Inter-District Championship: The South head north hunting title-clinching win

Glasgow & West and Edinburgh have more than just bragging rights to play for at Braidholm

Frankie Robson carries for The South during last year's Inter-District Championship decider against Caledonia Reds. Image: Colin Robinson -www.robinson.photo
Frankie Robson carries for The South during last year's Inter-District Championship decider against Caledonia Reds. Image: Colin Robinson -www.robinson.photo

THE SOUTH head north to Inverness this weekend looking to complete an Inter-District Championship clean-sweep, but know that they will face a fierce contest against last season’s title-winners at Canal Park tomorrow, with Caledonia Reds desperate to maximise home advantage as they look to bounce back from disappointing back-to-back away defeats.

The visitors have a settled starting pack with only one forced change. Last week’s man-of-the-match, Dalton Redpath, is unavailable, so fellow Hawick man Connor Sutherland moves into the second-row and the vastly experienced Bruce McNeil of Kelso returns to the starting XV at blindside flanker.

In the backs, Doug Crawford of Melrose is rewarded for his impact off the bench these last two weeks with a start at scrum-half, Aaron McColm of Selkirk returns from injury to vice-captain the side from scrum-half,
Donald Crawford of Kelso makes his first appearance of the championship at 13 after returning from injury, and Josh Welsh of Selkirk returns on the wing.


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On the bench, Ross Graham misses out due to a head knock so in comes another Hawick hooker in Russell Anderson, who was unavailable last week, while former Boroughmuir Bears stalwart Craig Keddie has returned to his playing roots at Gala and comes in to The South 23 as back-row cover.

“We have had a great final weeks training as a group on both the Melrose and Hawick 3G pitches to set us up for this trip to Canal Park, and I personally want to thank all the clubs who have allowed us to use their facilities these last four week,” said South head coach Matty Douglas. “The region has really bought into the IDC and we now know what our task is this weekend heading to Inverness.

“I was pleased with parts of our performance last week but feel we let Glasgow back into the game too easily in the second half,” he added. “Saying that, what a last ten minutes from the boys to get us over the line!

“Caley are a different proposition this week and have great style of play. We know that it will be tough and they’ll be desperate for their first win of the campaign, but we’re excited for the challenge that we face and we have prepped really well.

“It has been brilliant to have been involved in this season’s IDC and, for me, it shows how good club rugby is in Scotland. And it can only get stronger with an exciting new league structure next season.”

 

 

Meanwhile, the Reds have unveiled a fairly settled squad although there are three changes up front. Scott Rendall of Orkney makes his first start of the championship at hooker following two strong performances off the bench, Andrew Steven of Watsonians/Howe of Fife will make his debut at this level after replacing Sam Cardosi at openside, and Rory Brown of Kirkcaldy makes his first start at blindside..

The backs are unchanged, while Fin Smith of Kirkcaldy is set for his debut off the bench after replacing the unavailable Glen Faulds.

“We go into our final game in this years championship against The South desperate to get a win,” acknowledged head coach Colin Sangster. “Having lost both our earlier games by one score, we feel we are not far away, and certainly last week was an agonising last nine minutes, when we had a player off the field and guys tiring leading to the concession of two late scores and, ultimately, a single point defeat.

“We played The South in the championship decider last year and it was very close, physical game which could have gone either way.”

 

Caledonia Reds (versus The South @ Canal Park on Saturday 6th April, kick-off 3pm): Connor Faulds (Falkirk); Adriu Muritoki (Highland), Max Wallace (Edinburgh Accies/Deeside), DJ Innes (Currie Chieftains/Grangemouuth), Magnus Henry (Highland); Callum Beckett (Currie Chieftains/Stirling County), Harry Russell © (Falkirk);  Stephen Murray (Highland), Scott Rendall (Orkney), Struan Cessford (Heriot’s/Dundee), Connor McFarlane (Aberdeenshire), Malachy Keough (Heriot’s/High School of Dundee), Rory Brown (Kirkcaldy), Andrew Steven (Watsonians/Howe of Fife), Alistair Johnstone (Heriot’s/Dollar Academy). Replacements: Bryce Robertson (Watsonians/Stirling County), Glen Brough (Gala/Orkney), Ross Brown (Musselburgh/Ellon), Struan Robertson (Gordonians/Strathallan/Kirkcaldy), Calum Macpherson (Highland), James Imrie (Glasgow Hawks/Stirling County), Finlay Smith (Kirkcaldy), Murray Mitchell (Strathmore).

