HISTORY would appear to be on Ayr’s side for this weekend’s Cup Final appointment against Melrose at BT Murrayfield [kick-off: 3.30pm]. Not only did they snatch the Premiership title from the Borderers’ grasp at The Greenyards last weekend, but they have also met their old rivals three times previously in Cup Final encounters – in 2010, 2011 and 2013 – and emerged victorious on each occasion.
The flip side of this, of course, is that Melrose will be fueled by the desire to exorcise the demons of those previous setbacks, and head coach Rob Chrystie insists that there is no psychological barrier preventing his team coming out on top this time.
“It’s a completely different game and that’s the way we’ll approach it. We’ve got to play better than we did last weekend and that’s been the focus this week at training,” he said.
“We had chances [last week] and we didn’t take them, so we need to look at that. It was throughout the whole game – it wasn’t just about that last chance [which belly-flopped when Ayr stole a line-out on their own line].”
“It can work both ways. We’ve got something to prove but they can come here pretty relaxed and start pinging it around. We will focus on ourselves,” he added.
“It’s obviously a great occasion coming to BT Murrayfield because everyone wants to run on this turf – it’s what you dream about when you’re a young lad – the boys will be really excited about getting out there and hopefully we can play well.”
Meanwhile, Ayr captain Pete McCallum reckons that his team have still not shown their full hand, despite needing to dig deep for last week’s victory.
“We have been building towards these two games for a while and knew who we were going to be playing against so we have been preparing well, and we still have a few tricks up our sleeve,” he insisted.
“I think this weekend will be a bit more open. I don’t think either team played as well in attack as they can last weekend, so hopefully on Saturday we can show what the best in club rugby can do.”
McCallum was just beginning to break into the Ayr team when they won a league and cup double in 2013. He has come a long way since then, and is now not only club captain but also led the Scotland Club XV side against English Counties this season.
“I came off the bench in the Cup final for Scott Sutherland and because it went to extra time I ended up playing about 65 minutes which was a bit more than I was expecting,” he recalled.
“I was just a youngster then and everything was so fast that I was just chasing shadows. There are a few boys from then still here – Ross Curle, Grant Anderson, Scott Sutherland, George Hunter, Craig Gossman – so they should be able to guide the younger players through.”
It is a similar sort of story in the Sarah Beaney Cup [the showcase women’s competition] with Murrayfield Wanderers having the happy knack of getting one over Hillhead/Jordanhill in recent crunch clashes. The Edinburgh side have beaten their Glaswegian opponents in the last two Cup Finals and also in this season’s league decider.
“We’ve been working on a few things over the last couple of weeks, hopefully to shock them and throw in a few surprises. It was close in the league decider as well at the start of this year so there are certain things we are looking to change and hopefully reverse the results,” said Hillhead/Jordanhill coach Graeme Blackhall.
“The games are always really tight. There’s not much between us and it will be tight again this Saturday.”
“We have seen a marked difference in the last two games in the quarter-final and semi-final of the cup with the positive energy we have had and the way we have been playing. It’s kind of been a bit of a release. We maybe overthink things instead of just playing because we have talent across-the-board. It’s just about trying to settle into the game early. If we do that we have the ability to play well.”
THE LOWDOWN –
BT CUP FINAL –
MELROSE v AYR
VENUE: Muarrayfield International Pitch @ 3.30pm
Melrose: F Thomson; G Taylor, N Godsmark, C Jackson, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, B Colvine; J Bhatti, R Anderson, N Beavon, J Head, R Knott, N Irvine-Hess, J G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: C McKay, D Elkington, R McLeod, A Grieve, P Eccles, M McAndrew, P Anderson.
Ayr: G Anderson; D McCluskey,, R Curle, S McDowall, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Hunter, L Anderson, S Longwell, C Stevenson, S Sutherland, B Macpherson, W Bordill, P McCallum©. Subs: D Young D Sears-Duru, A Prentice, G Henry, H Warr, A Russell, R Dalgleish.
TEAM NEWS –
Melrose: A couple selection changes after last week’s defeat against the same opponents, with club captain Bruce Colvine coming in for Murdo McAndrew at scrum-half and Edinburgh pro Nick Beavon replacing Ruairi McLeod at tighthead prop. There is also an injury enforced change with George Taylor coming onto the wing for Austin Lockington. Scotland Under-18 squad member Patrick Anderson is named on the bench.
Ayr: Two big changes to the starting team from last week’s success. Rob McAlpine dropping out through injury so Craig Stevenson starts in the second row. While Archie Russell gives way so that Ross Curle can return to the starting team at outside centre following his suspension. It will be Curle and Will Bordill’s last games for the club through retirement and moving to London for work respectively.
