Langley Park School, organised to complement the St Joseph’s Festival. Schools which have attended the St Joseph’s Festival in the past were invited to compete and entries came from; RGS Newcastle; Bedford; St Peter’s, Gloucester and Brighton College among others. After a disappointing first day, they performed very well on the Sunday, winning the Shield competition.
In Cricket, after a rain-affected U15 T20 Finals Day in the summer term, the U15A Cricket team were crowned T20 National Champions for the first time at the end of August. They beat Glenalmond by 9 wickets and Loretto by 8 wickets to win the competition in Perth. This bodes well for the upcoming Cricket tour to Sri Lanka in Easter 2017. Other news in cricket, Tom M (4th form) represented Scotland U15 over the summer. Captain of Cricket, Angus H has been included in the provisional U19 Scotland Winter training squad and Merchistonian, Chris Sole was awarded his first senior cap for Scotland. The winter cricket programme is up and running with coaching clinics running every Tuesday and Thursday. Once again, there have been 25 boys invited to train with the senior cricket squad on Thursday afternoons running all the way through to the Easter holidays.
In tennis, the School is currently ranked 3rd in the LTA UK rankings. The boys successfully defended both the Year 8 and Year 10 Scottish Schools Cup and the Northern Regional Finals. In the last week of term, both the Year 8 and Year 10 teams went down to the AEGON UK National Schools Finals in Bolton. The Year 10 team were unbeaten, winning against Repton, Culford and finally Millfield in the Final. We are delighted to announce we are Year 10 UK National Schools Champions. The Year 8 team also did very well. They lost to Reed’s and Bournemouth College on Day 1 but fought back well with a win against Leicester Grammar School on the Sunday. They finished in 3rd place overall.
Jacob F has also been selected as part of Team GB to compete in the singles and doubles events at the U14 World Championships in Florida in December. This same boy received his first ITF U18 world ranking points. Charlie M (U14) and Matthew R (U12) were also selected to represent Scotland in September. The School has once again been invited to represent Scotland at the World Schools Tennis Championships in Brazil. We have now also entered an U18 tennis team into the AEGON Senior Students event. This is made up of boys not involved in the Tennis Academy but still want to play competitive fixtures against other schools. This is available to boys in the autumn and lent terms. They have already played George Watsons and Strathallan this term.
The Merchiston Golf Academy has been ranked as the No 1 ISGA Junior School in the UK. We also have 3 boys in the current U15 Lothian Boys squad. Cameron A (4th form) was also selected to play for Scotland U16 team against England this summer. The U15 team have a had a good start to the season winning the Scottish ISGA Open team event and runners up at both the Radley Putter and ISGA National event at Sunningdale, London. Both the U18A and U18B teams have qualified for the final of the Scottish National Match play Championships. This will mean we will have one team qualified for the UK National Championships at Royal St George’s, next year.
Other sports fixtures/leisure activities have taken place in: basketball; fives; football; golf; shooting; squash; swimming, skiing and tennis. When writing this report, there had been 47 fixtures in 8 sports, other than rugby. In swimming, we had a number of boys entered into the Edinburgh Schools Championships, even though it fell on weekend leave. From this, both Conan C (Pringle) and Charlie DB (Rogerson) qualified for the Scottish Schools Championships in January. This term there have been swimming fixtures at U10, U11, U12, U13, U14, U16 and U18 level. The senior football team has a good start to the season with wins against Clifton Hall, Fettes, drawing with George Watson’s and Stewart’s Melville and losing to George Heriot’s. There have also been two new 2XI fixtures against Fettes. Pringle continues to have fixtures against prep schools through the winter terms. Theo P, Jack T and Henry C were selected for the Scottish Schools Independent Football (SSIFA) team this year. One of these boys, Theo P has also represented Gibraltar at U19 level. Jack T (V Form) has also received a Hearts Academy Contract to the summer of 2017.
The senior Basketball team has had a tough start to the season losing four out of their five matches. However, they are continuing to work hard with young squad. The Merchiston Basketball Blitz was a huge success and organised very well by Mr Blair. Due to a number of schools postponing fixtures it has been a frustrating start to the Squash season. However, they have recently had some tight matches against George Watson’s and Stewart’s Melville. In fives, there have been 7 fixtures at Junior, Colts and Senior level. We have won 6 out of the 7. In Shooting, we have two boys, James G and Bertie G, training with the Scotland Youth Development small-bore rifle team. The U18 hockey team have their first match against Balerno High school in November in the Secondary Schools Cup. This was in fact, the first home hockey match ever at Merchiston! There are also U13, U14 and U15 fixtures organised for the Lent term.
Finally, there were three Sports Scholar/Captains Committee meetings. This was an opportunity to deliver key messages, listen to the pupil voice, provide education through sport and, most importantly, make boys aware of the different areas of expertise each sport in the school can offer. Feedback from the boys has been positive and they are currently planning on running a Fun Day in Pringle next term to demonstrate what each sport has to offer in the senior school.