THE countdown to Saturday’s BT Cup Finals Day started in earnest on Monday when representatives from all 12 participating clubs attended a press call at Murrayfield.
The main event out of the six matches which will be played at the national stadium this weekend is the men’s Cup Final clash between Ayr and Melrose. These two sides have been the dominant forces in the top flight of the club game this season, and this encounter has inherited extra intrigue by virtue of the fact that Ayr defeated Melrose in a real nail-biter of a BT Premiership play-off Grand Final last Saturday.
That was a bitter pill for the Borderers to swallow, especially because they had finished the regular season four points clear at the top of the table – but club captain Bruce Colvine is confident that his side can bounce back inside the space of seven days to gain some sort of revenge in this eagerly anticipated re-match.
“I’ve spoken to a few players and to Rob Chrystie [Melrose head coach], and there’s nothing major needs to happen –maybe a few small tweaks – for us to come out with the right result next Saturday,” he said.
“We maybe went a bit cagey in that first half last weekend, let the size of the day get to us a wee bit, and we haven’t really done that before – we’ve always wanted to play – so, we need to take a look at that during our review session tomorrow night and rectify it for Saturday,” the scrum-half added.
In fact, it might be Ayr who face the biggest challenge in getting into the right head space for this match. The heady cocktail of relief and euphoria which swept through the club on Saturday evening and well into Sunday morning is bound to leave some sort of hangover. The league title is the accolade that both teams were really after and now that is in the bag it is inevitable that there will be some degree of relaxation. The men from the west will have to dig deep to reproduce the intensity which will certainly be required if they are to claim an impressive double.
Not that head coach Calum Forrester is prepared to countenance his charges taking their foot off the accelerator.
“I don’t think it is an issue. I’m very lucky with this group of players that I have,” he stated.
“We’ve got young guys and we’ve got guys who have been there and won everything there is to win with Ayr since 2008. Scott Sutherland and Grant Anderson are two guys that really stepped up last week and let the other players know exactly what was happening. With Grant being able to guide Pete [McCallum] with his leadership as well this year, it’s been a good place, and a good transition for this group of players over the last year and a half.”
There is also the small matter of this being the last game in the club’s distinctive pink and black colours for two outstanding stalwarts of recent times in centre Ross Curle and flanker Will Bordill.
“These are the games that everybody wants to be involved with at the end of the year, and Ross and Will will be wanting to go out on a high,” agreed Forrester.
Curle actually missed the play-off Grand Final through suspension. He is clear to play this week but has a fight on his hands to reclaim the number 12 jersey from teenager Stafford McDowall, who showed that he is a more than capable alternative in the heart of Ayr’s midfield with ina performance brimming with technical excellence and confidence against Melrose.
“Stafford has a big future ahead of him. He was outstanding at the weekend, he’s made a real impact for us this season when he has come off the bench, so certainly he’s put himself in a good place,” said Forrester.
“There are very few players in Scotland who are 6ft 5in, have a lovely touch of hand and have a good bit of pace like Stafford. If you can have a distributor like him, and someone to nurture that over the next few years, who knows what could happen with him?”
The action starts at 11am on Saturday with three games kicking off at the same time. On the back pitches, Stirling County take on Stewartry in the women’s Plate Final and Kirkcaldy lock horns with Garioch in the women’s Bowl Final, while Blairgowrie face Portobello in the men’s Bowl Final on the main pitch.
The Sarah Beaney Cup – which is the top tier of the women’s competition – brings together old rivals Murrayfield Wanderers and Hillhead/Jordanhill on the main pitch at 1.15pm. The Edinburgh side are going for their fourth consecutive success in this competition, and Hillhead/Jordanhill will be desperate to put an end to that winning run given that they were the beaten finalists the last two years.
Tickets cost £10 for adults and £5 for under-18s and senior citizens, with clubs receiving a commission for any tickets purchased which are associated with their club.
BT Cup Finals Day schedule –
On BT Murrayfield International Pitch –
- Men’s Bowl Final: Blairgowrie v Portobello (11am)
- Sarah Beaney Cup: Murrayfield Wanderers v Hillhead / Jordanhill (1.15pm)
- Cup Final: Melrose v Ayr (3.30pm)
- Men’s Shield Final: Murrayfield Wanderers v Carrick (5.45pm)
On BT Murrayfield Back Pitches –
- Women’s Plate Final: Stirling County v Stewartry (11am)
- Women’s Bowl Final: Kirkcaldy v Garioch (11am)