NATIONAL TWO looks like being a cracking league this year, with all of the clubs capable of good performances on their day and the teams who perform best on the road likely to find themselves near the top of the table come the business end of the campaign in March and early April.
In week one, Falkirk host Stewart’s Melville, and home captain Stewart McCulloch is looking forward to finally playing a competitive match under new head coach Stevie Leckie (previously of Royal High).
“The boys have been enjoying working under the new coaching team and one thing we have certainly been putting a lot of effort into is our fitness,” he said. “We have been working hard on that since early in the summer and we have been feeling good so hopefully that will serve us well in the opening weeks.
“The club has had a lot of changes over the last couple of years, but there is a good core of local boys here now. We know Stewart’s Melville will be a well drilled and physical side so we have to be up to the challenge.”
Stewart’s Melville make the trip to Falkirk with Jonny Else in post as head coach and experienced second-row Fraser Morrison as captain.
Else, who has previously coached at Edinburgh Accies, Heriot’s and Boroughmuir, has been at Inverleith since the middle of last season. “I have loved being at the club over the last few months and the committee and the people off the field have been brilliant in helping us put things in place to help the team perform,” he said.
“Like most clubs at this level, we have some good talent coming through and the experienced heads in the team like Fraser, tighthead prop Ruaridh Mitchell and Fraser Strachan are important to helping those young guns.
“There is a good mixture of youth and experience right across the squad so we want to get things going now, but we know that it will be a tricky test away to Falkirk.”
Saints on the march
Dumfries Saints had a resounding 59-10 win at Glasgow Accies in the National League Cup last weekend, and on Saturday they are on the road to Kirkcaldy in their league opener. The Fifers are also flying high having scored 80 versus Newton Stewart in their own Cup win.
We could be in for a high scoring encounter at Beveridge Park then and ahead of the match Dumfries head coach Euan Mack said: “The guys worked hard in pre-season and, after a tight start against Accies, we stuck to our game plan and ran in a few tries in the second half.
“The win has given the boys some confidence, but we also noted Kirkcaldy’s big win so they will be in a similar frame of mind. We have quite a small first XV squad numbers-wise and this league will be tough, but if we can get off to a good start in the next few weeks we hope for a good season.”
Former Scotland and British & Irish Lions prop Peter Wright is now in charge as head coach at GHK and they start with an away game at Hamilton Bulls, and he has made some impressive signings over summer. Scotland caps Kevin Bryce at hooker and Jack Cuthbert in the centre should make an impact, while captain Cammy Hughes is a talented player.
“I am enjoying working with the boys at the club,” said Wright, who was at Boroughmuir last season. “It is a different level compared to the Premiership, but you have a group of guys who want to train hard and play for each other on a Saturday as well as trying to have fun while doing it. We are really looking forward to the Hamilton Bulls game this weekend.”
The Bulls go into the Laigh Bent clash off the back of a 49-5 Cup triumph over Gordonians.
Gordonians will want to bounce back quickly from that reverse and are bound to be a different animal on their home patch at Countesswells. This weekend it is Peebles making the long trip north to Aberdeen from the Borders.
Glasgow Accies will look to put their heavy cup defeat against Dumfried behind them when they host Newton Stewar; while Whitecraigs host Preston Lodge.
This weekend’s National League Division Two fixtures (all 3pm) –
Falkirk v Stewart’s Melville
Glasgow Accies v Newton Stewart
Gordonians v Peebles
Whitecraigs v Preston Lodge
Kirkcaldy v Dumfries Saints
Hamilton Bulls v GHK