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

Image: Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE top two teams from last season face each other at Millbrae after contrasting starts to the season. Elsewhere, Currie, Glasgow Hawks and Stirling County all put their unbeaten records on the line against three sides – in Boroughmuir, Heriot’s and Watsonians, respectively – who are all desperate to pick up their first wins of the season.

GLASGOW HAWKS v HERIOT’S

VENUE: Scotstoun @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Glasgow Hawks: R Beattie; K Rowe, B McGroarty©, J Steele, S Yawayawa; R Thompson, P Boyer; S Findlay, C Fenton, L Skinner, A Kirkland, K McDonald, S Leckey, M Smith, G Stewart. Subs: H Livingston, G Strain, T Nwosu-Hope, M New, E Oag.

Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, R Mulveena, R Carmichael©, R Kay; S Edwards, T Wilson; M McCallum, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Maltman, J McLean, M Hughes. Subs: A Johnstone, M Bouab, N Sutherland, A Ball, C Robertson.

TEAM NEWS –

Glasgow Hawks: An unchanged backline. In the pack, Matt Smith is released by Glasgow Warriors to play open-side flanker, so Cammy Fenton moves to his principle position of hooker and Grant Stewart switches to number eight. Former Scotland Under-18 cap Mark New is set to make his club debut off the bench, while Erland Oag is also among the replacements after missing the opening two matches due to work commitments.

Heriot’s: Martin Hughes and Robert Kay are elevated to the starting line-up after impressing in training this week, while club captain Rory Carmichael makes a timely return to replace the unavailable Liam Steele.

KEY BATTLE: Kiran McDonald versus Adam Sinclair

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“After a good win last week against Ayr we must ensure that we do not rest on our laurels, and that we keep working hard with the same desire and desperation to win. We know that Heriot’s have had a tough week’s training and it mirrors what we did last week so we know that they will be fired up and desperate to come to Scotstoun and win. They have been very unlucky not to win both of their opening two games and we know that they will click eventually. We will be looking to continue with the physicality we brought last week and hopefully tighten up on our discipline and keep 15 players on the pitch for 80 minutes …” – Fin Gillies (Glasgow Hawks)

Despite a second close defeat last week the boys know they are getting a little bit closer to where we would like to be. With high-flying Hawks up next this should help focus the minds even more as we strive to kick-start our season. The added incentive of playing at the Warriors home ground and the Bill McLaren Shield being up for grabs will no doubt add a bit of spice in what is always a keenly contested match  … –  Phil Smith (Heriot’s)

VERDICT: Contrasting perspectives coming into this game with Hawks looking to consolidate the momentum generated by their tremendous victory at Ayr last week and Heriot’s looking to jump start their season after disappointing performances against Srirling and Marr.

With the pack having played so well against Ayr, switching Cammy Fenton to hooker and Grant Stewart to the back row is a surprising move from Fin Gillies – but we know he is a sharp operator.

Difficult to see Heriot’s being able to get onto the front foot consistently enough to get a result.

AYR v MELROSE

VENUE: Millbrae @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Ayr: G Anderson; D McCluskey, S McDowall, S Lyle, C Gossman; F Climo, H Warr; R Grant, R Smith, S Longwell, R McAlpine, J Agnew, B Macpherson, T Spinks, P McCallum©. Subs: L Anderson, A Prentice, G Stokes, P Dewhirst, B Thomson.

Melrose: F Thomson; R McCann, N Godsmark, C Jackson, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, M McAndrew; G Shiells, R Anderson, R McLeod, A Runcimaan, I Moody, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman©, A Miller. Subs: R Ferguson, C Crookshanks, R Knott, B Colvine, J Johnstone.

TEAM NEWS –

Ayr: Steven Longwell starts at tighthead after returning from a summer playing in Australia, with Robbie Smith moving to hooker. Jonny Agnew starts in the second-row, allowing Blair Maacpherson to move back to blind-side flanker. Harry Warr starts at scrum-half in place of the very influential David Armstrong – who broke his arm in training.

Melrose: Only one change to the starting team with Ruairi Mcloed starting at tight-head prop in place of Nick Beavon, and Callum Crookshanks comes on to the bench.

KEY BATTLE: Scott Lyle versus Craig Jackson

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

The players were hugely disappointed with their performance against Hawks but the great thing about the BT Premiership is that we have an opportunity to go out this weekend and make amends. Melrose pose a huge challenge given the form that they have shown over the opening weekends and we have already seen first hand how dangerous they can be when given a bit of space when we played them in the BT Charity Shield match earlier in the season …” –  Calum Forrester (Ayr)

“Ayr have not been at their best so far this year but have got quality throughout their squad and will be looking to improve on last weekends performance …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)

VERDICT: The safety net afforded by the play-off structure undoubtedly takes some edge off the big games, but this is one that neither Ayr nor Melrose will want to lose.

Ayr’s stuttering start to their campaign has spawned a suspicion that their old guard are maybe (and just maybe!) over the hill. Tomorrow will test that hypothesis to the full.

Melrose have started their season spectacularly – but both games have been at The Greenyards – and in truth, against weaker opposition. Live bullets tomorrow.

WATSONIANS v STIRLING COUNTY

VENUE: Myreside @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Watsonians: A Chalmers; G Bryce, M Allen, D Innes, J Farndale; E Fox, W Thomson; F Hobbis, S Crombie, K Whyte, J Hodgson, C Borthwick©, M Fedo, J Miller, E Dods. Subs: D Miller, N Fraser, A O’Neill, E McKirdy, R Hutton.

