THE top two clash at Bridgehaugh this Saturday afternoon when Stirling County welcome pace-setters Melrose to their patch. Regardless of what happens in this match, the Borderers’ place at the summit of the table is assured as they are currently eight points clear. However, County will be very aware that they can tumble from second to sixth if results go against them – it is that tight amongst the chasing pack.
Boroughmuir picked up a morale boosting win last weekend and will look to carry that long sought-after momentum into a tough clash away to Heriot’s, knowing that a positive outcome will be a significant step towards extricating themselves from the relegation dog-fight, and also allow them to get their hands on the Bill McLaren Shield. So there is plenty at stake in what is shaping up to be a gripping Edinburgh derby.
And it could be a cracker at Malleny Park, too, where both Currie Chieftains and Glasgow Hawks will strive to reconnect with the mojo they exhibited earlier in the campaign but which has drifted slightly in recent weeks.
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
STIRLING COUNTY v MELROSE
VENUE: BrIdgehaugh @ 3pm
Stirling County: J Hope©; K Gossman, E McGarvie, L Bonar, L Trotter; P Jericevich, R Swan; R Cheis (YCx1), R Kennedy, G Holborn, C Hunter-Hill (YCx1), J Beech, H Burr, L Wynne, R Leishman (YCx1). Subs: M Emmison, M McDonald, J Pow, S MacDonald, C Robertson.
Melrose: F Thomson; R McCann, N Godsmark, C Jackson©, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, M McAndrew; G Shiells, R Anderson, R McLeod (YCx2), J Head, A Runciman, I Moody, N Irvine-Hess, A Miller. Subs: R Ferguson, N Beavon, R Knott, B Colvine (YCx1), G Wood.
TEAM NEWS –
Stirling County: Injuries to centres Ross Curle and Graham Gilliland has stretched backline resources, meaning Ewan Macgarvie gets his shot in the number 13 jersey after impressing for the 2nd XV, while Logan Bonar also comes back into the starting line up. The pack is unchanged.
Melrose: Only one change to the side which dismantled Currie Chieftains last weekend, with Sam Pequeur returning on the wing after missing last week through injury, so youngster Gavin Wood drops to the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Lewis Wynne versus Neil Irvine-Hess
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Melrose have set the pace so far in the Premiership and like us have managed to pick up a try bonus point in each game. With this in mind, we have to ensure that our defensive game is stronger than it has been. Defence starts our attack, so the better we defend the more ball we will have to play with …” – Peter Jericevich (Stirling County)
“Stirling at Bridgehaugh is always a hugely challenging fixture especially with the start they have had this season. The Stirling pack are clearly well organised and they have some exciting individuals in their backline. We are excited to go on the road this weekend and play against the second placed team in the league …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
VERDICT: Stirling let themselves down with a wayward performance and a poor result down at Ayr last week – and they need to come back hard. But they have injury problems — and, in truth, it is difficult to see them getting any change out of this very self-assured and convincing Melrose team, even with home advantage.
‘Another day – another dollar’ at the top of the league.
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v GLASGOW HAWKS
VENUE: Malleny [email protected] 3pm
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.
Glasgow Hawks: R Beattie; K Rowe, B McGroarty©, J Steele, S Yawayawa; R Thompson, G Horne (YCx1); S Findlay, C Fenton, L Skinner, A Kirkland, K McDonald, S Leckey, M Fagerson, J Eaglesham (YCx1). Subs: C Kerr, G Strain, C Brodie, D Milne, P Boyer.
TEAM NEWS –
Currie Chieftains: John Cox and Duncan Ferguson come into the starting front-row after steadying the ship off the bench against Melrose last week. With Luke Crosbie called into the Edinburgh squad, Stephen Ainslie gets the nod at blindside; and Scott McGinley switches from the bench to number eight, while Rhys Davies moves the other way. Scrum-half Charlie Shiel is rested by Edinburgh so Jamie Forbes moves inwards from stand-off and Adam Hastings is released by Glasgow Warriors to start his comeback from injury at stand-off.
