BT PREMIERSHIP: ROUND 2 PREVIEW

by STUART RUTHERFORD

THERE will be no quarter asked or given at Goldenacre this afternoon when Heriot’s take on Ayr in a replay of last season’s BT Premiership Grand Final. The two sides come into this match in contrasting form. Ayr started their campaign in staunch fashion, running in eight tries to comfortably beat Currie at Millbrae; while Heriot’s are zero from two in competitive games so far this season, having lost their Charity Shield match against Melrose a fortnight ago, before going down again to newly promoted Watsonians last weekend.

Phil Smith’s men will be itching to get their campaign kick-started  and are bolstered by the availability of Edinburgh Rugby pro Cornell Du Preez, who will be sure to make an impact off the bench. With no love lost between these two clubs, we will hopefully be in for a cracking match.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Hawks host Melrose at Old Anniesland in what should be an intriguing and highly entertaining affair. Like Ayr, Melrose crossed the whitewash eight times last week in what was a straightforward win over Boroughmuir; while five miles along the road at Netherdale, Hawks were making similarly easy work of despatching Gala after racing to an impressive 38-8 half-time lead. It will be worth keeping an eye on young forwards Lewis Carmichael of Melrose and Matt Fagerson of Hawks, who were both outstanding for their respective teams last weekend.

Stirling County can expect a battle from start to finish against Peter Wright’s Boroughmuir at Meggetland. County demonstrated their pack power in a compelling victory over Hawick last weekend, while Boroughmuir will be desperate to exorcise the painful memory of their heavy defeat at the Greenyards. Although the Edinburgh side showed flashes of liveliness, they will need to put together a full 80 minutes and achieve some sort of parity up-front if they are to come away with anything from this encounter.

Hawick entertain Watsonians at Mansfield Park with the Borderers boosted by the arrival of a couple of South African imports in the shape of second-row Dylan Harlen and centre Wesley Hamilton. Visiting coach Marcus Di Rollo has had a few call-offs to contend with this week – including prop Ewan McQuillin, who has moved to London Scottish – but the team will still be flying high after that success over Heriot’s.

Finally, Currie host Gala at Malleny Park in a match both teams will be viewing as ‘must-win’ after being heavily beaten last weekend.

THE LOWDOWN –

BOROUGHMUIR V STIRLING COUNTY

VENUE: Meggetland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Boroughmuir: D Steele; G McConnell, G Cannie, M Hare, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw©, S Johnson; D Robertson, T King, T Gracie, J Ure, J Scott, C Keddie, D Hearn, M Tweddle. Subs: J Bett, D Winning, R Dunbar, A McLaurin, M Allen.

Stirling County: B Sorbie; M Lamb, J Cresswell, R Elliston, C Pringle; J Hope, A Black; M MacDonald, R Kennedy, A Nicol, C Hunter-Hill©, A Sinclair, R Lieshman, S McDonald, A Taylor. Subs: M Emmison, M Hunter, H Burr, C Turnbull, R Jones.

TEAM NEWS –

Boroughmuir: Greg Cannie comes in at outside centre for the ‘holidaying’ Alex Cox. In the pack, Matthew Tweddle moves to number eight for the injured Andy Rose, whilst Jamie Scott takes his position in the second row. Edinburgh Rugby have released winger/centre Michael Allen, the former Ulster player takes his position on the bench.

Stirling County: There are no changes to the squad that beat Hawick last weekend.

KEY BATTLE: Alex Taylor versus Matthew Tweddle

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“After a disappointing performance last week against Melrose the players have sat down and looked at how we can improve. We had a really positive session on Tuesday and addressed some of the issues. Stirling are always a big physical team and we must match this physicality to give ourselves a chance of victory – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)

“Following last week’s opening day win against Hawick, we keep faith with the squad who showed fleeting glimpses of what we hope to achieve moving forward into the season. Whilst the tries we scored were well worked, we were disappointed in the manner we conceded, so a focus on our defensive structures has been key during this week’s training. Another week brings another opportunity for our new squad to gel, and we are looking for a more consistent performance…” – David Adamson (Stirling County)

VERDICT: Stirling’s pack will be too strong – a narrow victory.

CURRIE v GALA

VENUE: Malleny Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Currie: H Elms; M Hooks, M McPhillips, R Nelson, C Gray; J Forbes, R Snedden; J Cox, F Scott, J Firth, H Bain, S Ainslie, R Davies, T Gordon, R Weston©. Subs: G Carson, A Allan, G Temple, C Shiel, G Clow.

Gala: G Speirs©; R Combe, P Hendry, R Jeffrey, C Robertson; G Hunter, G Lott; A Dell, M Carryer, G Robertson, O Palepoi, C Weir, R Louw, J Irvine, S Cairns. Subs: D Brooker, C Keen, A Emond, G Mein, S Fairburn.

TEAM NEWS –

Currie: Glasgow Warriors prop Jarred Firth comes into the starting line up in place of Graeme Carson, his professional team-mate Alex Allan starts on the bench instead of AP McWilliam, and the only other change sees the experienced Richard Snedden come in for Charlie Shiel at scrum-half.

Gala: Alan Dell starts at loose-head after being made available this week from Edinburgh Rugby. Ross Combe, a summer arrival from Jedforest, makes his first start after impressing off the bench last weekend. Opeta Palepoi starts in the second row which should add some bulk to this pack. Back-row Josh Irvine is promoted from the bench after an excellent performance as a replacement against Glasgow Hawks.

KEY BATTLE: Stephen Ainslie versus Opeta Palepoi

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Last week was obviously not the way we wanted or expected to start our league campaign. Our performance levels were well short of what we are capable of and although it was a heavy defeat we take some comfort in the knowledge we can produce a much higher level and one that will enable us to win rugby matches. The focus this week has therefore been on getting our foundations right. We know Gala will have looked at our match and will be targeting this week as a chance for them to get that all-important first win of the season too. They finished the game pretty strongly versus Hawks, culminating in a try bonus point and we know this will be a tight contest as both teams scrap for the morale boost winning will produce…” – Ben Cairns (Currie)

“Currie is always one of the toughest venues to visit over the season and after their result last weekend, we are fully aware of the potential back lash that lies in wait. They are a quality side and showed that in patches last Saturday. Our squad know only too well that any repeat of that first 18 minutes from last weekend will see us endure a long afternoon. That said, our second half performance was much improved and has given us some confidence going forward, but we need to perform like that for the whole match if we can hope to gain wins in such a competitive league…”– Chris Dalgliesh (Gala)

VERDICT: Currie to bounce back.

GLASGOW HAWKS v MELROSE

VENUE: Old Anniesland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Glasgow Hawks: J Steele; R Beattie, P Kelly, D Milne, E Oag; J Henderson, G Horne; S Findlay, G Stewart, G Strain, K McDonald, A Kirkland, A Hill, M Fagerson, T Spinks©. Subs: S Rodgers, B Cullinane, S Thomson, S Yacoubian, H Schulte.

 

Melrose: F Thompson; R McCann, G Taylor, R Taylor, A Lockington; J Baggott, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Anderson, N Beavon, James Head, L Carmichael, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: C Mckay, D Elkington, R Knott, B Colvine, G Wood.

TEAM NEWS –

Glasgow Hawks:  Finlay Gillies has rewarded his starters by naming an almost unchanged side against Melrose. Kerr Gossman’s tight hamstring means Erland Oag moves to the wing and Paddy Kelly comes in to the starting line-up after a summer playing in New Zealand working with the Crusaders High Performance Unit. Sam Thomson and Sean Yacoubian are promoted to the bench.

Melrose: Injury to Craig Jackson means that Richard Taylor will partner his younger brother George in the centre. Gavin Wood comes onto the bench.

KEY BATTLE: Matt Fagerson versus Grant Runciman

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

This is sure to be a nutritional [sic] game with Glasgow Hawks being an extremely strong defensive side that has added variety to their attack from last year. Our boys are raring to go to Glasgow and challenge themselves against a team that put in a very impressive display at Netherdale last weekend. Hopefully the weather holds and with a good pitch I am sure this will be a high quality game with excellent attacking rugby from both sides…” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)

 

Melrose were undoubtedly the most impressive team in the league last week with an excellent display against a strong Boroughmuir team. We are looking forward to playing against a team who we believe share a common desire to play an exciting and fast brand of rugbyMelrose, however, are not simply just a flashy team and boast a forward pack that put on one of the most powerful scrummaging displays I have seen in the Premieship for a long time. We can’t wait for the physical battle that will await us and this weekend will be an excellent gauge of where we are as a team…” Finlay Gillies (Glasgow Hawks)

 

VERDICT: The Melrose front three to continue where they left off against Boroughmuir, providing the platform for an away win in a high scoring match.

HAWICK v WATSONIANS

VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Hawick: D Graham; N McColm W Hamilton, K Brunton, S Bandeen; A Weir, B Campbell; S Muir, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, M Robertson, D Harlen, B McNeil, A Horne, K Davies. Subs: M Landels, K Bryce, R Gibson, S Graham, J Coutts.

Watsonians: A Chalmers; S McKean, S McLeod, D Innes, K Young; E Scott, R Cullen; N Borel, S Crombie, S Ruwers, D Dee, C Borthwick, E Dods, A Duckett, R Drummond (c). Subs: D Miller, M Christie, V Fihaki, S Kennedy, M Bertram.

TEAM NEWS –

Hawick:  Hometown boys Kyle Brunton, Sam Bandeen and Keith Davies, along with South African imports Wesley Hamilton, and Dylan Harlen, all come into the starting line-up. Edinburgh pro Kevin Bryce will play his first competitive rugby in 10 months if he comes off the bench, in what he hopes will be a big step forward in his transition from hooker to tight-head prop.

Watsonians: Scott McKean starts on the wing after scoring a hat-trick for the 2nd XV last weekend. DJ Innes comes in at inside centre for the injured James King. Shaun Ruwers starts at tight-head prop, replacing Ewan McQuillin, who has signed for London Scottish. Ex-Selkirk man Angus Duckett gets his first start in the back-row. Martin Christie is added to a bench that includes Edinburgh Rugby pros Sean Kennedy and Viliami Fihaki.

KEY BATTLE: Dylan Harlan versus Craig Borthwick

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“After a disappointing performance last weekend everyone has worked hard at training and fully understand what is expected in our first home match of the season. Hopefully the locals will get behind their team and we can put on a performance to ensure they come back…” – Nikki Walker (Hawick) 

“We have had to make a few changes this week and Mansfield Park is never an easy place to go so the guys will have to be focussed from the off…” – Marcus Di Rollo (Watsonians) 

VERDICT: Hawick have bolstered their pack and home advantage will be key.

 

HERIOT’S v AYR

VENUE: Goldenacre @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Heriots: G Parker; J Webster, J Laird, J Semple, A McLean; A Hagart, A Simmers; M McCallum, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, C Smith, G Turner, J McLean, S Dewar. Subs: R Mitchell, M Bouab, C Du Preez, R Carmichael©, H Boisseau.

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

TEAM NEWS –

Heriot’s: The big news is that Cornell du Preez is on the bench. His Edinburgh colleague George Turner starts in the number six jersey, while Heriot’s stalwart Struan Dewar is back at number eight, with Callum Marshall moving up to cover second-row. Josh Laird switches from the wing to outside centre as cover for Liam Steele.

Ayr: Experience has been added. Grant Anderson returns at full-back with Craig Gossman moving to the wing, while Will Bordill and Blair Macpherson are added to the back-row.

KEY BATTLE: Struan Dewar versus Pete McCallum

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Despite the defeat last week, the lads have taken it on the chin and recognised a couple of areas for improvement, which has seen a positive mood at training all week, possibly by the increase in numbers.…” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)

“Heriot’s will be hurting after a couple of recent losses. These matches were close encounters last season with only a few points separating the sides on each occasion and we expect the same again this weekend…” – Callum Forrester (Ayr)

VERDICT: The Ayr bandwagon rolls on.

Image courtesy of Douglas Hardie

 

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.