THERE is plenty at stake at Meggetland this weekend, when Boroughmuir host fellow strugglers Hawick in a match which promises a seminal moment in both teams’ seasons. With the visitors currently dead bottom of the table, and the hosts just two places and one league point ahead, this match will provide the victors with some invaluable breathing space during the run-in, while leaving the defeated team with a mountain to climb in their four remaining matches.
The occasion will have added poignancy because the teams are also competing for the Hugh Macmaster Trophy, which commemorates the Hawick-born former Boroughmuir, Scotland Under-21 and Edinburgh flanker, who died from a brain tumour in 2002 at the age of 40.
“He was a skilful and tenacious open-side wing-forward with excellent hands and, unusually, a fairly reliable goal kick too. He was a gifted sportsman who excelled at tennis, squash, skiing and also golf where he worked his handicap down to four. Hugh was forging a high profile career in corporate law when he was struck down – snatched away from his wife Lorna and their three daughters [Ailsa, Emma and Holly],” says close friend and former Boroughmuir team-mate Mike Hall.
This is always a big event at Meggetland, with the club hosting their annual fundraising day, which has raised £15,000 over the last 13 years for Marie Curie Edinburgh Hospice. There is an “HM Day” reunion lunch in the clubhouse and a half-time bucket collection. “HM Day” is the term coined by club stalwart Allan Mackay, who presided over many of these events before passing away in March 2015, and is an abbreviation for “Happy Memories”.
It is not clear whether Hawick are going to stick with the youngsters who almost achieved a remarkable victory at Ayr last weekend, or parachute some of the senior players who have spent the last week at a stag party in Barbados straight back into the team.
Meanwhile, there is another crucial bottom of the league battle taking place at Netherdale, where Stirling County will be desperate to get back to winning ways after two late slumps cost them dearly against Glasgow Hawks and Currie. The hosts are also on a bit of a losing streak, having been hammered 57-15 at Melrose last weekend, and losing to Ayr, Currie and Glasgow Hawks in the weeks previous to that.
There are some mouth-watering clashes at the other end of the table, too, with league leaders Melrose welcoming second-placed Ayr to The Greenyards. The Borderers will be desperate to gain some revenge for the defeat suffered at Millbrae back in September, and have been in good-form of late, but their opponents are boosted by the inclusion of two full Scotland internationalists in Pat MacArthur and Adam Ashe [fit again after eight months out with a foot injury followed by an operation on his hip] in the pack.
Third host fourth, with Heriot’s taking on Glasgow Hawks at Old Anniesland; while fifth placed Currie and sixth placed Watsonians face each other at Malleny Park.
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
CURRIE v WATSONIANS
VENUE: Malleny Park @ 2pm
Currie: H Elms; R Tagive, R Nelson, C Hutchison, B Robbins; R Clegg, C Shiel; J Cox, F Scott, G Carson, H Bain, M Vernel, L Crosbie, S Ainslie, R Weston©. Subs: R Grant, R Patterson, R Davies, J Forbes, R Snedden.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; M Bertram, S McKean, D Innes, K Young; E Scott, R Cullen; K Whyte, S Crombie, C Eastwood, M Poole, C Borthwick, V Fihaki, A Duckett, R Drummond. Subs: D Miller, M Christie, E Dodds, E McKirdy, J Ferguson.
TEAM NEWS –
Currie: Only one change from the starting side which defeated Stirling County last week with Glasgow Warriors stand-off Rory Clegg replacing Jamie Forbes in the number ten jersey, while Scotland and Lions prop Ryan Grant should make an impact from the bench.
Watsonians: Sean Crombie starts at hooker, with Darren Miller now on the bench. Kyle Whyte, who arrived last month on a partnership with Edinburgh, starts at loosehead ahead of skipper Martin Christie. Euan Dods is back from suspension and is also among the subs.
KEY BATTLE: Ross Weston versus Rory Drummond
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We were very happy with our second half performance last week and we are keen to continue that form this week to make sure we go into the break on a high and in a good position to fight for a play-off place in the New Year. Watsonians will want the win to avoid getting pulled further into a relegation battle and to start the climb back into play-off contention. The previous encounter between the two sides probably marked the lowest point in a poor start to the season for us and we are determined to show our home support how far we have come since that match …” – Ben Cairns (Currie)
“The guys showed good battling qualities in the second half last week and are looking forward to the last match of 2016 …” – Marcus Di Rollo (Watsonians)
VERDICT: Currie’s play-off push continues
MELROSE v AYR
VENUE: The Greenyards @ 2pm
Melrose: F Thomson; A Lockington, N Godsmark, G Taylor, R McCann; C Jackson, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Anderson, N Beavon, J Head, L Carmichael, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman©, R Knott. Subs: C McKay, R McLeod, I Moody, S Hutchison, S Pecqueur.
