WATSONIANS and Edinburgh Accies get this weekend’s Tennent’s Premiership fixture schedule off to an early start with their derby clash under the lights at Myreside this evening. Both sides had disappointing results last weekend and are desperately in need of a win, with the home team looking to get themselves back in position to qualify for the play-offs while the visitors quite simply need to get off the foot of the table.
There is another Edinburgh derby on the agenda just around the corner at Meggetland the following [Saturday] afternoon, when Boroughmuir and Heriot’s will also be all-out in search o valuable league points in the play-off race.
It is derby day over in the west, too … well, sort of … with Ayr making the 40-mile trip north to take on Glasgow Hawks at Balgray. As well as league points, The Bill McLaren Shield is also up for grabs, with pink and black brigade making their ninth defence of the trophy.
The visitors have been in imperious form so far this season but will recognise that this is a potential banana skin against a home team with an awful lot to prove, and a wee bit of momentum on their side after an away win at Accies last weekend. Strength in depth is an issue for Hawks, but they have some excellent individuals in their team, and with Bruce Flockhart and Matt Smith adding some professional grunt to the back-row, they will fancy a pop at the league’s top dogs – although it is a big ask!
There is an outstanding game in prospect at Malleny Park, with Currie Chieftains looking to continue their recent good form against last season’s champions Melrose. The Borders side’s strength in depth has been tested in recent weeks. They are still worth their second place in the league, but the hosts are only one point behind and have some serious momentum on their side after impressive wins over Heriot’s and Watsonians in recent weeks.
Stirling County will be desperate to show that they can replicate their home form on the road when they take on Hawick at Mansfield Park.
HOW IT STANDS –
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS –
WATSONIANS v EDINBURGH ACCIES
VENUE: Myreside @ 7.45pm
Watsonians: J Rowland; A Guthrie, P Cunningham, D Innes, R McLean; L Millar, M Scott; G Jackson, R Graham, J Stanley, J Hodgson, C Borthwick©, G Nelson, J Miller, M Fedo. Subs: F Renwick, F Hobbis, C McKill, E Fox, R Steele.
Edinburgh Accies: V Hart; C Gray, G Spencer, W Stephen, R Chalmers; R Mill, R Davis; J Pearse, N Hall, C Imrie, R Seydak, R Lovett, M Badenhorst, J Sole©, L Seydak. Subs: R Simpson, M McGinley, N Stephen, S Johnson, R Kent.
TEAM NEWS –
Watsonians: James Miller and Paul Cunningham start at flanker and in the centre for the injured duo of Connor Boyle and Rory Hutton. Charlie McKill and Rory Steele come onto the bench.
Edinburgh Accies: Richard Mill adds experience at stand-off, while Vinny Hart moves to full-back in place of Tom Brown who had not been released by Edinburgh this week. The return of Ronan and Lawrie Seydak adds some valuabe bulk and physicality, but there is no Callum Black at hooker.Rory Simpson, Martin McGinley, Nick Stephen and Robbie Kent join the bench,
KEY BATTLE: Michael Badenhorst versus Gregor Nelson
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Currie Chieftains were good for their win last weekend, however, we were extremely disappointed in our performance and this has given us cause for healthy reflection. Another massive Edinburgh derby this weekend with us welcoming Edinburgh Accies to Myreside on Friday night. Derek and his team have shown improvement week on week and we need to ensure we play in the correct way in order to get ourselves back on track. With Edinburgh Rugby playing on Saturday we are hopeful the city’s public will get down and enjoy the occasion …” – Stevie Lawrie (Watsonians)
“Irrespective of our losses there is progress and I believe this progress will continue into Watsonians. With a six day turn around we have had a chance to taper and focus on our detail and decision-making. We accept that we will be under pressure in games and I talk every week about how we manage that pressure more effectively – Friday will be no different. But I believe we are learning our lessons, I believe we are turning the corner, and I believe a big performance is coming …” – Derek O’Riordan (Edinburgh Accies)
VERDICT: Friday night games are a great initiative for club rugby and hopefully Watsonians and Accies will be rewarded for their enterprise with a decent crowd at Myreside. It has to be ‘another day, another dollar’ for Watsonians. Quality players should not disappear the way theirs did when they got blown away by Currie Chieftains at Malleny last week. But good players do not become bad players – and they know that they need to play tonight – with or without Rory Hutton. Accies scrum is unlikely to be under as much pressure as it was against Hawks last week – and hopefully Richard Mill will use his experience to get them going forward rather than playing across the park the way they did against Hawks and at Mansfield the week before. Derek O’Riordan talks a good game – but is it beginning to sound a bit like wishful thinking
Comfortable home win.
