WATSONIANS once again provided the BT Premiership with the welcome novelty of Friday night rugby, and with league leaders Melrose providing the opposition this evening, some excellent entertainment could be in store for anyone willing to make the effort to see some live action.
What a difference a few months make. Watsonians came a distant second when they lost 54-22 at The Greenyards in round one of this BT Premiership campaign, but will expect this game to be a lot tighter after building up an impressive head of steam when taking Ayr apart last weekend.
Then, on Saturday, Stirling County take-on Heriot’s at Bridgehaugh in a match which could have big implications in the race to make the play-offs; while Ayr and Boroughmuir will both be desperate to get their seasons on track after flattering to deceive during the first half of the campaign.
Meanwhile, Currie Chieftains are without scrum-half Charlie Shiel for the fifth week in a row as he continues to provide cover for Edinburgh as 24th man, which is an awful lot of rugby weekends for a 19-year-old prospect to miss.
Glasgow Hawks will look to carry on from where they left-off last week when they head down to Marr.
HOW IT STANDS –
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS –
WATSONIANS v MELROSE
VENUE: Myreside @ 7.30pm
Watsonians: A Chalmers; J Harries, R Hutton, D Innes, A Davidson; E Fox (YCx1), A Harris; N Fraser, R Graham, K Whyte (YCx2), J Hodgson (YC x1), C Borthwick©, R Drummond, J Miller, E Dods. Subs: S Crombie, N Borel, M Fedo, W Thomson (YCx1), J Harrison.
Melrose: F Thomson; R McCann, N Godsmark, C Jackson©, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, M McAndrew; G Shiels, R Anderson, N Beavon, I Moody, J Head, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman (YCx1), A Miller. Subs: R Ferguson, R McLeod (YCx2), A Runciman (YCx1), B Colvine (YCx1), G Taylor.
TEAM NEWS –
Watsonians: Jason Harries is released by Edinburgh Rugby and comes straight into the team, with Keith Young being the unfortunate one to miss out. Apart from that, it is the same again after last weekend’s impressive win at Ayr.
Melrose: Captain Grant Runciman starts at open-side flaker after fully recovering from injury and Russel Anderson also returns to start at hooker. The exciting three-quarter triumvirate of Ross McCann, Sam Pecqueur and Nyle Godsmark all return after representing Scotland 7’s last weekend in South Africa.
KEY BATTLE: Rory Hutton versus Nyle Godsmark
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“It was pleasing to get the result at Ayr last week. The team worked hard and got the result they ultimately deserved. We have continued to work hard on areas that need addressed as we are still not as consistent as we would like in some areas. We look forward to welcoming Melrose to Myreside this Friday night who have smashed all before them so far. We have prepared well at training this week knowing that only our best effort and high levels of accuracy will be enough to obtain the performance we desire. With the pre match dinner supporting the Doddie Weir 5 Trust, we hope for a good turnout in what should be an entertaining match …” – Steve Lawrie (Watsonians)
“Watsonians are on a role now and this is not a surprise when you look at the quality players they have assembled. Stevie has clearly imposed his playing style and they have improved immensely since the start of the season. We are under no illusions as to the challenges this fixture presents and are looking forward to heading up to Myreside to challenge ourselves …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
VERDICT: This should be a cracker.
Melrose have been on fire at times this season and their record of nine straight bonus point wins is unprecedented in the premiership – yet, by their own demanding standards, they have maybe been somewhat lacklustre in their last couple of games against Heriot’s and Hawick. They do, however, have five big players coming back into the line-up.
Watsonians have good players and Stevie Lawrie is nurturing them effectively. If they can rev up their game as determinedly as they did at Ayr last week, then they must have a chance at home against Melrose under their lights – but they would all need to play at the apogee of their game, with Rory Drummond and Euan Dodds challenging Melrose’s physicality all over the park.
The smart money has to stay with Melrose – but a sport might think Watsonians are worth a punt.
WHEN SATURDAY COMES –
STIRLING COUNTY v HERIOT’S
VENUE: Bridgehaugh @ 3pm
Stirling County: C Robertson; L Trotter, R Curle, G Gilliland (YCx1), K Gossman; J Hope©, R Swan; R Chies (YCx1), R Kennedy, G Holborn (YCx1), C Hunter-Hill (YCx2), J Beech, H Burr, S MacDonald, R Leishman (YCx1). Subs: M Emmison, M Macdonald, J Pow, H Henderson, M Lamb (YCx2).
Heriot’s: C Simpson; C Robertson, R Jones, R Kay, D Van Der Merwe; R Carmichael©, T Wilson; G Cameron, M Liness, S Cessford (YCx2), C Marshall, J Turley, M Maltman, J McLean, M Hughes. Subs: S Mustard, M Bouab (YCx1), S Dewar, A Ball, S Edwards (YCx1).
TEAM NEWS –
Stirling County: Remy Chies, Shaun Macdonald and Ruairidh Swan start after impressing as replacements last weekend. Craig Robertson, Harry Henderson and Matt Lamb return to the squad. Callum Hunter Hill is once again released from Edinburgh Rugby.
Heriot’s: Gavin Cameron makes his first start of the season at loose-head prop, and Jack McLean returns at openside. Robbie Mulveena drops out through injury which sees Ross Jones move to outside centre, Charlie Simpson shift to full-back and Edinburgh pro Duhan Van Der Merve start on the wing.
