BT PREMIERSHIP PREVIEW: HAWKS ON GUARD AGAINST DANGEROUS BOROUGHMUIR

Scott Burnside - Boroughmuir. Boroughmuir v Glasgow Hawks, BT Premiership, Meggetland, Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday 20 February 2016. ***Please credit: David Gibson/Fotosport***

AS turnarounds go, the swing from a 78-13 victory over Hawick at Old Anniesland at the start of October to a 24-17 defeat against the same opposition last week takes some topping.

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Glasgow Hawks ill look to get back to winning ways at home to Boroughmuir this weekend, but will know that they face another potential banana skin against a side which has flattered to deceive all season. Peter Wright’s men play an attractive, high-tempo, expansive brand of rugby, and when it clicks they can be devastating – but they have struggled for consistency.

A home victory over Hawick just before the Christmas break put a bit of daylight between Boroughmuir and the drop zone, but last week’s result at Mansfield Park has tightened things up again in the battle to avoid a play-off against the second top team in National One. The visitors have nothing to lose and everything to gain from this game, and with players like Jordan Edmunds, Grant McConnell and Dougie Steele populating the backline there is plenty of scope for mischief to be made.

Hawks are bolstered by the availability of two of the brightest young stars in Scottish rugby, who will both be desperate to make an impact after injury ravaged seasons which has seen them stuck as frustrated onlookers while some of their friends and rivals have been given the opportunity to make a name for themselves.

Scott Cummings captained the Scotland Under-20s side in their impressive Junior World Cup campaign in Manchester last summer but has been sidelined since injuring his shoulder playing for Glasgow Warriors in a pre-season game against Gloucester. Matt Smith, who was also a member of that Under-20s group and recently signed his first professional deal with the Warriors which will run up to the end of next season, has been struggling all year with an ankle injury – but both are now ready to make up for lost time.

Elsewhere, Stirling are bolstered by the availability of former All Black Corey Flynn, who has been released by Glasgow Warriors to play against Ayr at Bridgehaugh – and the home team will hope to show the same sort of ingenuity as they exhibited when the two sides met at Millbrae earlier in the season. If they do, and hold their composure, then an upset is most definitely on the cards.

Meanwhile, having last week defended the Bill McLaren Shield at home for the four time on the trot to become only the second team ever to get their name engraved on it, Heriot’s must now also take now take the “Log o’ Wood” on the road, meaning that Gala have an added incentive to get an unlikely result against last season’s champions – as if escaping from the league basement is not motivation enough.

Currie will look to keep the pressure on Heriot’s in the battle for fourth place, and their frustrating loss away to Hawick the last time the two sides met should make revenge a useful motivation tool for the Malleny Park outfit.

Watsonians rediscovered some form at home to Gala last week, but they can expect to face a step-up in intensity when they visit the Greenyards to take on a high-flying Melrose side which includes Edinburgh’s South African second-row Anton Bresler.

HOW IT STANDS –

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THE LOWDOWN –

MELROSE v WATSONIANS

 VENUE: The Greenyards @ 2pm

 TEAMS –

Melrose: F Thomson; S Pecqueur, A Lockington, G Taylor, R McCann; C Jackson, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Anderson, N Beavon, J Head, A Bresler, R Knott, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: R Ferguson, R McLeod, P Eccles, S Hutchison, G Wood.

Watsonians: A Chalmers; K Young, S McLeod, D Innes, S McKean; E Scott, R Cullen; N Borel, S Crombie, S Ruwers, F Morrison, C Borthwick, V Fihaki, A Duckett, R Drummond©. Subs: D Miller, M Christie, C McLean, E McKirdy, R Steele.

TEAM NEWS –

Melrose: Nyal Godsmark’s call-up to the Scotland Sevens squad means Austin Lockington gets a chance to prove his versatility by slotting in at outside centre, with Sam Pecqueur making his first appearance of the season on the wing after recovering from injury. Anton Bresler is released again by Edinburgh so should finally make his Melrose debut after missing out when last week’s game was snowed off, and Nick Beavon replaces Ruairi McLeod at tighthead prop.

