BT PREMIERSHIP PREVIEW: ON THE HOME STRAIGHT BUT PLENTY STILL TO PLAY FOR

16/08/16 BT Murrayfield Stadium - Edinburgh Launch of BT Premiership league Photo credit should read: © Craig Watson Craig Watson, [email protected] 07479748060 [email protected] www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE battle for the fourth play-off spot in the BT Premiership is set to go to the wire after Heriot’s suffered a narrow loss to Melrose at Goldenacre last weekend, meaning that their destiny is no longer in their own hands. Phil Smith’s side are now three points ahead of Currie but have played a game more, which means all they can do is go after a full haul of five points when they take on Stirling County at Bridgehaugh this weekend, and hope that their rivals slip up in one of their two remaining matches, either at home to Glasgow Hawks this weekend or away to Boroughmuir in a re-arranged match on the 11th March.


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Heriot’s have a vastly superior points difference of +100, compared to Currie’s +7, which means that if Heriot’s do get five points against Stirling, then two wins will not be enough for Currie – they will also need to pick up a bonus point in one of those matches.

Currie will take confidence from their 31-32 victory over Hawks the last time the two sides met at Old Anniesland back in October, and the fact that the visitors are guaranteed a third place finish no matter what happens could be a key factor in how this match pans out. Players don’t deliberately try less because they have nothing to really gain, but there is inevitably a deficit in intensity when they come up against a team which is fighting to keep its season alive.

Boroughmuir are currently second bottom of the table, but are well placed in a three-way dogfight with Hawick and Stirling County to avoid a relegation showdown against the runner-up in National One.

Peter Wright’s men will fancy their chances of picking up a win at bottom placed Gala this weekend, and know that if they do that with a bonus point then anything less than a win (or a four-try draw) for Hawick in a daunting assignment at Melrose will almost certainly confine the Borderers to that relegation play-off.

Watsonians travel to Ayr hoping to give coaches Marcus Di Rollo and Simon Taylor a winning send-off, after their departure at the end of season was announced earlier this week.

HOW IT STANDS –

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THE LOWDOWN –

MELROSE v HAWICK

VENUE: The Greenyards @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Melrose: F Thomson; A Lockington, N Godsmark, G Taylor, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, B Colvine; D Elkington, R Anderson, R McLeod, A Welsh, A Bresler, R Knott, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: C McKay, C Crookshanks, A Grieve, M McAndrew, G Wood. 

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

TEAM NEWS –

Melrose: Club captain Bruce Colvine starts at scrum-half after recovering from a broken ankle earlier in the season. Anton Bresler has been released again by Edinburgh and is supposed to start in the second-row, alongside Aaron Welsh, who has impressed the coaching team since stepping up from second-string Melrose Storm over the last two games.

Hawick: Kevin Bryce returns from injury and is released by Edinburgh so will start at tighthead prop, meaning captain Bruce McNeil can move back to his favoured position at number eight, while Andrew Horne drops out the squad through injury.

KEY BATTLE: Iain Moody versus Bruce McNeil

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“With the league structured the way it is, both clubs have a lot to play for this weekend. Hawick have improved hugely since the start of the season and with key personnel now back they are a real threat to any team in the BT Premiership. There is no doubt Saturday’s fixture will be a physical game and with a large crowd expected at the Greenyards I am sure the supporters will not be disappointed …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)

“After showing great character and attitude last week to win a game in very difficult conditions while also being down to fourteen men for 30 minutes of the contest shows how far we have come over the course of this season. However, going to Greenyards this week against the season’s form team will be a completely different experience. On top of last week’s intensity and attitude we understand that we will need far more accuracy and discipline to get anything out of this match. We have been reasonably disappointed with our away form recently and the challenge is to“ replicate the way we consistently play at home at Melrose this weekend. With any league points being vital in our ambition to avoid the relegation play-off, I expect another typical physical and exciting Borders derby …” – Nikki Walker (Hawick)

 VERDICT: Hawick’s away woes continue

CURRIE v GLASGOW HAWKS

VENUE: Malleny Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Currie: H Elms; M Hooks, R Tagive, R Nelson, B Robbins; J Forbes, M O’Neil; J Cox, G Carson, A McWilliam, S Ainslie, M Vernel, S McGinley, R Davies, R Weston©. Subs: C McEvoy, R Patterson, P Mundell, C Smith, R Smith.

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

TEAM NEWS –

Currie: The only change from the squad named ahead of last week’s postponed match against Boroughmuir is on the bench, where Dan Marek drops out through illness and is replaced by Paul Mundell.

Hawks: Paddy Kelly starts at stand-off after returning north from London Scottish. Adam Lowrie gets an opportunity to start at scrum-half after a solid performance ofgf the bench last week, while Jack Steele moves to inside centre and Sean Yacoubian comes in at full-back..

