RUGBY seems to increasingly be a young man’s game, but a few familiar faces from the past are dusting off their black leather, steel toe-capped, ankle-boots ahead of tomorrow’s Tennent’s Scottish Cup quarter-finals schedule, ready to prove that the old-timers can still mix it with the millennials.
Stewart Mustard, who is in his 21st season with Heriot’s after leaving school in 1998, has been selected at tight-head prop for the Goldenacre side’s visit to Riverside Park, and on the bench is former club captain Graham Wilson, who is set to make his first appearance for the 1st XV since suffering a horrific knee injury on exactly the same week of the season three years ago (funnily enough du.
In the opposing ranks, Donald Grieve is making his 300th appearance for Jed-Forest’s 1st XV.
Meanwhile, Ross Curle may only have just turned 30 but we thought we’d seen the last of the former Ayr stalwart as a player when he moved to London to take on a commercial job with Arsenal last year. But he couldn’t resist the lure of a cameo appearance for the Millbrae men to help plug a gap in the league leaders’ midfield against Currie Chieftains.
Gary Holborn of Stirling County is now well into his 40s, but that hasn’t stopped the prop being a regular for the Bridgehaugh outfit this season, and he starts against Hawick at Mansfield Park.
And Peter Eccles made his comeback from retirement for Melrose earlier in the campaign before injury combined with work and family commitments limited his involvement – but he is back and named on the bench for the Borderers’ home tie against Watsonians.
THE LOWDOWN –
MELROSE v WATSONIANS
VENUE: The Greenyards @ 2.30pm
Melrose: C Jackson; R McCann, P Anderson, G Taylor, M Muelace-Julyan; J Baggott, M McAndrew; G Shiells, R Ferguson, C Young, A Runciman, J Head, R Knott, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: R Anderson, C Crookshanks, C Wilde, P Eccles, S Hutchison, G Wood, I Sim.
Watsonians: J Rowland; M Bartram, A Chalmers, L Millar, R Steele; E Fox, A Harris; F Hobbis, C Fenton, J Stanley, F Simpson, C Borthwick©, C McKill, R Graham, M Fedo. Subs: F Renwick, J Gibson, D Ferguson, H Fisher, M Scott, C Bell, P Cunningham.
TEAM NEWS –
Melrose: Three of the club’s first year pros in Ross McCann (Scotland 7s), George Taylor and Jason Baggott (both Edinburgh), have been released back to bolster the back-line. James Head returns from suspension to the middle-row, allowing Iain Moody to start at No 8. Hooker Russell Anderson returns from injury on the bench alongside the still-not-quite-fully-retired Peter Eccles
Watsonians: Cammy Fenton is released by Edinburgh to start at hooker, captain Craig Borthwick returns from injury to add some grunt to the second-row, Ali Harris gets the nod at scrum-half and Mark Bertram starts on the wing after a long layoff through injury. Jonny Gibson and Chris Bell come onto the bench for their first outings of the season.
KEY BATTLE: George Taylor versus Lee Millar
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Watsonians have strength in depth across the board and will be desperate to get into the next round. The squad has been working hard over the last two weeks and are determined to put in a performance that everyone can be proud of …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
“The players have prepared well over the last two weeks and we have been able to select an exciting looking squad for this crucial Cup quarter-final. The Greenyards is a cracking venue and we look forward to testing ourselves against one of the top sides in the country …” – Stevie Lawrie (Watsonians)
VERDICT: Watsonians’ remote chance of making the Premiership play-offs was obliterated when they lost to Edinburgh Accies at the end of January, and while Melrose have also struggled recently to maintain the high standards they set themselves last season, their stretched squad is reinforced by the availability of three pros in the back-line and the return from injury/suspension of some key forwards.
Comfortable home win.
JED-FOREST v HERIOT’S
VENUE: Riverside Park @ 2.30pm
Jed-Forest: L Young; C Young, R Marshall, R Yourston, E Stewart; M Mitchell, G Munro; W Owen, C Mackay, J Oliver, J Szkudro, C Skeldon, G Law, D Wardrop, D Grieve. Substitutes: D Gillespie, J Bowie, J Northwood, J Sudlow, K Slingsby, R Shirra-Gibb, A Nother.
Heriot’s: C Simpson; S King, R Jones©, R Kay, C Robertson; R Carmichael, A Simmers; A Ball; J Scott, A Johnstone, S Mustard, A Sinclair, C Marshall, S Dewar, M Hughes, J Hill. Subs: M Liness, H Simpson, R Leishman, J McLean, G Wilson, M Hughes, D Steele.
TEAM NEWS –
Jed-Forest: Club captain Gregor Young is out after surgery on his appendix, while Paolo Ferriera’s bulk and power at prop will also be a big miss. But the recent return of Robbie Yourston and Robbie Shirra-Gibb from long-term shoulder injuries is a timely boost. A special mention to number eight Donald Grieve, who is making his 300th 1st XV appearance for the club.
Heriot’s: With Struan Cessford unavailable, Stewart Mustard – Mr Reliable for 21 seasons at Goldenacre – comes in at tight-head prop; Rory Carmichael replaces Stuart Edwards at stand-off; and Graham Wilson will make his first appearance for the 1st XV off the bench after finally recovering a horror knee injury. “It was three years ago this week, when preparing to play Jed in the Cup, that Graham was injured,” said head coach Phil Smith. “His return is testament to his hard work, and recent performances with the Blues.”
