PEEBLES playmaker Greg Raeburn is confident his club are in a good place as the battle for promotion from National Two heats up over the coming weeks. Two free weekends since the turn of the year have come as a welcome break as the injury list at the Gytes clears up, and the stand-off is sure that the availability of key players such as captain Ryan Stewart will help the promotion push.
“I think the wee break of late was good for us,” Raeburn said. “It has allowed guys like Ryan to get back to full fitness and other guys have managed to get rid of niggles and such like.
“We’ve had some real highs so far this season and a few lows, so if we can just find some consistency for the next few weeks that would be excellent. That’s what we’re all striving for. It’s going to be a really interesting time – with five points separating the top five it really is all to play for. We’re playing good rugby at the minute and we’re all enjoying it, so we’ll give it our all, starting at GHK this weekend.”
It should be said that, apart from a surprise League Cup defeat at Lasswade last month, Peebles have in fact already found a fair amount of consistency. They have won their last six games in the league to climb to third in the table, just two points behind leaders GHK, to give themselves a fighting chance of claiming one of the two promotion places.
The recipe for success is a home-made one, with stand-off Raeburn and hooker Stewart among the core squad members to have come up through the ranks. “My dad played for the club for years and my brother played a bit too, while I’ve been involved here since the mini section,” the 26-year-old Raeburn explained.
“For me the best thing about rugby is playing with your mates. I was lucky enough to do it through the youth set-up and am now in the seniors with a lot of my friends too.
“When I had just left [Peebles High] school and was 17 I was given a chance in the 1st XV due to a few injuries, and that was quite a learning curve for me being thrown in at the deep end. From there I was in and out of the 2nd XV for a wee while and I’ve probably been in and around the 1st XV for the last seven or eight years now.”
Stewart’s rugby journey has been a similar one to Raeburn’s, beginning at school and continuing through the junior ranks before his graduation to the first team. “I played football when I was younger in Penicuik, but all of my friends from Peebles High School played rugby so I got involved around S3 age and soon after that we had a school rugby and hockey trip to Canada,” the 23-year-old recalled. “That was an amazing experience and ever since then it has been rugby for me.
“With the school I was lucky enough to make it to finals on the back pitches at Murrayfield a couple of times, and then with the club, I played right up to the under-18s then made my way into the senior second 15 around 2014. I learnt a lot about the hooker position and general forwards play there before progressing to the first team.
“It’s been a real honour to captain the team and I’ve given it my best shot. I love it here at Peebles because I grew up with a lot of the boys and there’s a great team spirit which gets us through at times.”
A sprained ankle kept Stewart on the sidelines from mid-December until late January, but he returned off the bench against Lasswade and then played 80 minutes in the 52-17 league win against Gordonians a fortnight ago. The Lasswade match was not the happy comeback he would have hoped for, but it may well have come as a timely reminder to the squad as a whole about the need to be up for every game.
“That result hurt the boys,” the 23-year-old admitted. “We just weren’t at it that day, and credit to Lasswade, they were up for it and went through. Our recent form in the league has been good, though, and we have to try and take that into the run-in.
“Anyone can beat anyone on their day in this league and there are going to be a few twists and turns between now and the end of the season, but we just have to focus on one game at a time. We know that GHK are a good side with a good pack, but we’ll go there to compete and hopefully come away with a positive result.”
How it stands –