Glasgow Hawks: Kiran McDonald returns from a hip injury to link up with Andy Kirkland in the second-row, and Cammy Fenton is released by Edinburgh to replace the injured Grant Stewart. Callum Kerr is extremely unlucky not to be starting after his man-of-the-match performance last week but the availability of Matt Fagerson provides serious x-factor in the back row.
KEY BATTLE: Harvey Elms versus Brendan McGroarty
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“A tough day at the office last weekend at The Greenyards. We simply were not good enough against the form team in the league. The players understand we have been the architects of our own downfall in our last two outings and we have worked hard this week on how we can improve the consistency of our performance. Hawks have had a solid start to the season with some excellent performances, and they will be buoyed by the first year pros they have available to them this weekend, so we know we will have to bring a much improved performance if we are to get our campaign back on track …” – Ben Cairns (Currie)
“The Chieftains had a tough game against Melrose last week and we know from experience how difficult a task it is to put in a performance that reflects your teams’ abilities at The Greenyards. They have been in fine form this season and boast an extremely exciting young side with the ability and confidence to strike from anywhere on the pitch …” – Fin Gillies (Glasgow Hawks)
VERDICT: Tough questions need to be asked in both dressing rooms. Do Currie Chieftains have the bone to come back strong from last week’s seven try mauling at the Greenyards? Can Glasgow Hawks screw the nut, stick to the game plan, and cut out their mindless penalties?
Interesting selection for Currie Chieftains at half-back with Jamie Forbes moving to scrum-half and Adam Hastings coming in at fly half.
The return of the three pros to the Glasgow Hawks pack will hopefully help tighten up the overall discipline.
It could go either way – there are good players on both sides – which of them will step up to the plate?
HERIOT’S v BOROUGHMUIR
VENUE: Goldenacre @ 3pm
Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, R Mulveena, R Carmichael©, C Robertson; S Edwards (YCx1), T Wilson; S Cessford, M Liness, M McCallum, C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Maltman, J McLean, M Hughes. Subs: A Johnstone, M Bouab (YCx1), C Smith, A Bell, J Rasolea.
Boroughmuir: G Cannie; D Hoyland, R Kerr, M Hare (YCx1), J Edmunds; C Whyte, J Adams; R Dunbar (YCx1), J Matthews (YCx1), D Winning, T Drennan, L Carmichael (YCx2), A Mncube (YCx1), M Walker, C Keddie. Subs: C Davies, D Robertson, D Marek, J Hamilton, G McConnell.
TEAM NEWS –
Heriot’s: Michael Maltman returns from injury which works well because Jack Turley is at a wedding. Edinburgh pro Murray McCallum is at tightwad prop so Struan Cessford swaps side and Martin Bouab drops to the bench. Junior Rasolea – another Edinburgh pro – replaces Robert Kay as a replacement.
Boroughmuir: The only change to last week’s 20-man squad which defeated Marr is the return of Edinburgh pro Lewis Carmichael in the second-row, which means Dan Marek drops to the bench and John Toxler misses out.
KEY BATTLE: Adam Sinclair versus Lewis Carmichael
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Back-to-back weekends of local derbies mean no stepping off for the squad. After putting together a couple of decent performances, the lads are keen to maintain the momentum this weekend. However, we will be facing a Boroughmuir squad buoyed by last weekend’s win. Looking at their results it would appear they have been competitive in each game which means we cannot afford to be complacent. This is made easier with them being city rivals, but also by the fact they have a host of very good players, who, if allowed can really hurt any opposition …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
“Good to get a win last week, players have trained with more of a smile on their face. But they know this is another tough game. We have been working on getting the basics right and getting our discipline right …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)
VERDICT: Heriots’ second stage defence of the Bill McLaren Shield against Boroughmuir at Goldenacre should be good box office – both clubs like to play rugby.
The home team’s shape and mindset is evolving week by week – and Stuart Edwards’ drop goal against Watsonians last Friday night was sheer class.
