BT CUP: ROUND THREE PREVIEW – ANY UPSETS ON THE CARDS?

Heriots v Melrose, BT Cup Final, Murrayfield Stadium, Scotland, Saturday 16 April, 2016. ***Please credit: David Gibson/Fotosport***

THE romance of the Cup took a bit of a dunt this week when Aberdeenshire dropped out of the competition after announcing that they could not play their last sixteen fixture against Jed-Forest because of a front-row injury crisis.


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However, the remaining seven clashes in round three will go ahead as scheduled this [Saturday] afternoon, and there is plenty of scope for an upset, with three Premiership clubs facing tricky away days against lower league opposition.

Heriot’s are off to Beveridge Park to take on the only club from outside the top two flights left in the competition (after Aberdeenshire’s demise). The holders should have too much firepower for Kirkcaldy, who currently sit ninth in National Two having won just four out of their fifteen league games played so far, but visiting head coach Phil Smith insists that neither he nor his team will be taking anything for granted.

“Going to Kirkcaldy is very much what the Cup is all about: an opportunity for an upset, an opportunity to have a full-house for lunch and an opportunity for some of our younger players to play at a venue that they normally wouldn’t get the chance to visit,” he said.

“We will be bringing a supporters’ bus along with the Bill McLaren Shield and will be aware that we have almost been knocked out by teams from lower divisions in the last two years, namely Howe of Fife and Jed-Forest.”

“On a personal note, as an ex-Dunfermline player I am very excited to be returning to Beveridge Park, having had many mixed experiences there as a player in the local derbies,” he added.

Ayr have to contend with a bus journey which will take the best part of four hours (leaving Millbrae at 7.30am) before taking on Aberdeen Grammar at Rubieslaw; while Stirling County – ravaged by the unavailability of 14 frontline players – face a Caledonia derby against Dundee HSFP at Mayfield.

However, perhaps the most mouthwatering match-up of all is at Meggetland where a Boroughmuir side still struggling to escape the relegation battle at the bottom end of the Premiership host an Edinburgh Accies side which has its sights very much focused on making it back into the top league.

The Raeburn Place men will be desperate to bounce back after encountering a setback in their quest for automatic promotion out of National One last week when they slumped to a 21-26 home defeat against Selkirk.

That agonising defeat means that if Accies’ are going to go up this year then it is most likely going to be through finishing second and winning a play-off against the second-bottom team in the Premiership. And that match could very easily end up being another meeting with Boroughmuir.

Not that Accies coach Derek O’Riordan is going to allow such considerations to interfere with his team’s approach to this match. As far as he is concerned, this is a one-off no-stress situation which should allow his players to escape the relentless grind of trying to keep pace with Marr at the top of the National One league table.

“What an opportunity to cut loose and take the shackles off in attack. No one expects us to win so we will go out with nothing to lose and approach the game with a lot of excitement in terms of having the freedom to play without the intensity and pressure that has surrounded us in the league in recent weeks,” he said.

“Training and preparation this week has been all about us,” he continued. “We acknowledge the challenge that Boroughmuir will bring but we don’t fear it – its just another Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Currie face a daunting challenge at Melrose, while Watsonians will go to Old Anniesland to take on Hawks with a renewed sense of optimism after finally finding a bit of form last weekend.

THE LOWDOWN –

DUNDEE HSFP v STIRLING COUNTY

 VENUE: Mayfield @ 1.30pm

 TEAMS –

Dundee HSFP: F McKay; R Fairweather, D Leese, J Broadley, C Bowie; E Fox, A Dymock©; J Gibson, C Mathieson, L McLean, J Anderson, G Arnott, C Strachan D Turner, A Fraser. Subs: N Dymock, N Turnbull, A Clarkson, K Baretto, C O’Donnell.

 Stirling: L Bonar; S MacDonald, J Hope©, A Black, L Trotter; R Jones, M Donaldson; M MacDonald, R Kennedy, C Hutton, A Sinclair, S Yarrow, A Grant-Suttie, M Emmison, R Leishman. Subs: L Brymer, C Black, M Anderson, C Turnbull, C Mundell.

