BT Premiership: Round seven preview – runners, riders and verdict

Craig Gossman of Ayr and Liam Steele of Heriot's faced each other in the BT Premiership play-off grand Final two seasons ago, and will meet again at millbrae this afternoon. Image: David Gibson/Fotosport - www.fotosportuk.photoshelter.com

THERE has been no love lost between Ayr and Heriot’s in recent years and after slow starts both teams have picked up serious momentum coming into this match, with the hosts having won their last three games on the bounce  and the visitors on a four game winning roll – so expect a thunderous clash between two of the most powerful packs in the league. But these sides like to play a bit of rugby as well.

Two more play-off contenders in Currie Chieftains and Stirling County meet at Malleny Park.

Wasonians could sneak into that group of teams vying for a top four finish if they get a result away to a Glasgow Hawks side reeling after surrendering a 27-point lead last week. Fin Gillies’ team is better than that catastrophic second-half performance against the Chieftains, but they will under pressure to prove that this week.

A huge match is in store for second bottom  Boroughmuir when they face basement boys Hawick, knowing that a big win could take them nine points clear of the automatic drop zone.

Melrose will be looking to make it seven from seven at home to Marr.

HOW IT STANDS

 THE LOWDOWN –

CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v STIRLING COUNTY

VENUE: Malleny Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Currie Chieftains: B Robbins (YCx1); R Smith, H Elms, R Nelson©, C Gray; A Hastings, J Forbes; J Cox, C Mackintosh, D Ferguson, V Wright (YCx1), M Vernel, S Ainslie, T Gordon, S McGinley. Subs: C Wilson, K Burney, G Carson, R Davies, M O’Neil.

Stirling County:  C Robertson; K Gossman, E McGarvie, G Gilliland, L Trotter; J Hope©, R Swan; R Cheis (YCx1), R Kennedy, G Holborn, C Hunter-Hill (YCx1), H Burr, L Wynne, S Macdonald, R Leishman (YCx1). Subs: M Emmison, M McDonald, J Pow, J Beech, L Bonar.

TEAM NEWS –

Currie Chieftains: This is the first instance this season of any club in the league managing to field an unchanged squad on consecutive weekends. Adam Hastings is released once more by Glasgow Warriors to start at stand-off, while Luke Crosbie and Charlie Shiel are still with Edinburgh Rugby.

Stirling County: One change up front, with Shaun Macdonald earning a start at seven after making a positive impact from the bench in the last two games, so Lewis Wynne shifts to blindside flanker, Hamilton Burr returns to the second-row row and Joe Beech joins the replacements.  Captain Jonny Hope moves from full-back to stand-off, with Craig Robertson taking over the number 15 jersey. Graham Gilliland and Kerr Gossman return from injury to play inside centre and right wing respectively.

KEY BATTLE: Tom Gordon versus Shaun Macdonald

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We will aim to start better this weekend but the belief and resilience to come back form 27-0 down last week was very pleasing. We keep faith in the same squad and hope we start off where we left off last time out. Stirling have had a good start to the season and got closer to Melrose last week than most have managed so far, this season. Whilst they are missing a few players to injury I am sure they will be buoyed by their pro release this week and we know they will be targeting this match to push back into the top four. Another match with a lot of exciting young talent on show and we hope the Malleny faithful come out again to get behind the boys …” – Ben Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“The Chieftains will take confidence from their second-half comeback against Glasgow Hawks last week and rightly so, showing they have real belief in their squad. This will be a tough game at Malleny Park, but we have to back ourselves, and after a strong week of training we are confident we are prepared to perform … –  Peter Jericevich (Stirling County)

VERDICT: Currie Chieftains and Stirling County are two well matched clubs in terms of resources, culture and community of spirit. Matches between them are usually tight, and this will be no different – with play-off aspirations very much on the line. Last week’s  ‘Great Escape’ against Hawks starred Adam Hastings rather than Steve McQueen and Chieftains  will be hoping more of the same will help them ‘kick-on’. Stirling gave it their best shot against Melrose but it  was not quite enough – with their disappointment compounded by the consequent drop of four league places from second to sixth. Both sides have tended to start games lethargically. Currie need to get themselves on the front foot early. Stirling need to work hard on their defence and discipline

Chieftains should just about sneak it. But it will be close – and it will not be dull – that is for sure.

 

Purvis Marquees support Currie Chieftains

AYR v HERIOT’S

VENUE: Millbrae @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Ayr: G Anderson (YCx1); R Nairn, S Lyle, S McDowall, C Gossman; F Climo (YCx1), H Warr; G Hunter (YCx1), P MacArthur, S Longwell, M Badenhorst, J Agnew, T Spinks, G Stokes, P McCallum©. Subs: L Anderson, A Prentice, B Macpherson, P Dewhirst, B Thomson.

Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, L Steele, R Kay, J Rae; R Carmichael©, A Ball; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Maltman, J McLean, J Turley. Subs: A Johnstone, S Mustard, M Hughes, A Hagart, C Robertson.

TEAM NEWS –

Ayr: Danny McCluskey misses out through injury so Scott Lyle moves to outside centre, where he will line up alongside Scotland Under-20 star Stafford McDowall, while Robbie Nairn returns from illness to make his first start for the club on the wing. Frazier Climo moves back to stand-off and Paddy Dewhirst drops to the bench. Pat MacArthur is released by Glasgow Warriors to start at hooker. Blair Macpherson returns from injury to take a spot on the bench alongside, Brandon Thomson who is also released by the Warriors.

Heriot’s: Michael Liness is back at hooker after the red card he received against Boroughmuir was rescinded.Martin Bouab returns at loose-head having made way last week to accommodate Edinburgh pro Murray McCallum, and Jack Turley takes over the number eight jersey at the expense of Martin Hughes, who moves to the bench. Tom Wilson has not yet recovered from the ankle knock he picked up last week so Alex Ball gets a start at scrum-half; while Robert Kay, John Rae and Liam Steele come into the starting back-line having impressed with the 2nd‘XV. Captain Rory Carmichael moves into stand-off with Stuart Edwards unavailable.

KEY BATTLE: Pete McCallum versus Jack Turley

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“Heriot’s come to Millbrae on a good run of form having won their last four games in a row. Matches between the two clubs have been tight affairs in recent years and we expect another battle again this weekend …” – Calum Forrester (Ayr).

“We are hoping the confidence we have gained from our recent victories will allow us to compete at the required level at the home of last year’s Champions. Ayr have had a similar start to the season as ourselves, however, since the return of George Hunter and Steven Longwell to the starting XV they now look like they are coming nicely to the boil.

With the weather turning a bit wet in the west recently it may well become a war of attrition down at Millbrae. This means we will have to be clinical with any chances that arise. While at the same time having to defend well against the Ayr onslaught that will undoubtedly be waiting for us. A game for the purists perhaps …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s).

VERDICT: Huge game for both clubs in terms of establishing their championship credentials. Ayr have a much more settled look about them with Frazier Climo back at fly-half and Tommy Spinks in the back-row. Heriots’ back division, on the other hand, has been decimated by injury and unavailability – Robbie Mulveena, Craig Robertson, Stuart Edwards and Tom Wilson all posted missing.

Current form and past results suggest that it will be tight – but home advantage, absent friends and Scott Lyle’s goal kicking should tip the balance Ayr’s way.

 

GLASGOW HAWKS v WATSONIANS

VENUE: New Anniesland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Glasgow Hawks: R Beattie (YCx1); K Rowe, B McGroarty©, D Milne, E Oag; R Thompson, G Horne (YCx1); S Findlay, G Stewart, G Strain, A Kirkland, K McDonald, S Leckey (YCx1), M Smith (YCx1), J Eaglesham (YCx1). Subs: C Kerr, L Skinner, B Alain’uese, S Yawayawa, P Boyer.

Watsonians: A Chalmers; M Bertram, R Hutton, D Innes, S McLeod, E Fox, 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 Harrison.

TEAM NEWS –

Glasgow Hawks: Matt Smith replaces fellow Glasgow pro Matt Fagerson at open-side flanker, Grant Stewart is back from injury to take over from Cammy Fenton at hooker, and Gary Strain comes in at tight-head for Lewis Skinner. In the backs, Davie Milne replaces Jack Steele at inside centre and Erland Oag comes onto the wing, with Sam Yawayawa dropping to the bench. Glasgow pro Brian Alain’uese should make a big impact as a replacement.

Watsonians: Ali Harris and Rory Drummond start after making valuable contributions off the bench against Hawick. Finn Hobbis, Sean Crombie and Jack Harrison come onto the bench, with Nathan Borel dropping to the 2nd XV for some more game time.

KEY BATTLE: Kiran McDonald versus Craig Borthwick

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“After a really bizarre game last week, where we played some excellent rugby for 40 minutes then didn’t show up for the second half, we have had to have a look at what has been going wrong with our second half performances this year, and worked really hard as a squad this week to make sure that it doesn’t happen again this week. In stark contrast to ourselves, Watsonian’s had a huge second half performance last week and their bench added some real impetus after the break. The league, without Melrose, is pretty open this year and we know that we cannot afford to slip up again and must make sure that we keep 15 players on the pitch …” – Fin Gillies (Hawks).