Watsonians: Only one change to the fifteen which started last week’s impressive dismantling of Gala with Euan Dods dropping out injured, so Fraser Morrison comes in at lock.

KEY BATTLE: Iain Moody versus Rory Drummond

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“The squad are raring to go after last weekend’s game being cancelled. Watsonians played very well against Gala scoring some excellent tries. They have hit a bit of form over their last three games and will be confident coming down to the Greenyards …” – Rob Chrystie  (Melrose)

“I was pleased with the clinical nature of our play last week. We know how good a team Melrose are and we will have to up our game even further to win at The Greenyards …” – Marcus Di Rollo (Watsonians)

 VERDICT: A step too far for the visitors

CURRIE v HAWICK

 VENUE: Malleny Park @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Currie: H Elms; R Tagive, R Vernon, R Nelson, B Robbins; J Forbes, C Shiel; A McWilliam, F Scott, G Carson, H Bain, M Vernel, L Crosbie, R Davies, R Weston©. Subs: J Cox, R Patterson, S Ainslie, R Smith, M O’Neill.

Hawick: L Armstrong; D Graham, R Hutton, G Johnstone, K Ford; A Weir, B Campbell; S Muir, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, D Lowrie, K McNeil, R Gibson, S Graham, B McNeil©. Subs: M Landels, G Huggan, G Douglas, W Hamilton, S Fairbairn.

TEAM NEWS –

Currie: Richie Vernon is released by Glasgow Warriors to get some valuable game time after recovering from a shoulder surgery in November. His availability is timely because Cameron Hutchison has dropped out through injury. AP McWilliam gets the nod over John Cox at loosehead prop having impressed last weekend, and Rhys Davies comes in at openside flanker after responding well this week to missing out last Saturday.

Hawick: A settled squad after a very important win over Glasgow Hawks last weekend. Bruce Campbell returns at scrum-half after dropping out last week with illness meaning Grant Huggan returns to the bench.

KEY BATTLE: Harvey Elms versus Lee Armstrong

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“This is clearly a pivotal match at both ends of the table. Although not all the results have gone their way of late, Hawick are showing their best form at the right time, which is testament to the belief Nikki and his coaching staff have instilled within their group. We were very disappointed with our performance versus Heriot’s and although the fight for the final play-off position is now not in our own hands we are determined to show we have learned from last week, and to keep the pressure on Heriot’s as we enter the final few matches of the league season …” – Ben Cairns (Currie)

“Brilliant performance and result for us last week but we understand that it is another match which could have got away from us due to ill discipline. There was a real understanding in training this week that we can still make improvements on last week and everyone has worked extremely hard in order to ensure we put that into action. We know that Currie will feel this is a must win match in order to keep their top four hopes alive …” – Nikki Walker (Hawick)

VERDICT: Currie return to winning ways

GALA v HERIOT’S

VENUE: Netherdale @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Gala: G Speirs©; R Combe, D Burrows, L Berg, C Robertson; G Hunter, G Lott; C Keen, M Carryer, T Skeet, S Johnstone, C Weir, G Adams, F Hunter, H Borthwick. Subs: D Brooker, S Chapman, R Louw, G Mein, P Hendry.

Heriots: C Simpson; R Kay, L Steele, J Semple, G Parker; R Carmichael©, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, M Hughes C Marshall, M Maltman, J McLean, S Dewar. Subs: S Mustard, R Mitchell, C Smith, A Hagart, A Simmers.

TEAM NEWS –

Gala: Fit again Harry Borthwick returns at number eight, which allows Gary Adams to revert to his best position of blindside flanker. Fraser Hunter also comes into the back-row for the injured Stevie Cairns, while Sean Johnstone continues in the second-row after stepping in last week for Opeta Palepoi, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in the warm. George Lott gets the nod at scrum-half and Craig Robertson returns on the left wing.

Heriot’s: Wing Robert Kay, centre Liam Steele, scrum-half Tom Wilson, prop Martin Bouab and number eight Struan Dewar all come into the starting fifteen, in place of Junior Rosalea and Murray McCallum, who have returned to Edinburgh, Alex Hagart and Andrew Simmers, who drop to the bench, and Russell Nimmo, who is unavailable.