TEAM NEWS –

 Dundee HSFP: Alan Brown and Ali Mackie drop out through illness and unavailability, respectively; which presents starting opportunities for Lewis McLean and Dayle Turner. Club captain Andy Dymock returns to the starting fifteen at scrum-half, with Kaleem Baretto taking his place on the bench. Jack Broadley moves in to inside centre to form an exciting centre partnership with Duncan Leese.

Stirling: Head coach David Adamson delayed naming his team because he was missing 14 possible starters for various reasons. Despite this, he is able to send out a team with plenty of experience, and a sprinkling of stardust behind the scrum in the likes of Logan Trotter, Jonny Hope and Ross Jones.

KEY BATTLE: Andy Dymock versus Matt Donaldson

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We are looking forward to a break from league business, and a different challenge in testing ourselves against a strong Stirling outfit. The pressure is largely off and we will give a few young players their first experience of playing against a Premiership team. Cup matches can go either way, and our young squad are excited to give it their best shot at progressing …” – Colin Sangster (Dundee)

“With Caledonia bragging rights on the line we are expecting, but also thoroughly looking forward to, a tough game …” – David Adamson (Stirling)

 VERDICT: Visitors hold their nerve in brutal battle

 

MELROSE v CURRIE

VENUE: The Greenyards @ 1.30pm

TEAMS –

Melrose: F Thomson; G Wood, A Lockington, G Taylor, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Anderson, R McLeod, J Head, A Bresler, P Eccles, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: C McKay, D Elkington, A Grieve, B Colvine, P Anderson.

Currie: H Elms; R Smith, M Hooks, R Nelson, B Robbins; J Forbes, M O’Neil; A McWilliam, F Scott, G Carson, R Davies, M Vernel, S McGinley, T Gordon, R Weston©. Subs: C McEvoy, J Cox, R Patterson, S Ainslie, D Marek, C Smith.

TEAM NEWS –

Melrose: Club Captain Bruce Colvine makes a welcome return to the squad after breaking his leg at the start of the season, while Jason Baggot replaces the injured Craig Jackson at stand-off. Scotland Under-18s cap Patrick Anderson should get an opportunity off the bench.

Currie: With four players unavailable due to their involvement in the Under-20s programme, and no pros released by Glasgow Warriors this week, there are quite a few changes to the squad. Ruaraidh Smith comes in for Ratu Tagive on the wing, Matt Hooks replaces Richie Vernon in the centre and Matt O’Neil steps up in pace of Charlie Shiel at scrum-half. In the pack, Rhys Davies moves to the second-row, which gives Scott McGinley another opportunity to show what he can do at blindside, while Thomas Gordon makes a timely return from injury to replace the unavailable Luke Crosbie at openside.

KEY BATTLE: Fraser Thomson versus Harvey Elms

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“As always, Currie will be well organised and prepared for this BT Cup game. The squad are focused on putting in a big performance which will be needed if we want to be in the hat for the next round …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)

“Melrose away is probably the toughest draw we could have asked for. They are playing some excellent rugby at present under the guidance of Rob and his team and I’m sure they will be full of confidence going into this encounter. However, we were happy with large parts of our performance last week versus Hawick and will look to take this form away from home. Knockout rugby tends to change the mentality of the players and with a number of guys getting an opportunity to show what they can do at 1st XV level we go to The Greenyards with nothing to lose …” – Ben Cairns (Currie)

VERDICT: Melrose march on

ABERDEEN GRAMMAR v AYR

 VENUE: Rubislaw @ 2pm

TEAMS –

 Aberdeen Grammar: D Russell; M Arnold, A Ratcliffe, T Aplin, C Ruxton; S Knudson, J Gray; R Anderson, F McKenzie, C Neilson, A Robertson, R Cessford, C Brew, C Howard, C Jollands. Subs: S Clark, M McCall, L Tallett, D Wallen, J Robertson.