The South. Kirk Ford (Hawick); Josh Welsh (Selkirk), Donald Crawford (Melrose), Frankie Robson (Kelso), Callum Anderson (Selkirk); Aaron McColm (Selkirk), Douglas Crawford (Melrose); Shawn Muir © (Hawick), Fraser Renwick (Hawick), Nicky Little (Hawick), Connor Sutherland (Hawick), Keith Melbourne (Kelso), Bruce McNeil (Kelso), Callum Renwick (Hawick), Jae Linton (Hawick). Replacements: Russell Anderson (Hawick), Grant Shiells (Kelso), Terry Logan (Kelso), Angus Dun (Gala), Craig Keddie (Gala), Andy Tait (Kelso), Struan Hutchison (Melrose), Dwain Patterson (Kelso).

 

 

With one win and one defeat each so far, Glasgow & The West and Edinburgh both know that a victory at Braidholm will secure second place in the Championship, and give them a chance of winning the competition if The South lose in Inverness.

The hosts have lost Stephen Leckey and Rohan Pottie to injury injury but are boosted by Paul Cairncross being available for his first start of the campaign and he is joined by Glasgow Hawks team-mates Lewis Stewart, who has impressed in training, and Max Crumlish.

In the backs, James Couper of Glasgow Hawks and Andrew Goudie of GHA are once again available to step back into the 23 at full-back and on the bench, respectively.

“It’s a must win for us as we aim to end the campaign on a high,” said head coach Kenny Diffenthal. “Edinburgh have improved markedly since last year and, like us, gave The South a close run, then came from behind twice against Caley to finally get the result last week.

“We know they have as much to play for as we do so we expect a real battle for forward dominance so that our backs can exploit the platform they are offered.”

Edinburgh head coach Bob McKillop said: “It has been another week of very tough selection decisions – but we have picked a side with a very definite game plan in mind and coaches and players are excited about Saturday.

“Whilst we have a few changes, especially in the pack, we have trained well as a squad throughout the tournament, so everyone is aware of what their role is.”

Ryan Stewart of Currie Chieftains starts at hooker and Rory Jackson from Heriot’s Blues comes on to the bench with Cal Davies unavailable. Edinburgh Accies pair Callum Crookshanks and Jake Mills return at tight-head prop and in the second-row respectively. Last week’s man-of-the-match Jamie Sole has a family commitment so is replaced by Stu Allison of Watsonians, who has been tasked with providing the energy and ball-carrying threat he offered during that last 20 of last week’s win over Caledonia Reds.

Cameron Lessels starts at scrum-half after Gregor Christie took a knock last week and a mutual decision was made that he should rest up given the big games he has coming up for Currie Chieftains. Danny Owenson starts at 10 having played well off the bench last week.

“If this weekend is anything like the first two weekends, we should all expect another two very tight games that go right down to the wire,” added McKillop. “Let’s hope the weather doesn’t stop the teams playing the way they want to play.

“Whatever happens in Inverness is out of our hands, so our focus is 100 percent on executing the plan we’ve put in place for the Glasgow game. With another game and a training session under our belts, we are hoping to add a little more consistency to our performance throughout the game.”

 

Glasgow & The West (versus Edinburgh @ Braidholm on Saturday 30th March, kick off 3pm):: James Couper (Glasgow Hawks); Scott Bickerstaff (Marr), Charlie Lonegran (GHA), Conor Bickerstaff © (Marr), Tom Lanni (Ayr); Colin Sturgeon (Marr), Grant Baird (Marr); Brandon Sweet(Marr), Paul Cairncross (Glasgow Hawks), Michael Fox (GHA), David Andrew (Marr), Max Crumlish (Glasgow Hawks), Lewis Stewart (Glasgow Hawks), Mark McCornick (Newton Stewart), Blair Jardine (Marr). Replacements: Tom Martin (Ayr), Ali Rogers (Marr), Alex Apthrope (Marr), Ruairidh Airlie (Ayr), Luke McCutcheon (GHA), Robbie Baird (Marr), Andrew Goudie (GHA), Max MacFarlane GHA).

Edinburgh: Charlie Brett © (Currie Chieftains); Robbie Kent (Edinburgh Accies), Rory Watt (Musselburgh), Neil Armstrong (Edinburgh Accies), Ryan Daley (Currie Chieftains); Danny Owenson (Musselburgh), Cameron Lessels (Currrie Chieftains); Ross Dunbar (Edinburgh Accies), Ryan Stewart (Currie Chieftains) Callum Crookshanks (Edinburgh Accies), Jake Mills (Edinburgh Accies), Michael Badenhorst (Musselburgh), Rhys Davies (Currie Chieftains), Rory Kirkpatrick (Heriot’s Blues), Stu Allison (Watsonians). Replacements: Rory Jackson (Heriot’s Blues), Cole Imrie (Edinburgh Accies), Graham Carson (Currie Chieftains), Struan Whittaker (Edinburgh Accies), Ali Bain (Currie Chieftains), Scott Clark (Preston Lodge), Paul Cunningham (Musselburgh), Rory Hindhaugh Musselburgh).


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About David Barnes 4012 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.