WHEN SATURDAY COMES –
BOROUGHMUIR v HERIOT’S
VENUE: Meggetland @ 3.00pm
Boroughmuir: G Parker;R Arthur, W Wardlaw, G Cannie, J Edmunds; R Weersma, J Hamilton; R Dunbar, R Montgomery, D Robertson, S Smith, C Atkinson, A Mncube, T Drennan, R Drummond. Subs: J Steele, D Marfo, L Robinson, M Johnstone, C Gossman.
Heriot’s: D Steele; R McMichael, R Jones, R Kay, J Blain; D Martin, A Simmers; J Scott, M Liness, S Cessford, R Leishman, C Marshall, M Hughes, J McLean, I Wilson©. Subs: A Johnstone, A McMillan, C Bell, C Robertson, C Simpson.
TEAM NEWS –
Boroughmuir: Gavin Parker starts at 15 with Rory Arthur moving to the wing. Influential hooker Johnny Matthews is out so Ryan Montgomery shifts from tight-head to the middle of the front-row, and Dale Robertson takes over the number three jersey. Rory Drummond returns at number eight, and Craig Gossman comes onto the bench.
Heriots: Dom Martin comes in for Stuart Edwards at stand-off, while Dougie Steele starts at full-back after playing well when he came on last week, with Jack Blain moving to the left wing and Craig Robertson dropping to the bench. An unchanged pack.
KEY BATTLE: Rory Drummond versus Iain Wilson
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We were disappointed in some of the scores we gave away last week, and the players know that our concentration levels have to be much better. The players also know that we must cope with Heriots’ physicality to give ourselves a chance …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)
“A strange match last week, with neither team really hitting their straps and both falling foul of some interesting refereeing. However, the players feel they are now in the middle of a strong run of fixtures which is not allowing them to switch off. This has brought strong training sessions and a real focus to certain areas of our game. Boroughmuir will pose another challenge with some really devastating ball carriers, this should mean an entertaining afternoon as both teams look to keep the ball in play for as long as possible …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
VERDICT: Difficult to call. Neither side is playing especially well at the moment. Johnny Matthews is a big miss for Boroughmuir – though maybe just compensated by Rory Drummond’s return. On paper, Heriot’s appear to have the edge.
GLASGOW HAWKS v AYR
(for The Bill McLaren Shield)
VENUE: Balgray @ 3.00pm
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; E Oag, R Beattie, C Symes, M Godsman; R Thompson, P Boyer; G Strain©, P Cairncross, L Skinner, C Thomson, F Hastie, S Dow, M Smith, B Flockhart. Subs: J Gemmell, D York, G Adams, K Baretto, G Faulds.
Ayr: G Anderson; R Nairn, P Kelly, S McDowall, J Bova; F Climo, D Armstrong; R Sayce, R Smith, S Longwell, M Sykes, A North, D Corbenci, G Henry, B Macpherson©. Subs: A McGuire, E McLaren, C Reece, H Warr, O Smith.
TEAM NEWS –
Glasgow Hawks: Charlie Thomson comes into the second-row to make his first start for the club, Struan Dow returns at blindside flanker after having a rest last week and Jack Gemmell comes on to the bench to cover hooker. Behind the scrum, Paddy Boyer is preferred to Kaleem Baretto at scrum-half after making a big impact off the bench in last weekend’s win at Raebrun Place, Murray Godsman returns after an injury lay-off last week and Cammy Symes makes his first start at centre. Glen Faulds comes on to the bench.
Ayr: Glasgow pro Paddy Kelly is back at outside centre and Jamie Bova replaces Kyle Rowe (who is rested as per academy protocol) on the wing. In the pack, Marshall Sykes and Robbie Smith return after also being rested last week.
KEY BATTLE: Cammy Symes versus Stafford McDowall
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“It was good to get another win on the road last week against Accies, but we are very aware that this week’s task will be much stiffer with Ayr steamrolling through the league thus far. We are really excited about the physical challenge they will present. We have made improvements week on week and we are still building towards the big picture – this is a great test for us at home. Ayr haven’t conceded many tries and scored lots, however, we think that we have a real chance at home to put a stop to this Ayr juggernaut …” – Fin Gillies (Glasgow Hawks)
“The players are looking forward to visiting Hawks this weekend, in what is as close to a local derby as we get this season. Having picked up a couple of wins recently I am sure they will be desperate to pick up their first home win of the season. We know that we will have to be at our best as Hawks are a dangerous team that can score from anywhere. We need to physically impose ourselves on the game and have the correct attitude from the off …” – Peter Murchie (Ayr)
VERDICT: It is very difficult to see Hawks getting any change whatsoever out of Ayr – no matter how they play it.
Comfortable away win.
