Edinburgh Eagles: (4) 30

Tries: Logan (2), Clarke (2), Walker, Baselala, Robertson Goals: Mair

Strathmore Silverbacks: (18) 22

Tries: Burgess (2), Feighan, Hall Goals: Burgess (3)

The Scottish Cup competition returned in 2019 following a five year sabbatical. The final, played on Saturday 20th July at Lochinch Sports Pavilion in Glasgow, saw Edinburgh Eagles face Strathmore Silverbacks in what has become a “derby” of sorts in the last few years.

The open-age clash, played in temperatures approaching 22 degrees, was preceded by an under 16’s game between the two clubs in match two of the three scheduled. As with the first, the Eagles took the spoils but the margin victory was far less due to a much improved Silverbacks performance with Edinburgh winning 34-24.

In the main event, it could’ve been argued than Edinburgh Eagles would start as slight favourites due to the regularity of their fixtures in the North East of England league competition, but it was Strathmore who started the brighter of the two sides and opened the scoring when Andrew Burgess intercepted a pass from Eagles’ Lewis Clarke to race in from forty metres. The same player added the extras to make it 6-0.

The capital-based Eagles were their own worst enemies at times and a series of handling errors and penalties gifted the Silverbacks both possession and field position. Marshalled by experienced halfback Fraser McKay, the Silverbacks took the ball close to the Edinburgh line before Glenn Feighan crashed over off a Stuart Gray short-ball. Burgess was again successful with the conversion, as he was for a third time when converting Niall Hall’s close range try, giving the Forfar outfit an unexpected, yet fully deserved, 18-0 lead.

This seemed to be the shock to the system that The Eagles needed and they finally settled in to the game. A series of exchanged errors or completed sets ensued and Edinburgh finally managed to get themselves on the score board shortly before halftime, when prop Terry Logan took a Gareth Walker pass and powered his way over the line. The conversion was missed which meant the Strathmore Silverbacks were leading 18-4 at the break.

Whatever Edinburgh Eagles player-coach Craig Robertson and captain Lewis Clarke said to their team must’ve worked as this became the old clichée of “a game of two halves” in the second forty.

First on the scoresheet following the restart was Clarke who barged over following some good footwork. Mikey Mair converted to make it 18-10 in favour of the Silverbacks but the fight back had begun.

Over the next twenty minutes there seemed little the Strathmore defence could do to stop the Edinburgh juggernaut. It was an off day with boot for the Eagles but tries Gareth Walker, Lennox Baselala, Robertson and Clarke with his second of the game, put them 26-18 up with only nine minutes to play.

The heat and physicality of the game was starting take its toll on both teams but like boxers entering the final round of a title bout, neither wanted to throw in the towel and when Strathmore’s Burgess swooped on a loose Edinburgh pass to score with seven minutes to go, it was game on once again.

The game was however decided with the last play of the game when powerhouse Logan forced his way over for the Eagles to secure a 30-22 victory and see Edinburgh Eagles crowned Scottish Cup winners 2019.

Barry McGuffog, Chairman of Edinburgh Eagles, said:

We knew the game with Strathmore would be very competitive and we were made to work very hard right till the end of the match. They put us under a lot of pressure in the first half and throughly deserved their 18-4 lead at half time. We then played a lot better in the second half and controlled possession. All credit to them for coming back strongly in the last 10 minutes and taking the game right to the final set.

Dave Vernon, Head Coach Strathmore Silverbacks, said:

The match was everything we were expecting, we started the match well and were really happy at half time. However, we struggled to gain possession in the second half and Edinburgh’s experience showed. I was really pleased that the guys found a way back into the match towards the end and to take the game right to the final minute was a good achievement.

Ollie Cruickshank, Director of Operations for Scotland Rugby League, said:

Saturday was a very good day for rugby league in Scotland. We had 35 Under 16’s playing in a very competitive match before the Cup Final and then saw 2 very well matched teams play out a highly competitive Cup Final that went right to the final minute. We have seen good increases in player numbers this summer which bodes well for the 2020 season

Edinburgh Eagles:

Clayton Woods, Lennox Baselala, Iveri Cikaitoga, Matt Hart, Ross Marwick, Craig Robertson, Lewis Clarke, Terry Logan, Gareth Walker, Jona Kainoco, Michael Mair, Doug Watters, Llimo Torau

Interchange: Michele Crolla, Stuart McBain, Douglas Thomson, Sean Taylor, Zachary McCall, Norani Vuna, Robert Stitt

Strathmore Silverbacks:

Michael Jamieson, Conall McDonagh, Thomas Heshmonglagh, James Doherty, Shaun Duthie, Andrew Burgess, Fraser McKay, Kevin Franco, Connor Blackmore, Stuart Gray, Niall Hall, Cameron Robertson, Glenn Feighan

Interchange: Craig Henderson, Tam Lindsay, Max Pringle, Andrew Paul, Ian Reid, FrancoShaun

Referee: Dave McKervail Touch Judge: Ollie Cruickshank, Alex Chandler

Photo credit: John Preece (The Edinburgh Reporter)