KEY BATTLE: Gary Munro versus Andrew Simmers
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We’re sitting pretty in the league but it has been a tough year. With injuries and unavailability, we have had to use 47 players already compared to 36 throughout all of last season, but we’ve got a few boys coming back now, and I think we’re going to be stronger for it with some boys getting experience that they wouldn’t have got if everyone had stayed fit. We know this will be a big challenge because when you come up against Premiership opposition it is a real step-up in pace and power, so the key is going to be to keep hold of the ball and put the pressure back on them …” – Kevin Barrie (Jed-Forest)
“Three years ago, in the quarter-finals at Riverside, we were very nearly put out of the Cup, only a very difficult missed penalty attempt saving our blushes. While there was no perceived complacency that day, my recollection was that we played a very good Jed side who were flying high that season. This Saturday will undoubtedly be another great Cup occasion, as Jed will have a strong and vocal support and the team are sitting pretty at the top of National One. It will be key for us to start better and play in the manner that we have been this season. With only one defeat in the last few months the squad come into this match with a lot of confidence. It promises to be a cracker. …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
VERDICT: It was too close for comfort for Heriot’s the last time they visited Riverside Park at the same stage of the Cup three seasons ago, but once bitten twice shy, and despite Jed going well in National One the Goldenacre men should have enough firepower to get over the line with a bit to spare.
HAWICK v STIRLING COUNTY
VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 2.30pm
Hawick: A Weir; K Ford, A Mitchell, G Walker, L Gordon-Wooley; L Armstrong, G Welsh; S Muir©, M Carryer, D Johnston, D Suddon, D Redpath, D Lowrie, S Graham, B McNeil. Subs: C Renwick, N Little, J Linton, K Davies, K Brunton, A Redpath, G Huggan.
Stirling County: J Hope©; L Trotter, E Macgarvie, C Robertson, B Sorbie; A Goudie, R Swan; G Holborn, A Orr, A Nicol, S Yarrow, L Bruinsma, G Arnott, J King, A Mackie. Subs: B Robertson, A Wood, J Pow, A Rutherford, A Shaw, G Hughes, C Dineen.
TEAM NEWS –
Hawick: Dale Johnston swaps in for Nicky Little at tight-head prop, and Matty Carryer returns to the starting XV at hooker Calum Renwick dropping to the bench. Daniel Suddon is in the second-row and David Lowrie moves to blind-side flanker. Kyle Brunton, Aaron Redpath and Grant Huggan are all impressive for the Force (2nd xv).
Stirling County: Josh King comes in for his first start in place of Hamilton Bur, who is off to play a season of club rugby in New Zealand. Ruaridh Swan replaces the unavailable Peter Jericevich in an otherwise unchanged starting XV. Grant Hughes and James Pow return from injury on the bench, alongside Adam Shaw, who is in the squad for the first time.
KEY BATTLE: Andrew Mitchell versus Ewan Macgarvie
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We didn’t really do ourselves justice up at Bridgehaugh last month. After a two week break we need to ensure that we are ready for this huge game. We have trained hard and we know what to expect, let’s hope we can give the home crowd something to cheer about …” – George Graham (Hawick)
“We are looking forward to another physical, competitive match against Hawick at Mansfield Park. A winner-takes-all game brings added edge to what is always an exciting fixture. …” – Eddie Pollock (Stirling County)
VERDICT: County were comfortable winners when the two sides met at Bridgehaugh in the league three weeks ago, but Hawick are a very different beast at home and did a number on Eddie Pollock’s young side when the two teams clashed at Mansfield back in October. The absence of Hamilton Burr is a big blow to County, and their Scotland Under-20s contingent are also missing, while Hawick have all their key players available.
AYR v CURRIE CHIEFTAINS
VENUE: Millbrae @ 3.00pm
Ayr: G Anderson; P Dewhirst, R Curle, D McCluskey, K Rowe; F Climo, H Warr; R Sayce, R Smith, S Longwell, D Corbenici, L Morrice, B Macpherson, T Spinks, P McCallum©. Subs A McGuire, B Paterson, A North, C Reece, A Rademaker, J Bova, C Black.
Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson©, M Hooks; G Hunter, C Shiel; M Argiro, F Scott©, F Watt, M Vernel, M Kelly, C Hope, R Davies, S McGinley. Subs: G Carson, A McWilliam, R Patterson, W Nelson, C Davies, A Hall, S Hamilton.
TEAM NEWS –
Ayr: Ross Curle has returned from London for a few days to bolster the home team’s depleted midfield, and Kyle Rowe comes back from injury on the wing. David Corbenici earns a start after impressing off the bench in recent week, and Cammy Black is set to make his debut as a replacement after some strong performances for the 2nd XV.
Currie Chieftains: Thomas Gordon is starting for Glasgow Warriors on Saturday evening and Vince Wright is injured so a reshuffle of the back two rows of the scrum has been required, with Cal Hope getting his first start for the 1st XV at blind-side flanker. The availability of Edinburgh first year pro Charlie Shiel at scrum-half is a big bonus.
KEY BATTLE: Pete McCallum versus Scott McGinley
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“With it being 1st versus 2nd in the league, in a knock-out environment, it should make for a cracking game. Currie are in good form and are strong across the board, we know that we will have to at the top of our game this weekend, but the players are highly motivated in front of a home crowd to put in a performance. …” – Pete Murchie (Ayr)
“After a successful January where we achieved our goal of winning all our matches, which gives us a fantastic opportunity to secure a home Premiership play-off semi-final, we now turn our attention to the Cup. Ayr have been on great form and have an excellent home record so it’s going to be some game. All we can control is our own performance and our challenge is to be better than our last outing …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
VERDICT: The top two teams in the Premiership meet in the tie of the round. Chieftains are on a roll after their undefeated January, which included an impressive win over Melrose at The Greenyards in their last outing, but losing Thomas Gordon to Glasgow Warriors duty is a big blow, compounded by the absence through injury of rugged Vince Wright. Ayr also won all their games during the first month of the calendar year, their pack looks formidable and with the return of a prodigal son in midfield they are hard to see past.