HAWICK v STIRLING COUNTY
VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 3.00pm
Hawick: K Ford; G Johnston, A Mitchell, G Walker, K Young; L Armstrong, D Lightfoot; S Muir©, M Carryer, N Little, D Suddon, D Redpath, S Graham, D Davison, B McNeil. Subs: C Renwick, P Ceccarelli, D Lowrie, K Brunton, K Davies.
Stirling County: C Robertson; A McLean, R Tagive, G Hughes, C Dineen; A Goudie, R Swan; R Chies, K Bryce, G Holborn, J Pow, C Henderson, H Burr©, S MacDonald, A Mackie. Subs: R Kennedy, B Dineen, G Arnott, H Henderson, B Sorbie.
TEAM NEWS –
Hawick: Edinburgh pro Pietro Ceccarelli is on the bench, allowing Nicky Little – who put in a huge 80-minute shift after answering an SOS call last week – to start again at tight-head. Gary Johnston returns to the side after a long injury lay-off.
Stirling County: All change in the front-row, with Frenchman Remy Chies, Glasgow Warriors partnership player Kevin Bryce and veteran Gary Holborn coming in for Billy Dineen and Reyner Kennedy (who drop to the bench) and Murphy Walker. Ruairidh Swan comes in at scrum-half in an otherwise unchanged backline for his first start of the season. Hamilton Burr will captain the side.
KEY BATTLE: Andrew Mitchell versus Ratu Tagive
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“It doesn’t get any easier week to week in this league. Stirling at Mansfield will be as stiff a test as any we have faced this season. Eddie has built a young exciting team who like to play. We need to be on our A game for 80 if we want to get anything from the match. We are a different animal at Mansfield and I need to see that animal this week …” – George Graham (Hawick)
“We are looking forward to what is always a tough fixture in the calendar. The players have been very focussed at training and are looking forward to another challenging encounter …” – Eddie Pollock (Stirling County)
VERDICT: This is one Hawick will think that they can win thanks to ‘the Mansfield factor’! Stirling do not travel well – having lost all three of their away games. They have added some real experience to their scrum – but Hawick are comfortable enough with what they are sticking on the park to be able to keep Edinburgh pro Pietro Ceccarelli in reserve on the bench. Young Andrew Mitchell has a big job on his hands – but he looks the part. Narrow home win.
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v MELROSE
VENUE: Malleny Park @ 3.00pm
Currie Chieftains: A Hall; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson©, S Hamilton; G Hunter, C Shiel; A McWilliam, G Carson, F Watt, M Kelly, M Vernel, S McGinley, T Gordon, T Tameilau. Subs: C Wilson, R Patterson, M Agiro, R Frostwick, M Hooks.
Melrose: F Thomson; G Wood, P Anderson, J Baggott, M Muelace-Julyan; S Hutchison, M McAndrew; G Shiels, R Anderson, C Young, J Head, A Runciman, R Darge, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: B McLean, R McLeod, T Brown, B Colvine, A Jardine.
TEAM NEWS –
Currie Chieftains: Rhys Davies misses out through injury, so Marc Kelly moves to the second-row and Tevita Tameilau, released again by Glasgow Warriros, starts at number eight. Adam Hall starts at full-back versus his previous club, replacing injured Jamie Forbes, and Matt Hooks comes onto the bench.
Melrose: Edinburgh Rugby pro Jason Baggott is released and starts at inside centre, with Struan Hutchison getting the number ten jersey. The pack is bolstered by the return of Rory Darge and James Head. Ben McLean comes onto the bench to cover hooker in place of Finn Scott, who is back with Jed this week.
KEY BATTLE: Thomas Gordon versus Grant Runciman
WHAT THE COACHED SAY –
“The boys have taken a lot of confidence from the way they have played in the last few weeks culminating in what was probably our most complete performance of the season last weekend. However, we know we will have to go up another gear this week against one of the strongest sides in the league. With a strong pack providing quality ball to their dangerous backs, Melrose are a very tough nut to crack, and although their strength and depth is being tested Rob and his team have them playing some quality rugby. With the A team also at home on Saturday and the Annual Race Night to follow later in the evening, Saturday should be another terrific day out at Malleny …” – Ben Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
“We have worked extremely hard this week in preparation for this weekend’s fixture. Currie have a settled look to them and are very clinical with ball in hand, which is reflected with them accumulating the second highest points for in the league table to date. Hopefully a large crowd will turn out for what is sure to be another bruising game …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
VERDICT: A great game in prospect. The Chieftains are after another Super-6 scalp – and it is a scalp Melrose cannot afford to lose. Both sides missing big players – James Forbes for Currie and Craig Jackson for Melrose. The key factor – Malleny.
Narrow home win.