KEY BATTLE: Nyle Godsmark versus Ross Curle
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“The players are fully aware of the importance of the final two games of the regular season and playing the league leaders will, I hope, focus the mind. We have another full-house for lunch and the Wales versus England match to settle in front of in the bar after the match, which should mean a great atmosphere before, during and after…” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
“I am sure Ayr will be in buoyant mood after last weekend’s victory and as always will be a handful. We have regrouped this week and are determined to put in a performance that we can all be proud of. Hopefully both clubs can put on an exciting game for the large crowd that is expected that will show case the BT Premiership …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
“Last week was typical of how tight these games have been between the two sides in recent seasons with it going right down to the final whistle. Melrose will be hurting and will be desperate to finish their season on a high after their efforts over the course of the year. This makes them even more dangerous and our players know that they will need to raise their game again this week …” – Calum Forrester (Ayr)
VERDICT: Ayr at the double
SARAH BEANEY CUP (BT WOMEN’S CUP) –
MURRAYFIELD WANDERERS v HILLHEAD/JORDANHILL
VENUE: Murrayfield International Pitch @ 1.15pm
Wanderers: C Rollie; E Bonet, S Callender, H Nelson, E Sinclair; L Martin, J Taylor; B Dicken, S Quick, L Robertson, S McCormack, E Wassell, J Cram, L Park, R Cook. Subs: A Wilson, K Fisher, C O’Driscoll, J Alford, K Auckland, E Wilson, C Newton.
Hillhead/Jordanhill: A Watson; S Smith, A Evans, H Smith, L Willis; A Cook, M McDonald; H Lockhart, S Kyalikunda, L Smith, K McConnell, K Reid, H Telling, L McMillan©, J Konkel. Subs: F Dorman, D Falconer, J Johnston, M van Wyngaarden, K Openshaw, A Gaffney, K Daly.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“A strong team selected with ten of our starting 15 having had Scotland caps. In addition to this we have Jennifer Cram at flanker, who has 20 years experience playing for the Ladies Team at Murrayfield Wanderers, Sarah McCormack in the second-row, who is one of our up-and-coming players; and Sula Callender at outside centre, who is one of our youngest players but definitely worth keeping an eye on …” Rhona Shepherd (Murrayfield Wanderers)
“We’ve been working on a few things over the last couple of weeks, hopefully to shock them and throw in a few surprises. It was close in the league decider as well at the start of this year so there are certain things we are looking to change and hopefully reverse the results …” – Graeme Blackhall (Jillhead/Jordanhill)
BT MEN’S PLATE FINAL –
MURRAYFIELD WANDERERS v CARRICK
VENUE: Murrayfield International Pitch @ 5.45pm
Murrayfield Wanderers: C Beattie; A Godsmark, L Hanlin, L Thomas, P Cooney; M Hastie©, F Strachan; T Lawman, I Webb, S Navu, J Lee, A McFarlane, S Crawford, C Johnston, L Thom. Subs: S Lynes, B Reid, M Stevens, C Guerin, P Walker, L Lee, E Eley
Carrick: L Montgomery; B Brown, J Fulton, A Speirs, R McCulloch; K Johnson, G Ward; G Dick, J Connon, S Raby, I Speirs, M Kirk©, G Gregor, B Jardine. Subs: J Webster, D Andrew, A McColm, S Bryden, S Young, L Clark, C Wyllie.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Carrick have experienced this before and bringing a big travelling support will be keen to retain the trophy. They are a good side with a great togetherness and spirit. We are looking forward to being taken out of the comfort zone and playing a team we know very little about. The players have been encouraged to play the game and not the occasion …” – Bruce Aitchison (Murrayfield Wanderers)
“It is a young side with a lot of ability and talent; however, it also has experience in key areas with Michael Kirk as captain supported by players such as Iain Speirs, Stephen Raby, Gordon Gregor, Kyle Johnson and Allan Spears – who were all part of last seasons winning team. It is especially pleasing that 18 of the 22 are former pupils of Carrick and Girvan [Academies] with young Benjamin Brown the current school rugby captain starting. This is what Carrick rugby is all about. Murrayfield will be strong favourites playing in their own backyard as well as having such a successful season so far. They will be strong upfront with some key players in their side who have played at a higher level. Their coach is very experienced and has also tasted success at in the main Scottish Cup so we know they will be well prepared for this match. This is another opportunity for us to showcase what Carrick rugby is all about and we are looking forward to the challenge.…” – Gordon Brown (Carrick)
BT MEN’S BOWL FINAL –
BLAIRGOWRIE v PORTOBELLO
VENUE: Murrayfield International Pitch @ 11am
Blairgowrie: S Souter; R Grant, F Maxwell, F Bissett, J McLaren; M Davidson, R Edwards; P Duncan, D Malloch, E Constable, M Reddin, N MacRae, A McOuat©, F Ormiston, F Black. Subs: P Douglas, C Thoms, D Grieve, M Michie, R Gordon, A Walsh, M Grant.