“We were pleased to gain an extremely important bonus point win at Hawick last week. Following a lacklustre first half, we showed far more conviction and belief in the second and ultimately did enough in the end. The second half performance is something that we have looked to build on at training this week and we know that we will need to play better for longer as we aim to become a more robust outfit. Hawks are a side that boast a good deal of professional experience and we know that we will need to match their physicality in order to stand a chance …” – Stevie Lawrie (Watsonians)

VERDICT: Finn Gillies will have had to work hard this week to get rid of the big black dog hanging around Anniesland after Saturday’s second half capitulation to Currie Chieftains –aware, no doubt, that Hawks have been ahead at half time in each of their six Premiership games (including against Melrose) this season – yet only won three. Watsonians bit the bullet when they needed to at Mansfield and came good. They are beginning to exude more confidence and starting to play to their potential.

Hawks benefit (4-0) from the imbalance in this weeks pro-release (Glasgow 10 / Edinburgh 2) but it will be down to attitude – where Watsonians might just have an edge.

 

BOROUGHMUIR v HAWICK

VENUE: Meggetland @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Boroughmuir: C Whyte; G McConnell, M Brown, R Kerr, J Edmunds; G Cannie (YCx1), J Adams; R Dunbar (YCx1), J Matthews (YCx1), D Winning, T Drennan, A Erskine, D Marek, M Walker, C Keddie. Subs: C Davies, D Robertson, A Mncube (YCx1), J Hamilton, R Scott.

Hawick: A Weir; L Wooley, G Johnstone, D Buckley (YCx1), L Ferguson (YCx1); D McCracken, G Cottrell; S Muir, F Renwick, N Little, R Gibson, D Redpath, G Graham (YCx2), S Graham, B McNeil. Subs: M Carryer, K Bryce, D Lowrie, K Davies, K Brunton.

Boroughmuir: Damian Hoyland and Lewis Cramichael are not released by Edinburgh so Grant McConnell and Archie Erskine start on the wing and in the second-row, respectively. Michael Brown comes in for Mark Hare in the centre. Dan Marek starts at blinside flanker and Aubrey Mncube drops to the bench. Greg Cannie and Ciarain Whyte swap number ten and number 15 jerseys.

KEY BATTLE: Dalton Redpath versus Archie Erskine

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

A real eight-pointer, with both teams desperate for a win. We have only been working on basics this week, looking to keep things simple …” –  Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)

VERDICT: If they can reduce the silly errors which have thwarted them all season, Boroughmuir should have enough in the tank, even without their pros, to come out top in this relegation dog fight – and, at the same time retain, the Hugh McMaster Trophy.

Eastern BMW are proud to support Boroughmuir Rugby

MELROSE v MARR

VENUE: The Greenyards @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Melrose: F Thomson; R McCann, N Godsmark, C Jackson©, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, B Colvine (YCx1); D Elkington, R Anderson, N Beavon, J Head, A Runciman, I Moody, R Knott, A Miller. Subs: R Ferguson, G Shiells, N Irvine-Hess, M McAndrew, G Wood.

Marr:  D Steele; T Buchanan, R Dalgleish, C Bickerstaff, T Steven; C Kolarik (YCx1), K Barreto; G Jackson, J Malcolm, W Farquhar, E Bulger (YCx1), G Peterson (YCx1), M Pearce, A Johnston (YCx2), F Grant. Subs used: S Adair, C Nisbet,R Jackson, G Ness, M Freydell

TEAM NEWS –

Melrose:  Ally Miller is released by Edinburgh Rugby and will look to carry on his outstanding form of last weekend. Experienced scrum-half Bruce Colvine gets a well deserved start. Dan Elkington and Ruaridh Knott come into the starting team with Grant Shiells and Neil Irvine-Hess dropping to the bench.  

KEY BATTLE: Craig Jackson versus Conor Bickerstaff

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“A large crowd is expected for Melrose Rugby’s 140th birthday this weekend and the players are determined to put in a high quality performance. We will be looking to improve on last Saturday’s match and be more consistent over the full 80 minutes …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)

VERDICT: Well though Marr have adapted to the demands of Premiership rugby, it is difficult to foresee anything other than a comfortable home win – particularly if Melrose can mark their historic landmark with the ‘complete game’ Robert Chrystie is striving toward.

 

  • Centrally contracted professional players are in bold
  • YC denotes yellow cards received
About David Barnes 2973 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.