SEVEN National League Cup ties are due to take place on Saturday – one preliminary round clash and six in the first round – with Tennent’s National League Division Two rivals Kirkcaldy and Hamilton Bulls meeting at Beveridge Park in perhaps the pick of the round one games.
That match will be the first meeting between the two in the space of a fortnight, with the sides due to play at the same Fife ground on November 9 in the league. And both sides go into this Cup meeting on the back of confidence-boosting wins, with Kirkcaldy having beaten Glasgow Accies 45-23 last week in the league, while Hamilton scored 57 points versus Gordonians on the same day.
“We are good friends with the guys at Hamilton having jumped between National One and Two with them in recent years,” said Kirkcaldy director of rugby Corgi George. “Not often do brothers captain opposing teams, but with Greg and Mark Wallace having done that last season the matches between the sides always have a bit of zing about them.
“As always, this will be a tough game while both sides may take the chance to blood some younger players. We are becoming a more rounded team with threats in the pack and out wide, so we are looking forward to Saturday.”
National Three pace-setters Ardrossan Accies and Greenock Wanderers will be out to keep their promising league form going. Top of the table Accies welcome Peebles – who are currently third placed in the National Two – to the Memorial Field and the home side’s head coach Rory Couper said: “We are looking forward to welcoming Peebles as they have always been tough opponents. For us the game will ultimately be a measure of where we are at this season, playing against a club that are going well in a higher division where we strive to be.
“The game brings its challenges because we are missing 10 first XV regulars for various reasons, but that gives us a chance to look at different combinations and reward young players with first XV action.”
Peebles lost out in the league last week to Newton Stewart and their head coach Lewis Bertram is not expecting an easy ride this week despite playing a team from a lower league. “This is going to be a really tough game, Ardrossan are top of National Three and will be full of confidence,” he said. “We are coming into the tie off the back of our poorest performance of the season so we need to put things right and improve. The Cup also allows us to try out some different combinations and play with a bit more freedom.”
Meanwhile, Greenock Wanderers host fifth in National Three Lasswade. “We know Lasswade will be well up for this game,” said home head coach Graham Knox. “When we played them earlier in the season it was a bruising encounter which we were fortunate to come out on top in [they won 26-17].
“Stepping up to National Three has been big for us, but we are putting out three men’s XVs for the first time in 25 years and all of the players are buying into the way we want to play.
“We have a few senior players unavailable, so some Academy players will get a chance this weekend such as Andy Graham and Louis Van Dessel and it’ll be great experience for them.”Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 24)
Ninth in National Two plays eighth in National Three when Falkirk host Strathmore. “Following a mixed start to life in the National Leagues, we are excited for this Cup tie when their will be little pressure on us,” said Strathmore half-back Rory Mellis.
“We have not felt like we have been outclassed in any of our league games to date, but perhaps we have lacked maturity at times at a higher level. In our first three away league games this term we matched the opposition and their try counts, but gave away far too many silly penalties. If we can cut out those needless errors then believe we can be a match for other teams.”
Third in National Three Howe of Fife host ninth placed Perthshire at Duffus Park. “I think we underestimated Perthshire when we played them in the league two weeks ago [Howe of Fife won 39-30],” said home head coach Gavin Emerson.
“We have been working hard over the last fortnight to rectify the areas in which we needed improvement. Perthshire are a physical side and the boys are ready for the challenge.”
National Two sides Stewart’s Melville and Dumfries Saints will hope it is second time lucky at Inverleith. They were due to play each other in the league at the same ground last week, but a waterlogged pitch put paid to that. The Saints travel to Edinburgh unbeaten in league and Cup this term while Stew Mel lost 25-19 to Preston Lodge in their last outing in the league two weeks ago.
In the re-arranged preliminary round match, National Three strugglers Carrick host Preston Lodge from National Two, with the winner taking on Murrayfield Wanderers away on 25th January.
Finally, Caithness were unable to field a team in their first round tie against GHK in Glasgow, so Peter Wright’s side progress.
This weekend’s National League Cup fixtures (3pm unless stated otherwise) –
Carrick v Preston Lodge (2.45pm)
Falkirk v Strathmore
Greenock Wanderers v Lasswade
Howe of Fife v Perthshire
Kirkcaldy v Hamilton Bulls
Stewart’s Melville v Dumfries Saints
Ardrossan Accies v Peebles