KEY BATTLE: Chris Weir versus Callum Marshall

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“After an error-strewn and lackluster performance last weekend we face a very strong Heriot’s side and a massive challenge on Saturday. The squad is determined to put some pride back into the jersey and deliver a performance that is much more reflective of their abilities…” – Chris Dalgleish (Gala)

“After a good performance last week we are now looking to maintain this level. Our pack played particularly well, and although there are a few changes we will be looking for a repeat outing …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)

 VERDICT: Gala’s drift continues.

STIRLING COUNTY v AYR

 VENUE: Bridgehaugh @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Stirling: J Hope©; S MacDonald, C Pringle, A Black, L Trotter; R Jones, M Donaldson; F Bradbury, C Flynn, A Nicol, H Burr, A Sinclair, A Taylor, M Emmison, R Leishman. Subs: D Westwood, M Hunter, A Grant-Suttie, C Turnbull, L Bonnar.

Ayr: G Anderson; J Bova, A Russell, D McCluskey, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Hunter, L Anderson, S Longwell, R McApline, S Sutherland, B MacPherson, W Bordill, P McCallum©. Subs: R Smith A Prentice, C Stevenson, R Dalgliesh, S McDowall.

TEAM NEWS –

Stirling: Former All Black Corey Flynn is released by Glasgow Warriors and takes over at hooker from the injured Reyner Kennedy. Matt Emmison starts at openside flanker with Shaun MacDonald moving to the wing. Andrew Grant-Suttie returns to the squad following a difficult few months with injury.

Ayr: Ross Curle and David Young are unavailable in an otherwise settled squad. Danny McCluskey moves to centre, Jamie Bova takes his place on the wing, and Lewis Anderson starts at hooker.

KEY BATTLE: Shaun MacDonald versus Craig Gossman

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We’re looking forward to the prospect of having Corey Flynn with us. He will become the first All Black to represent the club. We expect him to energise the team and bring out the best in our young pack. The rest of the team has a settled look to it. We are itching to get playing again following our game versus Melrose being called off. Having scored some of our best tries of the season with a slightly weakened side down at Millbrae in the first fixture between the two teams, we are confident that, with the side we have selected, we can get a much needed win to help cement our place in the league …” – David Adamson (Stirling)

“Stirling will be raring to go having not played in a number of weeks and they have a strong squad out this weekend. We started the game well last week and will be looking to build on that performance on Saturday …” – Calum Forrester (Ayr)

VERDICT: Ayr edge it

GLASGOW HAWKS v BOROUGHMUIR

VENUE: Old Anniesland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Hawks: J Henderson; E Oag, R Beattie, B McGroarty, K Gossman; H Schulte, P Boyer; S Findlay, C Fenton, G Strain, S Cummings, A Kirkland, M Smith, S Leckey, T Spinks©. Subs: S Rodgers, L Archer, A Linton, R Miller, S Yacoubian.

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

TEAM NEWS –

Hawks: Matt Smith and Scott Cummings are released by Glasgow Warriors after lengthy absences due to injury. Paddy Boyer comes in for George Horne at scrum half, and Erland Oag returns to the wing after an absence due to work commitments

Boroughmuir: Dougie Steele and Alex Cox come in at scrum-half and outside centre, respectively, after showing up well from the bench last week. In the pack, Jamie Ure returns to the second-row allowing Matt Tweddle to shift back to number eight.

KEY BATTLE: Paddy Boyer versus Dougie Steele

 WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“After a disappointing loss against a rejuvenated Hawick team last week we must make sure that we have a vastly improved performance this weekend. Boroughmuir, like us, will be desperate for a win so we know it will be a fiercely fought contest. They have one of the best offloading games in the league and play an open expansive brand of rugby that we enjoy challenging ourselves against …” – Finlay Gillies (Hawks)

“A very tough game ahead. Hawks will be looking to bounce back after their defeat to Hawick and if we start as badly as we did against Ayr then it will be long afternoon …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)

VERDICT: Boroughmuir feel the backlash