Portobello: L Chan; C Johnston, M Walker, H Munro, A Bain; C Britee-Steer©, F Mackay; E Gibson, D Sanchez, D Burn, D Roe, C Walker, M Boyter, G Harvey, G Culbertson. Subs: M Moran, M Ridd, S Kneeshaw, W Murray, E Robb, R Stewart, K Jeffrey
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“The seasons been a rebuilding year, having narrowly avoided relegation at the end of last year, and we profited from a small group of young players coming into the team. We also welcomed new head coach Craig Ormiston, who brought a dynamic and hard-working mentality to training. In our Bowl run we have had a great support from the town and had close to 500 spectators watching at the national semi-final …” – Peter Duncan (Blairgowrie player)
“Blairgowrie are an unknown quantity which means that there is no room for anything to be taken for granted. Both clubs had highly contested semi-finals with Blairgowrie beating Strathendrick in overtime, which shows a determination to succeed; and Portobello’s hard fought win over Moray in Elgin suggests that both sides will be well matched. The Bowl is often the match of the day and both sides will be keen to show that Regional League rugby can be as well played and contested as the higher leagues …” – Barry Sinclair (Portobello, director of rugby)
BT WOMEN’S PLATE FINAL –
STIRLING COUNTY v STEWARTRY SIRENS
VENUE: Murrayfield Back Pitches @ 11am
Stirling County: J McGurk; L Hannah, R Shankland©, S Cattigan, L Flint; L Mcnaughton, J Hutton; G Henderson, T Scott, E McNab, K Johnson, D Christie, N Mcleod, H Davis, G Brown. Subs: D Park, T Grobler, J Menday, A Bax, B Afford, K McIlwraith, V Gray.
Stewartry: J Yates; B Cameron, C Johnstone, I St Joseph, D Burnett; L Ritchie, C Manson; S Nicholson, A McWilliam, D Currie, T Tyeson, C Dooley, R Bragg, S Durnan, A Henderson. Subs: L Tracey, J White, H Sloan H Sherlock.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“”The whole squad have worked hard over the course of the season and this match is nice reward for that commitment and a brilliant way to end the campaign. Stewartry have shown over the year what a good team they are and we are looking forward to a competitive game …” – Graham Mackin (Stirling County)
“This season saw the Sirens promoted to the BT Women’s Premier League, and the team have risen to the challenge. They’ve faced some strong opposition, and the results haven’t always reflected the hard work put in on the pitch, but the squad have continued to improve and learn from all the games they’ve played. Getting to the Plate Final is a real achievement for the squad, and it’s a fantastic to be able to finish the season with a game at Murrayfield …” – Sandy Currie (Stewartry)
BT WOMEN’S BOWL FINAL –
KIRKCALDY v GARIOCH
VENUE: Murrayfield International Pitches @ 11am
Kirkcaldy: F Milne; C Downs, N Redpath, H Samuel, K Lang; B Brogan, L Morrison; K Small, D Stephenson, R McNeil, L Heggie, A Massie©, C McMahon, E Dyce, E Buckley. Subs: J Cooper, T McFarlane, K Gavan, E Myles, A McCall, S Lowe, S Laird.
Garioch: R Laurenson; L Shand, R Bestwick, S Anderson, L Baroch; A Davidson, J Miles; E Murphy, S Campbell, M Kerr, A (Alisha) Ross, A (Anna) Ross, T McIntosh, J Silcocks, L McDiarmid. Subs: J Shaw, K Eades, K Renicks, K Jamieson, M Ingram, F McAllan, C Busson.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We have a real blend of youth and experience in our squad, with new players coming along all the time. We have a really great team spirit mixed with all the home nations represented, although Gatland won’t be happy with 17 Scots, three English, one Irish and only one Welsh. The squad have been working hard and looking forward to this for a while, setting this as a goal pre-season to allow us to let the young players time to bed in. Win or lose it has been a decent season and we will shake hands with the opposition at the end of the game and share our day as a team …” – Stuart Cameron (Kirkcaldy)
“The women have worked very hard over a number of years to get themselves in a position to make the trip to Murrayfield. Many players and volunteers have contributed to our team’s success including our friends at Kirkcaldy. It should be a great spectacle of rugby between two teams who will give 110 perscent for 80 minutes. It sure to be a great fixture, we are looking forward to the occasion and regardless of the score we aim to play with a smile on our face …” – Steve Burns (Garioch)
All images courtesy: Scottish Rugby/SNS Group