Stirling County: J Hope©; L Trotter, O Jarvie, R Curle, M Lamb; L Bonar, P Jericevich; R Cheis, R Kennedy, A Nicol, C Hunter-Hill, H Burr, L Wynne, S MacDonald, R Leishman. Subs: M Emmison, G Holborn, J Beech, A Grant-Suttie, R Swan.

TEAM NEWS –

Watsonians: Sean Crombie is back at hooker because Edinburgh pro Neil Cochrane in unavailable, and Ewan Fox comes in for Rory Hutton at stand-off. Scotland 7s squad member Jamie Farndale starts on the left wing and Edinburgh pro Glenn Bryce swaps to the other touchline. BT Sport Academy loose forward James Miller starts at open-side, and former Scotland Under-20 prop Nick Fraser is on the bench having joined from Gordon in Australia.

Stirling County: A first start for former France Under-20 prop Remy Chies, who was playing club rugby in New Zealand’s Heartland Championship before arriving in Scotland. Hamilton Burr is set to make his first appearance for the club this season after being 24th man for Glasgow Warriors in recent weeks. Lewis Wynne (Glasgow Warriors), Ross Curle and Gary Holburn return to the match day squad.

KEY BATTLE: Michael Fedo versus Lewis Wynne

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We are extremely excited to be playing our first home match of the season following the pitch upgrades associated with Edinburgh Rugby. Following two disappointing results we are keen to get our campaign kick started and we appreciate we need to be far more robust defensively in order to achieve this. Stirling have had a great start to the season with two bonus point wins and having watched their games it is easy to see why. A strong pack with plenty pace to burn behind it is a good combination …” – Stevie Lawrie (Watsonians)

“Pre-Season has been great preparation for the new season and we are pleased with the start we have made to the season. Watsonians have had a tough couple of opening games but we know they will be much improved at home this weekend. We, too, are looking to take our performance up a level this week with better accuracy in our individual skills and a stronger defensive effort for the full 80 minutes …” –  Peter Jericevich (Stirling County)

VERDICT: Melrose and Currie, both away, presented Watsonians with a difficult start to their season – but they have leaked like a sieve. Presumably defence has been high on their agenda this week –and they do have some pretty useful players – but they need to start playing cohesively.

Stirling showed real strength in depth against Hawick last week with their bench making a big impact and they have been able to beef up their squad this week. Hamilton Burr, Ross Curle and Gary Holburn are all fit, willing and able; Lewis Wynne has been released by Glasgow Warriors; and Remy Chies is an interesting acquisition.

Watsonians traditionally play their better rugby at Myreside – but they will need to dig deep to take anything out of this one.

BOROUGHMUIR v CURRIE CHIEFTAINS

VENUE: Meggetland @3pm

TEAMS –

Boroughmuir: G Cannie; B Renton, C Whyte, M Hare, J Mills; C Laidlaw©, J Adams; R Dunbar, J Matthews, D Winning, A Erskine, C Atkinson, D Marek, C Keddie, T Drennan. Subs: C Davies, D Robertson, A Mcnube, J Hamilton, H Gardiner.

Currie Chieftains: B Robbins; R Smith, H Elms, R Nelson©, C Gray; J Forbes, C Shiel; J Cox, C Mackintosh, A McWilliam, H Bain, V Wright, M Vernel, T Gordon, R Davies. Subs: C Wilson, K Burney, S Ainslie, M O’Neill, G Faulds.

TEAM NEWS –

Boroughmuir: The return from injury of captain Chris Laidlaw, winger Jordan Edmunds and second-row Callum Atkinson provides a timely boost. Youngsters Ben Renton and Archie Erskine get their first starts for the club, Jack Hamilton and Harvey Gardiner come on to the bench after preforming well for the 2nd XV and in and training

Currie Chieftains: Callum Mackinstosh comes in for his first start start. Hamish Bain gets the nod in the second-row with Mike Vernel moving to blindside flanker and and Stephen Ainslie dropping to the bench. Graeme Carson and Scott McGinley drop out the squad.  Ru Smith return from injury to take up position on the right wing.

KEY BATTLE: Chris Laidlaw versus Jamie Forbes

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“It is good to get one or two players back after injury for this game against a Currie team who are playing some outstanding rugby at the moment. It’s important that we get our basics right to give ourselves a chance to compete. The players have trained well and are looking forward to expressing themselves in a more positive way than they did last week …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir).

“Another pleasing result for us last weekend however our performance levels dropped below what we expect at times and consistency in performance is something we continue to strive for. Boroughmuir have had a tough start to the season, facing the champions and runners-up in their first two matches – they were obviously very unlucky to lose their first home match versus Ayr and we know they will be desperate to get their first win on Saturday. Another local derby with both teams fielding a number of the best young players in Scotland so we would hope for another big crowd and another entertaining match …” – Ben Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

VERDICT: Chris Laidlaw, Jordan Edmunds and Callum Atkinson all coming back from injury is good news, but the way Currie are playing this looks like another tough mission for Boroughmuir.

The home team will need to compete hard at source to have any chance of sticking a spoke in the visitors’ wheel. Currie are on fire and if Boroughmuir give them an inch, they will take a mile. That initial inch is, of course, the challenge – and that will come down to what Greco Hogg used to refer to as ‘resilience’.

Whichever way it goes – an exhilarating afternoon’s rugby is on the cards.

About David Barnes 2971 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.