CUP SEMI-FINALS PREVIEW

IF they are not well enough acquainted already, there is little doubt that Ayr and Melrose are going to be sick of the sight of each other by next Saturday evening. The two sides – who have been the dominant forces in Scottish club rugby for most of the last decade – are set to play each other in back-to-back games at Millbrae during the coming seven days.

This week they are on Cup semi-final duty, while next Saturday they will be competing for the right to play in the Premiership play-offs Grand Final.

Ayr may have finished the regular league season top of the Premiership table but two of the four defeats they have suffered during this campaign were at the hands of Melrose.

The Borderers won 19-23 at Ayr in September then followed that up with a swashbuckling 35-24 victory at home in November – meaning that this match really is too close to call.

In the other Cup semi-final this weekend, Glasgow Hawks host last season’s league champions Heriot’s. The visitors will be without three key men in the shape of Graham Wilson, Jason Hill (both injured) and Struan Dewar (personal), but head coach Phil Smith is still promising that it will be “war from start to finish”.

 

THE LOWDOWN-

 

AYR v MELROSE

VENUE: MILLBRAE

KICK-OFF TIME: 3pm on SATURDAY 26th MARCH

Teams –

Ayr: G Anderson; R Dalgliesh, R Curle, D McCluskey, C Gossman; F Climo, D Armstrong; G Hunter, D Young, D Rae, R McApline, S Sutherland, B Macpherson, W Bordill, P McCallum. Subs: S Fenwick, J Sabastian, C Stevenson, A Dunlop, J Preston, A Russell, J Bulumakau

Melrose: N Godsmark; J Helps, G Taylor, A Nagle, S Pecquer; T Galbraith, B Colvine; J Bhatti, R Ferguson, N Beavon, J Head, L Carmichael, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman, G Dodds. Subs: G Turner, R McLeodm E McQuillan, A Miller, R Knott, M McAndrew, R Mill.

KEY BATTLE: Scott Sutherland v Neil Irvine Hess

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

Games between these two sides are always hugely physical encounters and we expect the same again as well as a contest between two sides who like to play running rugby …” – Scott Forrester (Ayr)

“There have been some epic encounters between the sides over the last few seasons with league and cups being decided. The players have prepared well and there has been a relaxed and focussed mood at training this week. The challenges and learnings of the season need to come to fruition …” – John Dalziel (Melrose)

VERDICT: Home advantage swings it
GLASGOW HAWKS v HERIOT’S

VENUE: OLD ANNIESLAND

KICK-OFF TIME: 3pm on SATURDAY 26th MARCH

Teams –

Hawks: S Yacoubian; R Beattie, B McGroarty, D Milne, K Gossman; J Steele, P Boyer; S Findlay, J Macfarlane, G Strain, A Linton, A Redmayne, F Gillies, S Leckey, A Hill. Subs: G Stewart, B Cullinane, K McDonald, K Beattie M MacFarlane, E Oag, P Mounal.

Heriots: J Semple; G Bryce, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, C Simpson; G McNeish, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, R Van Heerden, J Turley, I Wilson, J Syme. Subs: S Mustard, M McCallum, C Mulligan, C Smith, A Henderson, H Fraser, J Rae.

KEY BATTLE: Glenn Bryce v Keir Gossman

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

Undoubtedly this is an intriguing tie with lots of very talented players on show all desperate to do well. It should be an enthralling contest. We have a strong bench to call upon which may prove crucial in this tie …” – Peter Laverie (Hawks)

“It will quite simply be a war from start to finish. We have to get up and running as quickly as possible as a few weeks without a fixture can become a focus and an excuse for some, we cannot afford to let that be the case. Hawks bring a physicality that means we will not have time to be concerned with anything else but getting into the game …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)

VERDICT: Missing men may prove costly for visitors

About David Barnes 2960 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.