Chris Laidlaw’s continuing absence is a problem for Boroughmuir – but Lewis Carmichael is a big player for them. As Peter Wright says ‘Basics and discipline’.
Heriots have to be favourites – but Boroughmuir did beat Marr – and they did not.
MARR v AYR
VENUE: Fullarton Park @ 3pm
Marr: D Steele; T Buchanan, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff, R Dalgleish; C Sturgeon (YCx1), K Barreto; G Jackson, S Adair, W Farquhar, G Peterson (YCx1), E Bulger (YCx1), M Pearce, A Johnston (YCx1), R Miller. Subs used: O Rossi, C Nisbet F Grant, K Hatherall, C Kolarik (YCx1).
Ayr: G Anderson; S Lyle, D McCluskey, F Climo (YCx1), C Gossman; P Dewhirst, H Warr; G Hunter (YCx1), L Anderson, S Longwell, T Spinks, J Agnew, B Macpherson, G Stokes, P McCallum©. Subs: D Young, R Grant, M Badenhorst, R Nairn, J Bova.
TEAM NEWS –
Ayr: Robbie Smith and Rob McAlpine miss out through injury and Stafford McDowell is ill. Tommy Spinks – who was Ayr’s outstanding player during their tricky start to the season – returns from a hamstring injury to play second-row as opposed to his more usual slot at flanker, and will partner Jonny Agnew. Lewis Anderson and Paddy Dewhirst start following recent strong outings from the bench.
KEY BATTLE: William Farquhar versus George Hunter
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“Marr have performed extremely well since arriving in the BT Premiership and were unlucky not to come away with a win at Boroughmuir last weekend. The players are relishing the challenge of being involved in the first Ayrshire derby in BT Premiership history and are looking forward to playing in front of what should be a large and vocal crowd this weekend. We are under no illusion as to how difficult the task will be this Saturday as we head to Fullarton to seek a victory against a Marr side desperate to preserve their proud home record …” – Calum Forrester (Ayr).
VERDICT: Ayr head up the coast to quell the noisy neighbours in a game president Billy McHarg definitely will not want to lose. The players will share that sentiment and – despite injuries and illness forcing them to deploy Frazier Climo at centre and Tommy Spinks in the second row – they are odds-on to oblige. Any other outcome would be cataclysmic!
HAWICK v WATSONIANS
VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 3pm
Hawick: L Armstrong; R McKean, G Johnstone, D Buckley (YCx1), L Ferguson (YCx1); A Weir, G Cottrell; S Muir, F Renwick, N Little, D Lowrie, D Redpath, G Graham (YCx2), R Gibson, S Graham. Subs: M Carryer, M Landels, K Bryce, K Davies, K Brunton.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; J Harries, R Hutton, D Innes, S McLeod, E Fox, W Thomson (YCx1); N Fraser, N Cochrane, K Whyte (YCx2), J Hodgson, C Borthwick©, M Fedo, J Miller, E Dods. Subs: R Graham, N Borel, R Drummond, A Harris, C Dean.
TEAM NEWS –
Watsonians: Edinburgh pro Neil Cochrane, who comes in at hooker, will have no hassle learning the calls given that he coaches at Myreside on Turesday and Thursday. Jason Harries and Chris Dean, who are also full-time at Edinburgh, start on the wing and the bench respectively. Andrew Chalmers reverts to full-back so that fit again Ewan Fox can return at stand-off.
KEY BATTLE: Gary Johnstone versus Rory Hutton
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“A disappointing last 20 minutes saw us lose out last week to a Heriots team that simply applied pressure in better areas of the pitch than we did. Despite the result not going our way, the squad have focussed on the many positives from the performance as we look to develop a more consistent edge.Hawick will be disappointed they didn’t take more from the game against Hawks last week given that they dominated large parts. Their lineout has been a clear strength this year, as is their ability to offload out the tackle …” – Stevie Lawrie (Watsonians).
VERDICT: A game Watsonians could and should win – if they have the bottle for it.
- Centrally contracted professional players are in bold
- YC denotes yellow cards received