KEY BATTLE: Callum Hunter-Hill versus Jack Turley
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“As we move in to the second round of league games, we are pleased with the good momentum that we have built over the past couple of weeks and are determined to kick on again this Saturday with the visit of Heriots. A strong second half at Goldenacre in early September ensured we came out on top in a close match, but this weekend we will have to be on top of our game for the full 80 minutes …” – Peter Jericevich (Stirling County)
“The boys were delighted to get the win last weekend at Currie after digging deep to see it through. We now need to retain momentum against another one of the teams in the top four mix. With it being the final game before the mini-break, a result here would set the squad up well when refocusing for the December set of fixtures, this means a real focus in the areas where we failed in game one and a continuance of the good stuff we have done recently …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
VERDICT: A difficult one to call – two good teams – both with a predilection for losing their way. Jack McLean will spark things up for Heriots – but they will miss Robbie Mulveena.
Stirling County need to cut down on the needless penalties.
Home advantage might be the deciding factor.
AYR v BOROUGHMUIR
VENUE: Millbrae @ 3pm
Ayr: G Anderson (YCx1); R Nairn, D McCluskey, S McDowall, C Gossman; S Lyle, H Warr; R Hislop, L Anderson, S Longwell, B Macpherson, S Sutherland (YCx2), T Spinks, G Stokes, P McCallum© (YCx1). Subs: D Young, A Prentice, M Badenhorst, P Dewhirst, S Graham.
Boroughmuir: C Whyte (YCx1); G McConnell, M Brown, R Kerr, J Edmunds; G Cannie (YCx1), J Adams; R Dunbar (YCx1), J Matthews (YCx3), D Winning, F Field, A Erskine, D Marek, T Drennan, C Keddie. Subs: A Nethery, D Robertson, C Atkinson, E McKirdy, M Hare (YCx1).
TEAM NEWS –
Ayr: Steven Longwell returns at tight-head and he is joined in the front-row by loose-head Robin Hislop who starts in place of George Hunter who misses out through injury. Blair Macpherson starts in the second-row for the injured Jonathan Agnew. Academy prospects Stafford McDowall and Robbie Nairn are back from Glasgow Warriors and Scotland 7s duty repectively. Grant Anderson starts at full-back and Scott Lyle moves to stand-off in place of the injured Frazier Climo.
Boroughmuir: Same starting team as last week and one change on the bench with Mark Hare returning from injury.
KEY BATTLE: Ross Dunbar versus Steven Longwell
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“The players have been hurting after last week but we have had a good response at training and they are looking to go out and put in a strong performance before the mid-season break. Boroughmuir have been playing well despite a couple of recent defeats so we will need to make sure we start well and bring a physicality to our game that was missing against Watsonians …” – Calum Forrester (Ayr)
“After another disappointing period of play when we conceded two late tries against Glasgow Hawks last week we have showing faith in the same starting XV because for the first 70 minutes we played pretty well. With Ayr losing at home last week we know this makes the game even harder for us but the guys have had a good week training …” – Peter Wright (Stirling County)
VERDICT: There is bound to be a ferocious reaction from Ayr to their anaemic performance against Watsonians last Saturday – and it is symptomatic of Boroughmuir’s season to date that they should find themselves in the firing line.
Stafford McDowall and Robbie Nairn are both back for Ayr – but Frazer Climo is injured – and much will depend on how Scott Lyle shapes up at fly-half.
Boroughmuir will take comfort from the way Watsonians managed to upset the apple cart last week – and, comparing themselves to Watsonians, they will see no good reason why they cannot do likewise – if they play flat out for the full eighty minutes.
But Ayr must still be odds on.
CURRIE CHEIFTAINS v HAWICK
VENUE: Malleny Park @ 2.30pm
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 (YCx1), S Ainslie, T Gordon, R Davies. Subs: G Carson, D Ferguson, S McGinley, C Smith, G Faulds.
Hawick: A Weir; G Munro, G Johnstone, K Davies, L Ferguson (YCx1); L Armstrong, G Cottrell; S Muir, M Carryer, N Little, C Hamilton, D Redpath, G Graham (YCx2), S Graham (YCx2), B McNeil (YCx1). Subs: F Renwick, M Landels, A Baillie, L Anderson, C Ritson.
TEAM NEWS –
Currie Chieftains: Only one change to the squad with Harvey Elms returning from Scotland 7s duty at outside centre, which means David Hall drops out and Robbie Nelson switches back to inside centre
KEY BATTLE: Keith Davies versus Robbie Nelson
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“A very disappointing performance last week at home versus Heriots who were better than us in most areas of the game. Hawick are improving all the time and we know they are not far away from turning those improved performances into points. We have focussed our attention this week on how we build pressure on our opposition and we hope to put this into practice on Saturday …” – Ben Cairns (Currie Chieftains).
VERDICT: Climbing to second spot in the table on the back of their losing bonus point was scant compensation for Currie Chieftains’ poor show against Heriot’s. Ben Cairns was not happy – and he will be a lot less happy if they drop league points to Hawick at Malleny – which is not beyond the bounds of possibility given their opponents’ spirited resistance in the second half at The Greenyards last week.
The Chieftains backs, with Harvey Elms returning at centre, should have enough firepower to bring home the bacon – provided their front five can establish a reasonably solid base.