 Ayr: G Anderson; R Dalgliesh, D McCluskey, F Climo, J Bova; P Dewhirst, H Warr; G Hunter, R Smith, A Prentice, C Stevenson, R McAlipne, B MacPherson, L Anderson, P McCallum©. Subs: D Young, S Longwell, G Henry, G Hunter, R Curle.

TEAM NEWS –

Aberdeen Grammar: Matt Arnold returns to the wing to cover for the injured Connor Lavery. Ross Anderson also gets a start in the front-row, while Connal Howard comes in to the back-row after impressing with some defensive heroics in the second half of last week’s game versus Falkirk.

Ayr: A couple of players are carrying knocks from last week’s match versus Stirling and Tuesday’s Club XV training game versus Scotland Under-20, which gives an opportunity for a few of the younger players in the squad to start, including Robbie Smith and Adam Prentice in the front-row, and Harry Warr and Paddy Dewhirst at half-back.

KEY BATTLE: Sam Knudson versus Paddy Dewhirst

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“All this week we have spoken about raising our game. Ayr are a quality team and we are looking forward to the challenge that playing them will present. We have targeted an 80 minute performance this week after some excellent work in patches over the last number of fixtures.  Our concentration level will be key as we know any errors made against Ayr will be punished. Defensively we have to be rock solid and this is another area we are looking to continue with our recent progress and make another step forward …” – Ali O’Connor  (Aberdeen)

“The players are looking forward to their first outing in the Cup this season in what will be a tough trip away to Aberdeen. Our opponents have been involved in a number of high scoring games this season so we will need to make sure our defence is tight. The team showed good character at Stirling to come away with the win and we will be looking to build on that performance this weekend.…” – Calum Forrester (Ayr)

 VERDICT: Too big a challenge for the hosts

BOROUGHMUIR v EDINBURGH ACCIES 

VENUE: Meggetland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Boroughmuir: D Steele; G McConnell, A Cox, G Cannie, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw©, S Johnson; D Robertson, T King, T Gracie, C Atkinson, J Ure, A Mncube, C Keddie, M Tweddle. Subs: S Clark, D Winning, M Walker, A Purewal, R Kerr.

Edinburgh  Accies: B Appleson; M Coupar, P Loudon, J Forrester, J Paterson; A Ball, A Glashan; M McGinley, C Weetman, C Lacour, S Gibson, N Aitken, G Campbell, J Sole©, T Drennan. Subs: C Black, J McSorley, J Bruce, N Armstrong, R Chalmers.

TEAM NEWS –

Boroughmuir: A settled side. Dougie Steele returns to full-ack, with Greg Cannie reverting to inside centre. The pack is unchanged from last week, while Dan Winning returns from injury to take a spot on the bench.

Edinburgh Accies: Jack Forrester steps in to inside centre, allowing Andrew Bell to return to his more familiar stand-off slot. Martin McGinley and Connor Weetman are named in the front-row with Johnny McSorley taking up a position on the bench.

KEY BATTLE: Aubrey Mncube versus Greg Campbell

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

A return to cup action against an Accies side who are going well in National One. We know they have a big pack and have not underestimated the task ahead …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)

“We will go out, work hard for each other and whatever the outcome I am sure there will be a lot of learning in the experience for us as we continue to aspire to be a Premiership side …” – Derek O’Riordan (Accies)

VERDICT: Top flight experience is vital for hosts

KIRKCALDY v HERIOT’S

VENUE: Beveridge Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Kirkcaldy: F Smith; F Bruce, K Littlejohn, M Wallace, O Bonner; C Letham, G McKenzie; D Jennings, J Pow, M Henderson, C Wood, M Harper, R Bonner, R Brown, J Pow. Subs: G Queen, S McLean, S Mitchell, J Moffat, TBC.

Heriots: C Simpson; G Parker, R Mulveena, J Semple, R Kay; R Carmichael, T Wilson; M Bouab, A Johnstone, S Cessford, R Nimmo, C Smith, M Maltman, M Hughes, S Dewar. Subs: S Mustard, G Blair, C Marshall, A Hagart, M Scade.

