BT PREMIERSHIP PREVIEW: ROUND 12 –CURRIE OUT TO PROVE THEIR PLAY-OFF CREDENTIALS

CURRIE were on the painful end of a 52-22 mauling when they visited The Greenyards to play Melrose in round three, as part of a gruelling start to this BT Premiership campaign which also included a 53-10 demolition against Ayr at Millbrae on the opening weekend.

cala-currie

The Malleny Park men spent the first six weeks of the season in or around the relegation zone.  A 38-15 victory over Heriot’s hinted at the team’s potential, but a combination of inexperience and injuries to key men meant that they struggled to build any sort of consistency.

Head coach Ben Cairns was clearly frustrated but his belief in the young squad at his disposal did not waver, and the solid foundation of that faith has become evident during the team’s run of three wins from their last four outings, which has seen Currie climb to fifth in the table, just one point off a play-off slot.

Melrose provide the opposition again this weekend. After a slight dip in form, the league leaders seemed to be returning to something close to their best with emphatic victories over Boroughmuir and Glasgow Hawks during the last two matches before the November break, so this will be a major test of Currie’s credentials.

With Murdo McAndrew and Bruce Colvine both out injured, Jason Baggott starts at scrum-half for the Borderers. The playmaker proved that he is more than capable of doing a job at the base of the scrum when he was shifted there against Hawks, but it is not his natural position. Opposite number Charlie Shiel, along with young flankers Scott McGinley and Thomas Gordon, will be hell-bent on putting the South African under as much pressure as possible.

In centre Cameron Hutchison, Currie have one of the brightest prospects in Scottish rugby at the moment. The teenager missed the start of the season through injury but has wasted no time in getting up to speed, and was a stand-out performer when he came off the bench for the last 20 minutes of the recent under-20s trial match at Oriam.

He is alongside another midfield dynamo in Robbie Nelson, and with a back three made up of recent Glasgow Warriors recruit Ratu Tagive, the prolific Cameron Gray and the consistently excellent Harvey Elms, Currie boast one of the few backlines in the league which could lay claim to matching Melrose in terms of game breaking ability.

THE LOWDOWN –

CURRIE v MELROSE

VENUE: Malleny Park @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Currie: H Elms; R Tagive, R Nelson, C Hutchison, C Gray; J Forbes, C Shiel; R Grant, F Scott, J Firth, G Carson, L Crosbie, S Ainslie, S McGinley, T Gordon, R Weston©. Subs: J Cox, J Firth, M Vernel, B Robbins, R Snedden.

Melrose: F Thomson; R McCann, N Godsmark, G Taylor, A Lockington; C Jackson, J Baggott; J Bhatti, R Anderson, N Beavon, J Head, R Knott, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: C McKay, R McLeod, A Grieve, S Hutchison, S Pecqueur.

TEAM NEWS –

Currie: Ratu Tagive, a recent Glasgow Warriors signing from the Australian club circuit, gets his first run-out on Scottish soil on the right wing, while 2013 Lions tourist Ryan Grant is at loosehead prop – with Ben Robbins and John Cox dropping out of the starting fifteen. A third Warriors player, Jarrod Firth, is on the bench.

Melrose: Nick Beavon has been released by Edinburgh Rugby and gets a chance to show what he can do when scrumming down against Grant. The backline starts as it finished against Hawks in the team’s last outing, which means Jason Baggott is at scrum-half with Craig Jackson taking over at stand-off.

KEY BATTLE: Charlie Shiel versus Jason Baggott

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Whilst the break was welcome after eleven BT Premiership matches on the bounce, I’m sure like us, Melrose would have been happy to continue due to the form they were in. Having had three weeks off to refresh, however, we will expect them to continue where they left off and on that basis we know we are facing the in-form team in the league. We have been happy with our own form of late, though, having come a long way since we played each other at the start of the season. It will be a huge task to turn around that deficit but we are up for the challenge …” – Ben Cairns (Currie)

“Currie are improving with every game and after an outstanding performance last time out against Gala they will be looking to back it up and get into the top four as soon as possible. We have had an excellent three weeks freshening up after eleven Premiership games on the bounce. The squad is raring to go and excited about playing together against an expansive Currie team which is sure to lead to a great game for all involved …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)

VERDICT: The title race takes another twist.

GALA v AYR

VENUE: Netherdale @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Gala: G Speirs©; A Northam, L Berg, S Tofilau,, P Hendry; G Hunter, C Adams; C Keen, M Carryer, G Robertson, R Louw, C Weir, H Borthwick, F Hunter, S Cairns. Subs: T Skeet, D Brooker, C Keen, A Emond, R Jeffrey, C Robertson.

Ayr: G Anderson; R Dalgleish, A Russell, R Curle, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Hunter, P MacArthur, S Longwell, R McKenzie, R McAlpine, B Macpherson, W Bordill, P McCallum©. Subs: J Malcolm, D Sears-Duru, D Young, D McCluskey, S McDowall.

TEAM NEWS –

Gala: Sasa Tofilau and Alex Northam are released by Edinburgh to play on the wing and at outside centre. Harry Borthwick also returns after missing a few games through a shoulder injury so Rob Louw moves back into the second row while the Hunter brothers [Gregor and Fraser] play in the Premiership together for the first time. Terry Skeet will make his debut after showing up well for the ‘A’ team over the last few weeks.

Ayr: Pat MacArthur is released from the Warriors to play for the club for the first time in six years. James Malcolm and Djustice Sears-Duru are also released and join a strong bench which also includes fit again Danny McCluskey and teenager Stafford McDowell, who is apparently making huge strides forward every week.

KEY BATTLE: Fraser Hunter versus Will Bordill

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“December is going to be rigorous test of our squad and it starts with the visit of a very strong and powerful Ayr side. The break from league action came at a good time and has allowed us the opportunity to work hard on the training field to address the areas of concern so our players are ready to meet Saturdays challenge with renewed confidence. We hope to deliver a competitive performance …” – Chris Dalgleish (Gala)

“It’s good to get back into the league after the November break and the players have come back refreshed and are looking forward to getting back into action. It was a close encounter at Millbrae earlier in the season and that has been the story of the last few years in contests between the two clubs. We expect the same again this weekend …” – Callum Forrester (Ayr)

VERDICT: Ayr keep their eye on the prize.

GLASGOW HAWKS v STIRLING COUNTY

VENUE: New Anniesland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Hawks: J Steele; J Bulamakau, R Beattie, D Milne, E Oag; J Henderson, G Hart; S Findlay, C Fenton, G Strain, K McDonald, A Kirkland, R Miller, M Fagerson, T Spinks©. Subs: P Cairncross, C Barnes, B Flockhart, P Boyer, H Schulte.

Stirling: J Hope©; M Lamb, C Pringle, A Black, L Trotter; R Jones, M Donaldson; C Hutton, R Kennedy, A Nicol, H Burr, A Sinclair, A Taylor, S McDonald, H Henderson. Subs: M Emmison, TBC, TBC, TBC, L Bonar.

TEAM NEWS –

Hawks: Cammy Fenton is back north from London Scottish and he will make his first start for the club since signing in the off season from weekend, as fate would have it, Stirling County. Ross Miller is at blindside flanker, and Kiran McDonald is  back in the second-row after injury. Bruce Flockhart is ready to make an impact from the bench after injury.

Stirling: Adam Nicol is back at tighthead ollowing his first appearance for the Warriors last week, and Adam Sinclair makes a timely return from suspension  in the second-row, in place of club captain Callum Hunter-Hill, who has been sent off on loan to London Scottish. A number of late calls on the bench due to injury.

KEY BATTLE: Junior Bulumakau versus Logan Trotter

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“It is hugely exciting to finally get the league back under way and we can’t wait for the challenge of Stirling. With both teams having had a few weeks off, this game might show a little rustiness- but on the whole I am sure it will be two ambitious teams desperate to get a win. We also welcome the return of Junior [Bulumakau] and Grayson [Hart] from Glasgow and as ever appreciate the support we receive from the pro game. Hagan Schulte hopes to get his season going after a lengthy lay off and we hope he can be instrumental in the second half of the season …” – Finlay Gillies (Hawks)

“Hawks were the one side in the first half of the season to give us a real doing, with a pace and power we struggled to contain; however, we expect a much changed Hawks team from that day, at the same time as ourselves hitting a bit of form following two wins on the bounce. The weather looks set for fair, so we hope to continue our good attacking form against a Hawks side who were scoring tries for fun at the start of the season …”   – David Adamson (Stirling County)

VERDICT: Closer than last time but hosts edge it.

BOROUGHMUIR v WATSONIANS

VENUE: Meggetland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

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

Watsonians: A Chalmers; K Young, S McLeod, D Innes, S McKean; E Scott, E McKirdy; M Christie, S Crombie, N Borel, A Middleton, C Borthwick, TBC, A Duckett, R Drummond. Subs: D Miller, C Eastwood, TBC, R Cullen, A Harris.

TEAM NEWS –

Boroughmuir: “best 20 players available this weekend” [sic]

Watsonians: Rory Drummond returns from injury at number eight, but a few late fitness calls mean that the blindside flanker berth has not been allocated yet.

KEY BATTLE: Chris Laidlaw versus Ewan Scott

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“After three weeks away from league action we come back to a huge game. We need to start finishing off the chances that we create. Something we have been working on over the last few weeks  …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)

“We are looking forward to getting back to action this weekend. We know it will be a tough match, but the guys are focused …” – Marcus Di Rollo (Watsonians)

VERDICT: Home team needs it more.

HAWICK v HERIOT’S

VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

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

Heriots: C Simpson; J Rae, L Steele, J Semple, G Parker; A Hagart, A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, R Nimmo, M Maltman, S Dewar, C Du Preez. Subs: S Mustard, G Cameron, C Smith, T Wilson, R Mulveena

TEAM NEWS –

Hawick: After featuring off the bench last week, Rory Hutton makes his long awaited first league appearance of the season at stand-off, with Lee Armstrong shifting to outside centre. Tyler Corless, Dale Johnstone and Shaun Fairbairn will also make their season debuts if called off the bench.

Heriots: Cornell du Preez, who was called into the Scotland training squad during the Autumn Test series, is at number eight, reinforcing the importance of the BT Premiership in terms of giving top players meaningful game time.

KEY BATTLE: Bruce McNeil versus Cornell du Preez

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Heriots will be a very tough test having stepped up in their matches against Emerging Italy.  I am sure they will want to take that intensity into their league performances and we will certainly need to front up in order to get anything out of the game …” – Nikki Walker (Hawick)

“The three week window has been kind to us in that we were able to play two very competitive fixtures against the Emerging Italians. We have taken a lot form these games, particularly the opportunity to expose a lot of our young 2nd XV players. I am hoping we can continue the physical nature of our play that was on show. Hawick have a had a bit of a resurgence of late and will be looking to use their home advantage. We are still trying to cement a place in a play-off berth so this game may very well come down to the small margins of decision making under pressure, hopefully we will respond …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)

VERDICT: Visitors too strong.

Image courtesy: Douglas Hardie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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