Autumn Term Sport Highlights*
20th December, 2017
*selected text from Headmaster’s Parents’ Newsletter
Merchiston continues to emphasise the importance of our major sports, whilst offering diversity and individual choice. This is an extremely delicate balance. Within rugby, we continue to concentrate on the diamond that has three points: the quality of coaching staff, the quality of pupils, and the quality of fixtures while at the same time integrating the new conference league system. Roddy Deans (Director of Rugby) and David Blair (1XV coach) continue to provide an inclusive environment for all pupils who play the game. With the 1XV through to 3XV training together, this allows over 40 pupils to feel part of something special. Rory McCann (Director of Sport) and Richard Charman (Deputy Head Co-Curricular) have also played an important role in this.
The rugby season started well on the back of the excellent pre-season training camp in St Andrews. Roddy Deans continues to promote an inclusive team culture and positive environment with our senior pupils. On Wednesday afternoons, our senior pupils act as ‘Big Brothers’ to the younger year groups in the school and help coach. There are pupils helping from U15-U18.
Major rugby fixtures this term included: George Watson’s (twice), Edinburgh Academy, Stewart’s Melville, Dollar, Strathallan and Fettes. There were wins at 1XV level against George Watson’s, Stewarts’ Melville, Edinburgh Academy, Dollar Academy and Fettes College. The school finished in second place in the Colts Schools Conference. It went down to the final 1XV match which was also the fourth round of the Schools Cup. In the conference matches, Merchiston won 16 of their 25 ‘A’ matches from U13-U18. We also fielded every team in all the fixtures. Unfortunately, the 1XV and the U16As were knocked out at the same stage of the Schools Cup by George Watson’s and High School of Glasgow. However, the C1s (Year 9) remain unbeaten so far this season.
Over Half Term, our 1XV performed for the 19th time at the annual St Joseph’s Festival, Ipswich, now in its 31st 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. Sixteen 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 third place overall; a wonderful achievement. This is the third year in a row we have finished in the top four. We had good wins against The John Fisher School, Eltham College and St Joseph’s College. 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 pupils 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, Eton and Brighton College among others. They recorded our best performance ever at the tournament, as runners-up. They won matches against Brighton College, Langley and Eton College, before losing to Hurstpierpoint College in the final.
The Merchiston Golf Academy has been ranked as the No 1 ISGA Junior School and second place Senior School in recent 2017-18 ISGA schools rankings. Captain of Golf, Rory, is currently leading the ISGA UK Senior Individual Rankings list for 2017/18. Rory has had an outstanding start to the school year with two top 5 finishes in the Scottish National Open and the UK Schools Cup. Also in the top 20 is Hamish, he too having his best start to the year with a solid 74 in the Scottish Open. Cameron also travelled to the UAE to take part in the U16 Faldo Series Finals. He finished in fourth place overall, which is a tremendous effort, and it is important to remember that Cameron is a year younger! Three Merchiston pupils have also been selected to play for the U16 Scottish Schools team against England next term. Director of Golf, Alan Murdoch has also been selected to captain the side.
In tennis, the school is currently ranked third in the LTA UK rankings. David Brewer (Director of Tennis) continues to develop as a very good leader alongside Nathan Lundy (Head Coach). The pupils successfully defended the U13, U15 and U18 Scottish Schools Cup and the Northern Regional Finals. The U18s finished in fourth place at the UK National Schools finals in July. In the last week of term, both the U13 and U15 teams went down to the AEGON UK National Schools Finals in Bolton. They both finished in third place overall. It has been a tremendous year with the U18s recording a memorable second-place finish at the ISF World Schools Championships.
Co-Captain of tennis, Jacob will start the year in the top 200 U18 ITF World rankings. Jacob, Charlie and Matthew all represented Scotland at the Four Nations event in September. We have now also entered an U18 tennis team into the AEGON Senior Students event. This is made up of pupils not involved in the Tennis Academy but who still want to play competitive fixtures against other schools. This team has reached the AEGON Regional finals, starting in February and is available to pupils in the Autumn and Lent terms. They beat Strathallan and Musselburgh Grammar to reach these finals. It is important to note all three Tennis Academy 2017 leavers successfully gained university places at Oxford, Davidson University and Middle Tennessee (Top 50 Tennis University in US).
Other sports fixtures and leisure activities have taken place in basketball, hockey, badminton, fives, football, golf, shooting, squash, swimming, skiing and tennis. On writing this report, there have been 72 fixtures in 9 sports other than rugby.
During the Autumn Term, 85% of the pupils in the School have participated in a School fixture and there have been 260 fixtures across 10 different sports. Alongside the games programme, there have been Clan events in basketball, swimming and football for all pupils up to and including Lower Sixth. This new initiative is becoming very popular with pupils.
The senior basketball team has had an excellent start to the year under the new coach, Ken Sanford. They have won all but one of their fixtures and have reached the quarter-final stage of the Scottish Schools Open Competition. The best performance ever in this competition is the semi-finals. The Merchiston Basketball Blitz was a huge success and organised very well by our graduate intern, Stephen Douglas. They finished in second place overall. There have been eight squash fixtures overall this term at U14, U16 and U18 level. We have also entered two teams at U16 and U19 level into the Edinburgh Schools Badminton league. The pupils have had four fixtures this term.
The senior football team has a good start to the season with wins against Clifton Hall, Fettes, George Watson’s and Stewart’s Melville B team. There have also been four 2XI fixtures against Fettes, Loretto and Clifton Hall. Merchiston Juniors continues to have fixtures against prep schools through the winter terms.
The U18 hockey team won against Harris Academy and lost against Renfrew Schools in the semi-final of the Aspire Cup. The U15s were entered into the Secondary Schools Cup, losing to Stewart’s Melville. There are U13, U14 and U15 fixtures organised for the Lent Term.
In swimming, we had a number of pupils entered into the Edinburgh Schools Championships, even though it fell on Weekend Leave. From this, Charlie (Lower Sixth) qualified for the Scottish Schools Championships in January. This term there have been swimming fixtures at U10, U11, U12, U13, U14, U16 and U18 levels