Ayr: G Anderson; R Dalgliesh, A Russell, D McCluskey, C Taylor; R Curle, D Armstrong; G Hunter, P MacArthur, A Prentice, B MacPherson, R McApline, A Ashe, W Bordill, P McCallum©. Subs: J Malcolm, D Sears-Duru, L Anderson, J Bova, S McDowall.
TEAM NEWS –
Melrose: Murdo McAndrew returns to the starting team after easing his way back from injury off the bench last week, with youngster Struan Hutchison dropping to the bench but reassured that he has done enough in recent weeks to be seen as a genuine contender for the number nine jersey. Both Nick Beavon and Lewis Carmichael have been released by Edinburgh.
Ayr: Glasgow Warriors and Scotland back-row Adam Ashe makes his first appearance of the season after foot and hip injuries. He is joined in the pack by fellow Warriors pro Pat MacArthur at hooker, who is shadowed by James Malcolm. Club stalwarts Will Bordill and Rob McAlpine are also fit again and straight back into the side. Behind the scrum, David Armstrong returns at scrum-half, and Ross Curle moves from inside centre to stand-off in place of the injured Frazier Climo.
KEY BATTLE: Murdo McAndrew versus David Armstrong
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Both teams have won 11 out of 13 games and currently sit one point apart at the top of the BT Premiership table. This is sure to be a high quality game with 6 pros in total being released by Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors. There will be extra excitement as two Scotland caps Pat MacArthur and Adam Ashe are playing which is excellent for the BT Premiership and allows for the Melrose boys to challenge themselves against international players. Both teams know each other well from previous games and we understand that this game will come done to fine margins and probably decided by a moment of brilliance or a mistake. The two teams have scored 867 points between them (434 for Melrose and 433 for Ayr), so hopefully this game will live up to expectations and be a fitting spectacle for the last game to be played on the Greenyards in 2016 …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
“Last week the players showed real character to come away with the victory having been down by 21 points at one point in the second half. We know that we cannot afford to find ourselves in a similar situation this Saturday against a dangerous Melrose side. The game at Millbrae earlier this season was a close affair and we expect the same again in what I am sure will be a physical encounter …” – Calum Forrester (Ayr)
VERDICT: Melrose momentum is key
GALA v STIRLING COUNTY
VENUE: Netherdale @ 3pm
Gala: R Scholes; R Combe, S Tofilau, L Berg, G Speirs©; G Hunter, C Adams; C Keen, M Carryer, D Brooker, R Louw, C Weir, H Borthwick, F Hunter, S Cairns. Subs: C Reynolds, G Adams, A Emond, G Lott, R Jeffrey.
Stirling: J Hope©; B Sorbie, N Grigg, C Pringle, D Gilmour; R Jones, M Donaldson; F Bradbury, R Kennedy, A Nicol, H Burr, A Sinclair, A Taylor, L Wynne, R Leishman. Subs: M Emmison, C Hutton, L Haupeakui, S MacDonald, N Kenatale.
TEAM NEWS –
Gala: Craig Robertson picked up an injury last weekend so Graham Speirs moves to the wing with Edinburgh’s Rory Scholes released to play at full-back. Lewis Berg starts at inside-centre and there is a big boost at stand-off with Gregor Hunter back after missing last week’s game with a hip injury. Dean Brooker replaces Terry Skeet, who picked up an injury during training this week, at tight-head prop.
Stirling: Nick Grigg is released by the Warriors and starts at 13, with Craig Pringle moving in a place to 12 to replace the injured Alex Black. Danny Gilmour makes a welcome return to the team in place of the injured Logan Trotter. Nemia Kenatale, who was with the Fiji squad over the autumn, returns to the squad and is named on the bench. The pack is unchanged with Langi Haupeakui once again on the bench, which presumably means that this week he managed to catch the train to Stirling for the team run-through on Thursday night.
