Montrose Under-18s headed north to take on Ellon in the quarter-final of the Caledonia Cup.
It was recognised by the players and coaches that this was going to be the toughest match of the season with Ellon having done well in the National Under-18 League.
From the kick-off, Ellon’s off-loading and lines of running were of the highest order. Within five minutes they were two tries up and another two were to follow shortly after. It was clear that the Montrose boys were not used to this level of intensity and they weren’t going to be allowed to settle into the game.
After the initial shock, Montrose started to play with more structure. This resulted in a quick ball and Montrose Captain, Calum Littlejohn, took the ball on the halfway line, broke two tackles and sprinted to score under the posts. This lifted the Montrose spirits and gave them the confidence to develop their off-loading game. By half time, Montrose had scored two more tries and the scoreline was Ellon 31, Montrose 17.
The second half began with Montrose taking a rolling maul into the Ellon 22. Breaking off the maul, Montrose number eight Fergus Hill scored to increase the pressure on the home side. This was followed by a barnstorming try from Connor Rush and conversion that brought Montrose within two points.
Using set moves from the training pitch, Ellon’s backs supported by their loose forwards started to find gaps. The Montrose tackling remained strong but Ellon were able to score two tries and it looked like they were going to close out the game.
However, Montrose kept up the pressure and another try from Hill and a classic scrum-half try from Ewan Campbell, passing four of the Ellon back-line, showed that the Montrose boys were going to fight to the end.
As the final whistle neared, they looked to break out from their 22 with a kick. Followed by the Montrose wingers, it looked like things could be squared up at 50 points each. The wind took the ball all the way down the pitch and, agonisingly, it rolled over the dead ball line.
The referee called the players all the way back to the Montrose 22 and the ensuing scrum resulted in the final score going to Ellon.
When the final whistle blew, Ellon had won by 55 to 43. It had been an excellent display of cup rugby and both teams congratulated each other and thanked the referee.
After the game, both teams nominated a man of the match from the opposing team. The Ellon captain thanked Montrose for such a gutsy and disciplined performance and named Liam Hardie, the Montrose Hooker, as their choice of man of the match.
Coach Jim Smith said: “We are really proud of how the Uner-18s played today. They were set a very tough test and showed that their commitment and spirit was of the highest order. To have scored seven tries against a team that has been playing in the National League is a real achievement and shows how far we have come this season.”
The Under-18s’ next match is a double-header away match with the Under-16s at Crieff on Sunday, March 2.