TEAM NEWS –

Kirkcaldy: A real homegrown squad with all but three players having come through the youth section. The reintroduction of Kirkcaldy stalwarts Connor Wood and Mark Wallace are the only changes from the last few games.

Heriot’s: Andrew Simmers is away with the Under-20s so Tom Wilson retains the number nine jersey; Ali Johnstone makes his debut at hooker, Clarke Smith returns to the starting fifteen after impressing off the bench last week and Robbie Mulveena comes in for the unavailable Liam Steele at outside centre.

KEY BATTLE: Charlie Simpson versus Finlay Smith

 WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“How can we not be looking forward to this? We’ve got a great history with Heriot’s with a number of Kirkcaldy players having played for them in the past and this is a fantastic opportunity for the boys to see exactly where they are in the big scheme of things Always good to be the underdog as there is no pressure on the players compared to league weeks. In fact, it’s a shop window for some of the young lads so it is up to them to show what they can do.…” – Corgi George (Kirkcaldy director of rugby)

“We will be pretty much at full strength, as we are determined to hold onto the Cup for as long as possible. Last weekend we put together some excellent rugby at Netherdale and will be hoping for a repeat of that intensity and intent …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)

VERDICT: Heriot’s won’t get caught napping

GLASGOW HAWKS v WATSONIANS

VENUE: Old Anniesland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Hawks: J Steele; E Oag, B McGroarty, D Milne, K Gossman; H Schulte, S Yacoubian; S Findlay, G Stewart, G Strain, A Kirkland, S Cummings, R Miller, S Leckey, T Spinks©. Subs: S Rodgers, L Archer, A Linton, P Steele, P Boyer.

Watsonians: K Young; R Steele, S McLeod, D Innes, S McKean; A Chalmers, R Cullen; N Borel, S Crombie, S Ruwers, F Morrison, C McLean, C Borthwick, A Duckett, R Drummond©. Subs: L Di Rollo, M Christie, K Beattie, E McKirdy, A Harris.

TEAM NEWS –

Hawks: Scott Cummings has been released again by Glasgow Warriors to play some more club rugby but Matt Smith is unavailable with a slight ankle injury. Davie Milne comes back in at centre after impressing for the 2nd XV last week and Jack Steele is at full-back after a lengthy injury lay off. Hooker Grant Stewart times his recovery perfectly as Cammy Fenton is side-lined with an ankle. Peter Steele will hope to make his debut from the bench.

Watsonians: Rory Steele gets a start on the wing after scoring two tries off the bench last week. Charlie McLean comes into the second-row, allowing Craig Borthwick to revert to blindside flanker in place of the unavailable Edinburgh pro Viliami Fihaki.

KEY BATTLE: Brendan McGroarty versus Scott McLeod

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Watsonians managed to score 41 points at The Greenyards which is no mean feat and shows their attacking credentials. The last time we met at Myreside it came down to the wire and we managed to scrape a win at the death, so we hope for another high scoring cup affair at Old Anniesland.…” – Finlay Gillies (Hawks)

“We got off to a slow start last week at Melrose but played well in spells to pick up two losing bonus points and now we want to take the attacking intent that saw us score six tries into this BT Cup tie …” – Marcus Di Rollo (Watsonians)

VERDICT: Visitors build on the promise shown last week

3 Comments

  1. Garry,

    All Premiership clubs were approached by The Offside Line at the start of the season with a proposal to cover their league and cup matches. The relatively modest cost of sending freelancers to these games was to be covered through approaching club sponsors for support. Gala and Hawick were the only two teams to decline the proposal.

    We cannot justify covering a match between these two teams when the cost of doing so is effectively being covered by the other clubs in the league. The door remains open to both clubs to get involved in what we are trying to do to grow coverage of the club game in Scotland.

    All the best,

    DB

  2. Interesting how in one case the coach commenys that no Glasgow Warriors’ pro players released this week whilst another team from the opposite end of the M8 welcomes a Glasgow Warriors’ pro being released.

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