KEY BATTLE: Ratu Tagive versus Brendan McGroarty

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Very disappointing not to have played last weekend in what is already a fairly disjointed second half of the season. However, with Melrose scraping through against Heriots we now know what we need to do to make the play-offs. That starts with getting a win this weekend against a Hawks side who I am sure will want to bounce back after a disappointing result versus Ayr last time out. Both teams like to throw the ball around a bit so let’s hope for some decent weather that allows for an entertaining match in our last outing at Malleny this season …” – Ben Cairns (Currie)

Currie have a lot to play for in this match while we need to get our performance levels back to where they were in the earlier part of the season. After a disappointing match against Ayr we need to raise our standards in anticipation of the upcoming challenges in the play-offs and the cup…” – Finlay Gillie (Hawks)

VERDICT: Currie keep their destiny in their own hands

AYR v WATSONIANS

VENUE: Millbrae @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Ayr: G Anderson; D McCluskey, A Russell, R Curle, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Hunter, L Anderson, S Longwell, R McAlpine, S Sutherland, B Macpherson, G Henry, P McCallum©. Subs: D Young, A Prentice, W Bordill, P Dewhirst, J Bova.

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

TEAM NEWS –

Ayr: Some minor tinkering with hooker Lewis Anderson and flanker Gregor Henry swapping places with David Young and Will Bordill, who drop to the bench.

Watsonians: Two changes to starting line-up from last week with Euan McKirdy starting at scrum-half in place of Reiss Cullen, and Mark Bertram gets a chance on the wing with Keith Young dropping to the bench.

KEY BATTLE: David Armstrong versus Euan McKirdy

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

We know just how dangerous Watsonians can be having lost at Myreside earlier in the season. Marcus and Simon have them playing an exciting, attacking brand of rugby and I’m sure the players will be wanting to give them a good send off in their final game. For us, we are looking to build on last week’s performance as we enter the latter stages of the season.…” – Calum Forrester (Ayr)

“I was very pleased with the hard work the players put in last week against Stirling County and we want to end the season with another good performance …” – Marcus Di Rollo (Watsonians)

VERDICT: Ayr get revenge

STIRLING COUNTY v HERIOT’S 

VENUE: Bridgehaugh @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Stirling: J Hope©; S MacDonald, A McLean, A Black, L Trotter; R Jones, M Donaldson; M MacDonald, R Kennedy, M Hunter, A Sinclair, H Burr, A Taylor, C Fusaro, R Leishman. Subs: M Emmison, C Black, A Grant-Suttie, C Turnbull, L Bonnar.

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

TEAM NEWS –

Stirling: Chris Fusaro is released from Glasgow Warriors and starts at open-side flanker against his old club; Mark Hunter comes in at tighthead prop for the injured Colin Hutton; and Andrew McLean makes his first start of the season at outside centre.

Heriot’s: Prop Struan Cessford and number eight Struan Dewar return to add some serious firepower to the pack. Robbie Mulveena moves to the wing to allow Junior Rosalea an opportunity to start at outside centre.

KEY BATTLE: Chris Fusaro versus Jack McLean

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“A vital game for both sides for different reasons. Having failed to put in an 80 minute performance last week, which cost us a much needed victory, we know that nothing but playing for the full 80 will be needed to get anything from this game …” – David Adamson (Stirling)

“With Michael Maltman’s red card rightly thrown out we start pretty much at full strength. This is key as we know Stirling are now fighting to avoid the play-off berth. We will be looking for a strong end to the campaign as we continue to press for fourth place. If we can get into our stride early we will hopefully be able to apply the pressure required, if we don’t we know we will be in for a tough afternoon, as Stirling at home is a tough proposition irrespective of league positions …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)

VERDICT: Heriots’ experience is key

GALA v BOROUGHMUIR

VENUE: Netherdale @ 3pm

TEAMS –

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

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

TEAM NEWS –

Gala: One change in the starting side sees Lewis Berg return at outside centre. On the bench both Stevie Cairns and Craig Robertson return.

Boroughmuir: Blair Mills gets the nod ahead of Sam Johnson at scrum-half, while second-row Jamie Ure and centre Ronan Kerr return after featuring off the bench for Scotland Under-20 in their defeat in France last week.

KEY BATTLE: Gregor Hunter versus Chris Laidlaw

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Mathematically, Gala can still avoid the drop and we have to respect that so it is important that we go into this game with the right mind-set. Gala will be hurting and want to show people that after last week’s disappointment they are still a force to be reckoned with. Gala can play rugby as they showed in the reverse fixture so we must be prepared to work hard, cut out any silly mistakes and take the chances we create…” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)

“After the huge disappointment of last weekend, the players are determined to go out of this league campaign with their heads held high. Although the league campaign is realistically over we still have much to play for, and the squad has pulled together well this week and are really focused on seeing the season out in a positive way. With the adventurous styles adopted by both sides this should be fantastic match and one our players are really looking forward to …” – Chris Dalgliesh (Gala)

VERDICT: Boroughmuir get the job done

About David Barnes 2967 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.