THREE red-cards have been issued so far in this BT Premiership campaign and two of them were subsequently rescinded on the basis that the assistant referee got it wrong when recommending the sanction.
Two weeks ago, Heriot’s hooker Michael Liness was given his marching orders on the recommendation of a South African exchange official for punching the face of opposite number Johnny Matthews of Boroughmuir – but that was later ruled to be a case of mistaken identity, with the real culprit and the actual crime mysteriously inconclusive on the video playback.
Last week, Currie Chieftains second-row Vince Wright was sent from the pitch for lashing out when Stirling County’s Hamilton Burr attempted to pull him into a ruck. The assistant referee who flagged the incident stated at the time that a blow had landed on top of Burr’s head and was emphatic that a red card should be the punishment. However, at Wednesday’s disciplinary hearing it was agreed that Wright’s flailing arm had only made contact with Burr’s shoulder and that this merited nothing more than a penalty.
Fortunately, in both cases the team which lost the player managed to hold on to their lead to win the match, so there was no material damage suffered as a consequence of these erroneous calls – but a 33 percent success rate when doling out the most severe possible sanction must be a concern.
Vigilance is one thing – but are officials being put under so much pressure to clamp down on foul play that they are being over-zealous?
Sending off players now and finding out what really happened at a later date does not convince anyone that the game is any cleaner or any safer than if we were to rely on a robust citing protocol. It does, however, undermine the credibility of our referees, and creates the impression that they lack empathy with the players.
Of course there will be moments when it is abundantly clear that a red card should be shown immediately, but that wasn’t the case in either of these instances. In fact, players from both teams appeared equally bemused by these particular decisions.
The last time Melrose visited Goldenacre last February, the game was played out amid a howling gale. Midway through the second half, Heriot’s were 5-3 ahead with the wind at their backs, when the assistant referee intervened to accuse home flanker Michael Maltman of punching visiting number eight Iain Moody at a messy ruck. A red card was issued and Melrose took control, with Grant Runciman scrambling over for the game’s decisive try ten minutes later.
That card was also rescinded at a later date but the damage was already done. Heriot’s ended up missing out on the play-offs by a single point – meaning that one decision could fairly be described as a season defining moment.
Heriot’s and Melrose meet again at the same venue this weekend. A dry afternoon has been forecast so a more attractive rugby spectacle than last time is hopefully on the cards. Heriot’s know they will have to be at their very best to stand a chance – but encounters between these two teams very rarely follow a predictable script.
There also promises to be a cracking West Edinburgh derby in store between Watsonians and Boroughmuir at Myreside; while Glasgow Hawks and Stirling County will really test each other at Burnbrae.
HOW IS STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
WATSONIANS v BOROUGHMUIR
VENUE: Myreside @ 3pm
Watsonians: A Chalmers; J Harries, R Hutton, J Harrison, M Bertram, E Fox (YCx1), A Harris; N Fraser, R Graham, K Whyte (YCx2), J Hodgson (YCx1), C Borthwick©, R Drummond, J Miller, E Dods. Subs: S Crombie, F Hobbis, M Fedo, W Thomson (YCx1), J A Davidson.
Boroughmuir: C Whyte; R Scott, M Brown, R Kerr, J Edmunds; G Cannie (YCx1), J Adams; R Dunbar (YCx1), J Matthews© (YCx2), D Winning, T Drennan, A Erskine, D Marek, M Walker, C Keddie. Subs: D Robertson, T Gracie, A Mncube (YCx1), J Hamilton, B Mills.
TEAM NEWS –
Watsonians: DJ Innes and Scott Mcleod drop out through injury so Jack Harrison starts at inside centre and Jason Harries of Edinburgh Rugby starts on the wing. Ally Davidson comes on to the bench.
Boroughmuir: Only one change to the starting XV with Rory Scott coming onto the wing for the injured Grant McConnell, while Blair Mills and Tom Gracie join the replacements.
KEY BATTLE: Euan Dods versus Craig Keddie
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“After conceding some disappointing scores last week at Hawks, the group have reflected on a number of inconsistencies in our game and have worked hard to address them. Massive game this week against our closest rivals. With Boroughmuir one point ahead of us in the table and seeking their third victory in four weeks, we know that only an 80 plus minute performance will be acceptable …” – Steve Lawrie (Watsonians)
“After a good win last week, it’s important to try and keep our momentum going. Never easy in a local derby. Watsonians will be looking to bounce back after a narrow defeat …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)
VERDICT: Boroughmuir skip across Colinton Road to Myreside for a huge game against their old friends and local rivals Watsonians. A genuine eight-pointer being fought out just above the bargain basement. Watsonians did okay against Glasgow Hawks last week – but shot themselves in the foot a couple of times defensively. Boroughmuir ran riot against Hawick – but they will not be playing unopposed rugby this week. Two pretty reasonable sides who like to play attractive rugby. It should be a ‘crowd pleaser’ – with home advantage maybe being the deciding factor.