KEY BATTLE: Chris Weir versus Adam Sinclair
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“After letting themselves and the club down badly last week the players know they must improve across the field to get a win in this crucial fixture. The potential is there amongst the group and they are well aware that the time to produce starts this weekend. This is our last Premiership game of 2016 and its imperative we take the points and carry the momentum a victory would bring into 2017 …” – Chris Dalgleish (Gala)
“Groundhog Day – 19-5 up at halftime against Currie, playing well and looking good for the win, yet once again, we started unnecessarily chasing the game, and putting undue pressure on ourselves: focussing on the win, and not the performance. So, this week, we have identified the need to focus on the process of what we’re doing, and aim to execute the lots of small individual moments that happen in the game. We believe that if we focus on this, and not the outcome, then we should be able to rectify the issues that we may have suffered from earlier in the season …” – David Adamson (Stirling)
VERDICT: Stirling hold out this time
BOROUGHMUIR v HAWICK
VENUE: Meggetland @ 3pm
Boroughmuir: R Cairns; J Edmunds, R Kerr, M Hare, G McConnell; C Laidlaw©, N Fowles; D Robertson, T King, T Gracie, J Ure, C Atkinson, A Mncube, C Keddie, M Tweddle. Subs: S Clark, M Henry, M Walker, D Steele, G Cannie.
Hawick: D Graham; W Helu, L Armstrong, G Huggan, W Hamilton; R Hutton, B Campbell; J Cosgrove, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, D Lowrie, K McNeil, R Gibson, S Graham, B McNeil©. Subs: S Muir, M Landels, D Redpath, G Johnstone, M Douglas.
TEAM NEWS –
Boroughmuir: Nathan Fowles has been released from Edinburgh so starts at scrum-half, while Matt Tweddle comes into the backrow in place of Matt Walker after impressing off the bench last week.
Hawick: According to the team-sheet issued to the press on Thursday afternoon, the youngsters who had to jump in at the deep end last week and just about managed to make it out of Millbrae with a win, have been rewarded with re-selection for this crucial clash. However, the Hawick website states that Lee Armstrong and Rory Hutton will start, the day after returning from a week long stag party in Barbados. Edinburgh professionals Will Helu and Jack Cosgrove are also in the side having been released by Edinburgh.
KEY BATTLE: Aubrey Mncube versus Ross Gibson
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“A huge amount at stake this week. Hawick were unlucky not to get a win away from home last week so we know that they are going to be a real threat. We must look to improve around the contact area this week and not have so many easy turnovers …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)
“Some of our players don’t return from their sunny break until Friday meaning again they are unavailable so we go again with youth who all deserve another opportunity after what was shown against a top team last weekend. With so much at stake this week, and confidence taken from last week’s performance, our preparation has been very good. Boroughmuir have been performing well in recent matches and showed what they are capable of against Watsonians a fortnight ago. With no pressure being put on the young players, we look forward to going away from home and expressing ourselves with ball in hand like we have recently – but also adding the defensive steel needed …” – Nikki Walker (Hawick)
VERDICT: Home team’s experience edges it
GLASGOW HAWKS v HERIOT’S
VENUE: Old Anniesland @ 3pm
Hawks: H Schulte; E Oag, B McGroarty, M New, K Gossman; J Henderson, G Hart; S Findlay, C Fenton, G Strain, K McDonald, A Kirkland, R Miller, M Fagerson, T Spinks©. Subs: J Spence, C Barnes, A Linton, A Hill, P Boyer.
Heriots: J Semple©; G Parker, J Rosalea, R Kay,C Simpson; A Hagart, A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, C Marshall, M Maltman, J McLean, S Dewar. Subs: S Mustard, G Cameron, C Smith, T Wilson, R Carmichael.
TEAM NEWS –
Hawks: An unchanged pack for the third week in a row; while in the backline, Erland Oag replaces the suspended Junior Bulumakau on the left win, and Mark New makes his first start in the centre for the injured Jack Steele. Glasgow University captain Jonny Spence will hope to make his debut off the bench.
Heriot’s: Russell Nimmo and Andrew Simmers are available again and return in the second-row and at scrum-half, respectively. Junior Rosalea is released by Edinburgh so slots in at centre alongside Robert Kay.
KEY BATTLE: Matt Fagerson versus Jack McLean
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We have managed to pick up 10 points in the last two weeks without fully hitting our straps. We hope that we will get an improved performance this week, as if we are not at our best it will be an extremely tough afternoon. Heriots have an extremely powerful maul and scrum as well as some excellent ball carriers so we know the enormity of the physical challenge that awaits us …” – Finlay Gillies (Hawks)
“Our trip to Old Anniesland will bring a lot of excitement as we will have the opportunity to pit our rugby wits against a similar styled team. Hawks may have felt they have played under par in the last couple of weeks, but it is a good side that does this and comes away with full points. We are delighted to have come through a potential banana skin last week: with Boroughmuir really putting pressure on us at vital times in the game, it was a credit to the boys that they were able to withstand the final assault. This group are continuing to develop and tend to respond well to the bigger challenges, and at the moment there are not many bigger than this …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
VERDICT: Heriots’ big match temperament is crucial
Feature Image: Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk