WE now know for certain that no team is invincible in the BT Premiership after Ayr plummeted from the giddy high of their victory over Melrose a fortnight ago to being well beaten by Boroughmuir last week.
The Millbrae men will expect to get their season back on track against Stirling County this afternoon, and it is hard to see them slipping up at home to a team which has not had its troubles to seek this week.
County found out on Wednesday that they would be without second-row Adam Sinclair, who has been handed a six week ban for punching a Melrose player after the final whistle of their game last weekend, and they then had to make three more late changes to their starting team after training on Thursday night.
Head coach David Adamson could barely disguise his frustration at his club’s plight when naming his side for this week’s clash.
“A difficult week for the club for a few reasons, that started off with another loss snatched from the jaws of victory. Players need to learn that penalties cost games, and ill-discipline can no longer be accepted. This week needs to see a change in mind-set from the players, and an understanding of the consequences that their actions bring,” he lamented.
Strong words and his players will need to take note, because Ayr are a formidable force on their own patch, and with Ross Curle fit again after a calf injury they have been able to add a player to their line-up who will ensure that intensity levels do not waver.
Over in the east, Boroughmuir’s clash with Glasgow Hawks promises to be an intriguing encounter. The Edinburgh side proved that they can be a match for any team in this league on their day with that win over Ayr, but there is a fragility there which has been exposed in defeats to Melrose, Watsonians, Heriot’s and Hawick this season.
Head coach Peter Wright reckons he sensed a change in the psychology of the squad last week, and if they can reproduce that sense of self-belief this afternoon then they could claim another significant scalp – but if they don’t get it spot-on then Hawks have the firepower to do some real damage and momentum is on their side after last week’s slaughtering of hapless Hawick.
Watsonians entertain Melrose and will be desperate to get their season back on track after a disappointing defeat at Gala last weekend. Melrose are missing a few key men at the moment – notably club captain Bruce Colvine, vice-captain Grant Runciman, assistant coach and full-back Fraser Thomson, livewire winger Austin Lockington and professional Edinburgh prop Nick Beavon – so this will be a real test of the strength in depth of their squad.
Gala are at Goldenacre to take on a Heriot’s team desperately searching for the mojo which saw them march to a league and cup double last season.
And the bottom two teams in the league meet at Mansfield Park, with rejuvenated Currie [who are currently ninth but are on the same number of league points as sixth place Heriot’s and only two points behind fifth place Boroughmuir] favourites to defeat Hawick.
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
AYR v STIRLING COUNTY
VENUE: Millbrae @ 3pm
Ayr: G Anderson©; R Dalgliesh, D McCluskey, R Curle, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; S Longwell, D Young D Rae, C Stevenson, S Sutherland, G Hunter, W Bordill, B Macpherson. Subs: R Smith, R Mackenzie, G Henry, J Bova, S McDowell.
Stirling: J Hope©; C Pringle, J Cresswell, F Lyle, M Lamb; R Jones, N Kenatale; M Hunter, R Kennedy, C Hutton, H Burr, S Yarrow, M Emmison, S MacDonald, S Robertson. Subs: B Gilchrist, A Woods, H Henderson, M Donaldson, R Elliston.
TEAM NEWS –
Ayr: D’arcy Rae is released by the Warriors and starts at tighthead in a new look front-row alongside Steven Longwell and David Young. Regular prop George Hunter starts at blindside flanker, allowing Will Bordill to move across to his favoured openside position in place of Gregor Henry, who drops to the bench. Ross Curle returns from injury to bolster the backline with his experience and will to win, while Richard Dalgliesh starts on the wing. New addition Ruaridh Mackenzie is set to make his debut off the bench.
Stirling: Mark Hunter starts at prop for the unavailable Mike MacDonald and Stef Yarrow comes in to the second row in place of the suspended Adam Sinclair. A reshuffle of the backrow sees Struan Robertson start at number eight for the injured Alex Taylor, Shaun MacDonald reclaim the seven shirt and Matt Emmison get his first start of the season at blindside. Glasgow pro Fraser Lyle is back at inside centre, and will play alongside Jake Creswell. Teenager Harry Henderson is called up to the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Ross Curle versus Fraser Lyle
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Last week was hugely disappointing but the players have reviewed the game and are looking forward to getting back into action. Stirling played well down at Melrose and were unfortunate to come away with nothing. It is set to be a busy day at Millbrae with the first Oktoberfest being held at the club following on from what was a successful beer festival in the summer. Additionally, the under-18s will play Stirling County in a curtain raiser for the 1st XV match in a top of the table clash in the President’s Conference…” – Calum Forrester (Ayr)
“A difficult week for the club for a few reasons, starting off with another loss snatched from the jaws of victory. Players need to learn that penalties cost games and ill-discipline can no longer be accepted. This week needs to see a change in mind-set from the players, and an understanding of the consequences that their actions bring…” – David Adamson (Stirling)
VERDICT: Stirling’s wait to get their season back on track continues
BOROUGHMUIR v GLASGOW HAWKS
VENUE: Meggetland @ 3pm
Boroughmuir: G Cannie; G McConnell, R Kerr, A Cox, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw, D Steele; R Dunbar, S Clark, D Winning, J Ure, J Scott, J Ritchie, M Walker, C Keddie©. Subs; L Robinson, D Robertson, A Rose, M Hare, D Reekie.
Hawks: J Steele; J Bulumakau, R Beattie, B McGroarty, K Gossman; G Horne, S Yacoubin; S Findlay, S Rodgers, G Strain, A Linton, A Kirkland, A Redmayne, G Stewart, T Spinks©. Subs: P Cairncross, B Cullinane, S Thompson, D Milne, L Tyley.
TEAM NEWS –
Boroughmuir: Only one change in the pack,with Stuart Clark coming in for James Bett at tiohthead, while in the backs Dougie Steele moves to scrum-half as cover for the unavailable Sam Johnson and Greg Cannie takes over at full-back.
Hawks: Jack Steele comes back in at full-back in place of Sean Lamont, who is called back into the Warriors squad. George Horne moves to stand-off in place of the unwell Josh Henderson, allowing Sean Yacoubian to start at scrum-half. The pack is unchanged after last week’s demolition of Hawick.
KEY BATTLE: Jordan Edmunds versus Junior Bulumakau
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“I think we’ve got some of the best players in the league with back like Jordan Edmunds, Grant McConnell, Chris Laidlaw and Dougie Steele, and while our pack isn’t big they are young an enthusiastic, but there has been a mental hurdle to get over and I think we maybe did that against Ayr last Saturday. If we can bottle that belief then we have a chance against any team in this league…” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)
“After an excellent win over [previously] unbeaten Ayr, we can’t wait to challenge ourselves against the form team in the league. Boroughmuir played some outstanding rugby last week and defended very well so we know opportunities will be limited and we must be clinical. This should be a fast paced encounter with lots of scoring opportunities…” – Finlay Gillies (Hawks)
VERDICT: Boroughmuir on a high and Hawks missing a few regular pros.
WATSONIANS v MELROSE
VENUE: Myreside @ 3pm
Watsonians: A Davidson; K Young, S McLeod, T Hart, M McFarland; A Chalmers, R Cullen; M Christie©, D Miller, N Borel, F Morrison, C Borthwick, S Crombie, A Duckett, E Dods. Subs: C Eastwood, K Beattie, M Poole, E McKirdy, E Scott.
Melrose: C Jackson; N Godsmark, G Taylor, R Taylor, R McCann; J Baggott, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Anderson, R McLeod, J Head, L Carmichael, N Irvine-Hess, R Knott, I Moody. Subs: R Ferguson, D Elkington, A Grieve, D Colvine, G Wood.
TEAM NEWS –
Watsonians: Five changes behind the scrum with winger Max McFarland and stand-off Andrew Chalmers the only players keeping their place after last week’s loss at Gala. In the pack, Sean Crombie switches to blindside flanker with Darren Miller coming in at hooker, Nathan Borel replaces Shaun Ruwers at tighthead, and Angus Duckett comes in at openside. BT Sport Academy prospect Calum Eastwood covers prop from the bench.
Melrose: Ross McCann and George Taylor return to the backline after recovering from illness and injury respectively. Lewis Carmichael returns to the second-row after a couple of weeks away playing for Edinburgh while Ruairi McLeod starts at tighthead in place of Nick Beavon, who has been shipped off to London Scottish as part of a loan deal which secured Ewan McQuillin as emergency cover at Edinburgh. Skipper Grant Runciman is also missing so Ruari Knott brings significant bulk to the back-row.
KEY BATTLE: Reiss Cuillen versus Murdo McAndrew
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We were very disappointed with last week’s loss at Gala and the boys know they need to be better. We know Melrose are going well and it should be a good contest…” – Marcus Di Rollo (Watsonians)
“Watsonians currently sit fourth in the league having made a seamless transition from BT National 1 to the BT Premiership. With Myreside being an excellent ground to play at I am sure we will get an open and exciting game of rugby…” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
VERDICT: Melrose edge it.
HAWICK v CURRIE
VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 3pm
Hawick: A Weir; D Graham, G Johnstone, J Nayacavou, W Hamilton; L Armstrong, B Campbell; J Cosgrove, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, M Robertson, B McNeil©, R Gibson, S Graham, K Davies. Subs: M Landels, D Harlen, D Redpath, K Brunton, N Renwick.
Currie: H Elms; B Robbins, C Hutchison, R Nelson, C Gray; J Bywater, R Snedden; J Cox, F Scott, G Carson, H Bain, S Ainslie, R Davies, T Gordon, R Weston©. Subs: A McWilliam, J Firth, L Crosbie, S McGinley, C Shiel.
TEAM NEWS –
Hawick: Edinburgh pro Jack Cosgrove starts at loosehead alongside hooker Fraser Renwick, who has been promoted back into the team from the bench, with Callum Mackintosh shifting over to the tighthead. The return of Keith Davies, Darcy Graham and Ali Weir should help galvanise the team after last week’s hammering by Glasgow Hawks, as will the inclusion of Scotland Sevens star Joe Nayacavou at inside centre.
Currie: Lee Jones has not been released by Glasgow this week, but that is compensated for by the return of powerful winger Ben Robbins after a brief stint on loan with London Scottish. James Bywater starts at stand-off in place of the unavailable Jamie Forbes. The starting pack remains unchanged after last week’s victory over Heriot’s. Jarrod Firth is released from the Warriors and starts of the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Harry Elms versus Ali Weir
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“After analysing last week’s match the players have been very honest about their performance and fully appreciate that far more is expected in the green jersey. We have gone back to the drawing board this week and feel we can again turn things around very quickly. We don’t become a bad team in a week so fully expect to get a reaction and put the embarrassment of the Glasgow Hawks fixture firmly behind us …” – Nikki Walker (Hawick)
“A hugely improved performance versus Heriots sees us travel to Mansfield with a bit of confidence, however we have stressed to the players that winning away from home is a completely different task and our performance levels will need to go up another notch. With ten of the squad under the age of 22, seven of which are under-20s, going to Hawick will be a real test of how far these young men have come. Hawick will be hurting from their result versus Hawks last weekend, and we know they will be a completely different beast this week, and we will need to match their hunger …” – Ben Cairns (Currie)
VERDICT: More misery for the Mansfield men.
HERIOT’S v GALA
VENUE: Goldenacre @ 3pm
Heriots: G Parker; H Boisseau, J Laird, J Semple, C Simpson; R Carmichael©, A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, C Smith, M Maltman, J McLean, S Dewar. Subs: S Mustard, R Mitchell, E Jackson, A Ball, J Rae.
Gala: R Scholes; A Northam, L Berg, P Hendry, G Speirs©; G Hunter, C Adams; M Carryer, D Brooker, C Keen, R Louw, C Weir, G Adams, S Cairns, H Borthwick. Subs: C Reynolds, R Todd, A Emond, R Combe, C Robertson.
TEAM NEWS –
Heriot’s: Murray McCallum had his first involvement with Edinburgh on Friday night so Martin Bouab starts, Russell Nimmo is also unavailable so Callum Marshall moves to lock and Michael Maltman starts at blindside. Charlie Simpson returns on the left wing.
Gala: Edinburgh duo Rory Scholes and Alex Northam have been released by Edinburgh to play full-back and left wing respectively, meaning skipper Graham Spiers switches to left wing and leading try scorer Craig Robertson drops to the bench. Josh Irvine picked up a knock last Saturday against Watsonians so Harry Borthwick will make his Premiership debut at number eight, with Stevie Cairns moving to the flank.
KEY BATTLE: Gregor Hunter versus Rory Carmichael
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Last week’s disappointment has been put behind us and we press on to another tough fixture. Gala have had a couple of good victories lately and will be keen to continue this form as a host of clubs now look to climb the very tight middle section of the table …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
“After a much needed win last Saturday we face the exciting prospect of playing the current league and cup champions on their home patch. With the league table so tightly congested we know that a run of positive results is essential and our squad are determined to show some consistency of performance and start moving up the league …” – Chris Dalgliesh (Gala)
VERDICT: Home advantage edges it.