HERIOT’S v MELROSE
VENUE: Goldenacre@ 3pm
Heriot’s: D Crawford; J Rae, R Jones, R Mulveena, C Robertson; R Carmichael©, T Wilson; M Bouab (YCx1), M Liness, S Cessford (YCx1), J Turley, C Marshall, M Maltman, J McLean, M Hughes. Subs: A Johnstone, S Mustard, A Sinclair, A Ball, R Kay.
Melrose: F Thomson; R McCann, N Godsmark, C Jackson©, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, B Colvine (YCx1); G Shiels, R Anderson, N Beavon, J Head, A Runciman, N Irvine-Hess, R Knott, A Miller. Subs: R Ferguson, R McLeod (YCx2), A Grieve, M McAndrew, G Wood.
Heriot’s: Tom Wilson and Robbie Mulveena return to the back division, which means Robert Kay drops to the bench and Alex Hagart leaves the squad. Ross Jones switches to outside centre, Donald Crawford moves full-back and Craig Robertson reclaims a starting berth on the wing. The only change in the pack sees Jack Turley move to the middle-row and Martin Hughes takes over the number eight jersey, which means Adam Sinclair will start on the bench.
Melrose: Neil Irvine-Hess returns at blindside flanker and Ross McCann starts on the wing after a late withdrawal last weekend due to illness. Ali Grieve comes into the squad after impressing for the Storm and will look to make an impact off the bench. Ally Miller is once again released by Edinburgh to play number eight.
KEY BATTLE: Martin Hughes versus Ally Miller
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“While the initial reaction last week was a feeling of completely underperforming, the reality was that a few individual errors gave Ayr a foothold early in the game which we just couldn’t wrestle back. Though it should be noted that Ayr were clinical when these chances arose. The challenge of the league leaders arriving at Goldenacre and defending the Bill McLaren Shield means there is no time to feel sorry for ourselves and the boys have responded well to this at training, with ownership being a key word all week. Melrose should be applauded for such an impressive start to a season. It is clear they have struck a balance between power and ambition, but the most impressive area of their game has been how clinical they have been at the correct moments. The challenge for us is to put all our good bits together and maintain them for the full game …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
“Melrose versus Heriots are usually exciting games for all supporters to watch with two teams that enjoy playing attacking rugby. Heriots have recruited well over the off season and although started the season a little slowly by their high standards, they clearly have quality players throughout their squad. Phil and his players will be desperate to bounce back after last weekends game away to Ayr and get back into the top four as soon as possible …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
VERDICT: Heriot’s were poor at Millbrae last Saturday – but Robbie Mulveena and Tom Wilson will make a big difference. They will come out hard and play well – but whether they have the firepower to derail Melrose’s winning start to the season is a moot question. Melrose are strong: good rugby players, lightning pace, well balanced and superbly organised. Whilst their biggest challenge is maybe staying focused and maintaining their high standards, Robert Chrystie knows a banana skin when he sees one, and is unlikely to send them out at Goldenacre under cooked. The smart money has to be on the Bill McLaren Shield heading back down the A7.
GLASGOW HAWKS v STIRLING COUNTY
VENUE: Burnbrae @ 3pm
Glasgow Hawks: R Beattie (YCx1); K Rowe, M New (YCX1), D Milne, S Yawayawa; R Thompson, P Boyer; S Findlay, G Stewart, G Strain, A Kirkland, K McDonald, S Leckey (YCx1), C Kerr, J Eaglesham (YCx1). Subs: C Kerr, L Skinner, K Beattie, L Brims, R Houliston.
Stirling County: L Trotter; K Gossman, E McGarvie, L Bonar, N Matawalu; J Hope©, P Jericevich (YCx1); R Cheis (YCx1), R Kennedy, G Holborn, J Beech, H Burr, L Wynne, S Macdonald, R Leishman (YCx1). Subs: M Emmison, M MacDonald, J Pow, H Henderson, R Curle.
TEAM NEWS –
Glasgow Hawks: Skipper Brendan McGroarty is away with work so Mark New gets a start at outside centre. Paddy Boyer replaces George Horne, who has not been released by Glasgow Warriors, at scrum-half. Liam Brims and Robbie Houlsiton are on the bench after impressing for the 2nd XV.
Stirling County: The most notable selection this week is the release of Glasgow Warriors and Fijian international Niko Matawalu. Logan Bonar starts at 12 for the unavailable Graham Gilliland, and Ross Curle returns to the squad as a replacement. Joe Beech starts in the second-row in place of Edinburgh pro Callum Hunter-Hill, Gary Holborn returns at tight-head prop after performing well for the 2nd XV, and Lewis Wynne is once again released by Glasgow Warriors to play ay blindside flanker. Teenage number eight Harry Henderson is set to make his first appearance of the season off the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Kyle Rowe versus Niko Matawala
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“After almost experiencing déjà vu last week we managed to dig deep and stop the Watsonians comeback and score a try late on to secure a bonus point win. That game has given us lots to work on and all players and coaches have worked really hard to make sure we are as best prepared for the weekend as possible. Stirling have had a really positive start to the season and it looks like some really smart summer recruits have settled in well and are starting to hit their straps. They have also had some real x-factor to their ranks with the exciting addition of Niko Matawalu, who will no doubt entertain the crowd at Burnbrae this week …” – Fin Gillies (Glasgow Hawks)
“We believe we have played some strong attacking rugby over the past three games, scoring 12 tries, so it has been frustrating to only pick up 3 league points. We know where we must improve and after a strong week of training we are prepared to perform against a Glasgow Hawks side that will have regained confidence from their win against Watsonians last weekend …” – Peter Jericevich (Stirling Count)
VERDICT: Loads of talent but two frustratingly inconsistent teams playing what could well be a crucial match in the battle for the fourth play-off spot. Hawks have struggled to stay focused for the full 80 minutes. Stirling have been slow starters. Both have struggled with their penalty count and suffered the odd defensive aberration. A difficult game to call – with home advantage now a distant memory for Hawks, it could turn on a sixpence – and Niko Matawalu might just make the difference.
HAWICK v AYR
VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 3pm
Hawick: A Weir; G Munro, G Johnstone, D Buckley (YCx1), L Ferguson (YCx1); L Armstrong, G Cottrell; S Muir, M Carryer, N Little, C Hamilton, D Redpath, G Graham (YCx2), S Graham, B McNeil (YCx1). Subs: F Renwick, R Sutherland, D Lowrie, K Davies, K Brunton.
Ayr: G Anderson (YCx1); R Nairn, S Lyle, S McDowall, C Gossman; F Climo (YCx1), H Warr; R Grant, L Anderson, S Longwell, J Agnew (YCx1), S Sutherland (YCx1), T Spinks, G Stokes, P McCallum©. Subs: S Collier, G Hunter (YCx1), M Badenhorst, B Thomson, D McCluskey.
TEAM NEWS –
Ayr: Glasgow Warriors prop Ryan Grant and hooker Lewis Anderson return to the starting XV, while Scott Sutherland is back from injury to start in the second-row. An unchanged backline after a clinical outing last week, and Danny McCluskey returns from injury to join the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Dom Buckley versus Stafford McDowall
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“Last week was our best performance of the season to date and the players took their opportunities well. Hawick will be hurting after their start to the season and with new management in charge we expect to see a resurgence from their players who will be out to impress this weekend. We will need to raise our performance again in order to build on the momentum that we have been generating in recent weeks so that we can get a result at Mansfield Park …” – Calum Forrester (Ayr).
VERDICT: The Mansfield Park mystique is now well gone – and anything short of a bonus point win would be a huge surprise and a major disappointment for Ayr. If Hawick fall off their tackles the way they did against Boroughmuir, Stafford McDowall will rip them to shreds.
MARR v CURRIE CHIEFTAINS
VENUE: Fullarton Park @ 3pm
Marr: D Steele; T Buchanan, R Dalgleish, C Bickerstaff, T Steven; C Kolarik (YCx1), K Barreto; G Jackson, J Malcolm (YCx1), W Farquhar, E Bulger (YCx1), C Craig, B Johnston, M Pearce, R Miller. Subs used: S Adair, C Nisbet, R Jackson, G Ness, S Bickerstaff.
Currie Chieftains: B Robbins (YCx1); R Smith, H Elms, R Nelson©, C Gray; J Forbes, M O’Neil; J Cox, C Mackintosh, A McWilliam, V Wright (YCx1), M Vernel, S Ainslie, T Gordon, S McGinley. Subs: C Wilson, K Burney, R Davies, C Smith, G Faulds.
TEAM NEWS –
Currie Chieftains: Luke Crosbie and Charlie Shiel remain with Edinburgh while Adam Hastings returns to Glasgow Warriors, so Matt O’Neil start at scrum-half and Jamie Forbes reverts to stand-off. Andrew McWilliam returns from injury at at tight-head prop after injury and Vince Wright’s red card has been expunged so he retains his slot in the second-row as part of an unchanged back five.
KEY BATTLE: Ross Miller versus Scott McGinley
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“Last week’s encounter versus Stirling was almost the exact opposite to our match versus Hawks the week before – comfortable at half-time but then let a 20-point lead evaporate. Fortunately, we somehow pulled something out of the bag to hold on to the victory. I guess the sign of a good team is being able to win in different ways! This week we are excited by the prospect of going away from home against a Marr side who rarely lose at Fullarton. I’m sure they will be glad to be back home after a tough day out versus Melrose last weekend, and will see this match as an opportunity to get their fine start to the season back on track. We know they are a different beast at home, results show its one of the toughest places to go and get a result, but we are looking forward to the challenge …” – Ben Cairns (Currie Chieftains).
VERDICT: The continued absence of Charlie Shiel (away for the third consecutive week as back-up for Edinburgh without even making the bench) is an ongoing problem for Currie Chieftains – but the rescinding of Vince Wright’s red card is good news. On paper, the visitors have to be favourites – but the game will not be played on paper. It is at Fullarton Park with its tight pitch and boisterous crowd – where Marr have already beaten Heriots, drawn with Watsonians and pushed Ayr hard. Fore-warned is fore-armed and the Chieftains know they will need to front up.
- Centrally contracted professional players are in bold
- YC denotes yellow cards received