THE Premiership fixture schedule has once again been decimated by the arctic conditions which have enveloped Scotland in recent weeks.
The crucial battle for second place clash between Currie Chieftains and Marr at Malleny Park, the Goldenacre clash between play-off chasing Heriot’s Blues and Selkirk at Goldenacre, and the basement encounter between Jed-Forest and Glasgow Hawks at Riverside Park have all been postponed following pitch inspections on Saturday morning.
That leaves Edinburgh Accies versus Kelso at Raeburn Place, and Musselburgh versus Hawick at Stoneyhill as the last games standing.
How it stands –
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The Lowdown –
Edinburgh Accies v Kelso
Venue: Raeburn Place @ 2pm
Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; F MacNeill, R Kent, N Armstrong©, M Wallace; B Appleson, P Ritchie; R Dunbar, C Davies, C Imrie, R Thompson, S Whittaker, G Napier, K Slingsby, A Wood. Subs: F McAslan, A Hain, W Catterall, B Jackson, C Allan.
Kelso: A Barbour; J Thompson, D Patterson, F Robson©, R Tweedie; M Hastie, A Tait; G Shiells, E Knox, T Logan, C Thompson, K Melbourne, C Brown, M Woodcock, B McNeil. Subs: A McGregor, A Asante, J Glendinning, E Thompson, N Stingl.
Key battle: Neil Armstrong versus Frankie Robson
Team news –
Edinburgh Accies: Finlay MacNeill returns on the wing and Robbie Kent moves to outside centre alongside Neil Armstrong. Ross Dunbar starts at loose-head with Cole Imrie moving to tight-head and Struan Whittaker comes back into the second-row. Guy Napier also returns to the back-row alongside Kieran Slingsby. Arran Hain earns a spot on the bench alongside potential debutants Will Catterall and Brent Jackson.
Kelso: Archie Barbour and Robbie Tweedie return to the back three while Bruce McNeil is available after his holiday and is at No 8, with Nik Stingl returning as a replacement back.
What the coaches say –
“This week we welcome Kelso to Raeburn Place, Kev [Utterson] and Bruce [McNeil] have done a fantastic job so far this season at Poynder Park and we will need to be at our best with a much-changed team to get the points we need to keep ourselves in the hunt for a play-off spot. Our players know the challenge that Kelso will bring on both sides of the ball and that excites this group. We must be brave and impose our game on them …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)
“December 16th was our last match so we could be a bit rusty, so the challenge to overcome this and get into the match as quickly as we can. Accies had a good win and work-out last weekend against Hawks so they have a bit of momentum and some key players back. This will be a very difficult day at the office, but one we are ready for. We want to challenge ourselves away from Poynder Park against the big boys, and Accies have been a top four team now for a few years, plus they have an excellent home record. The players have been working hard and keep turning up in big numbers for training – the competition for places is strong …” – Neil Hinnigan (Kelso DoR)
Verdict: When the sides met at Poynder Park earlier in the campaign Kelso came out on top 32-22 and they will be looking to replicate that in the capital. They are boosted by the return of a few key players and will be right up for this one, but if the likes of Cal Davies, Struan Whittaker and Robbie Kent can get Accies on the front foot they should just have enough after a tight contest.
Musselburgh v Hawick
Venue: Stoneyhill @ 3pm
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; L Brook, R Watt©, B Heber, S Watt; M McMillan, F Call; C Owenson, D Miller, N McNairn, M Badenhorst, J Lister, M Maltman, M Crawford, P Bogie. Subs: C Arthur, E Bonthron, M Outram, T Foley, O Craig.
Hawick: K Ford; M Tait, C Welsh, A Mitchell, R McKean; L Armstrong, D Lightfoot; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Redpath, C Sutherland, D Brooker, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: R Anderson, R Graham, S Frizzel, G Welsh, K Brunton.
Key battle: Paul Cunningham versus Kirk Ford
Team news –
Musselburgh: Joss Arnold is heading off on the McPhail Scholarship this week and Jak Haynes is unavailable meaning Jordan Lister moves into the second-row. Neil McNairn makes a welcome return to start at tight-head after knee surgery and Max Outram is back as back-row cover on the bench.
Hawick: Connor Sutherland comes into the second-row for Fraser Wilson in an otherwise unchanged pack with tight-head Nicky Little set to make his 150th appearance for the 1st XV. Lee Armstrong starts at 10 for the first time this season with Kyle Brunton moving to the bench, meaning Andrew Mitchell moves to 12 and Charlie Welsh is at 13. Morgan Tait will start on the wing with Ryan Purvis working. Force [2nd XV] captain Sam Frizzel joins the bench.
What the coaches say –
“Five weeks is a long time to mull over a couple of losses where, on reflection, we invited pressure onto ourselves by going off script and not working hard enough round the corner defensively or off the ball in attack. These are easy fixes on paper, but you only get to know that when you see how willing boys are to get into the trenches with and for each-other on a Saturday. Watching how physical Hawick’s exchange was with Currie last week I would say that we will need to find another couple of levels to take what we want – and need – out of the game. However, we are back in a place where we have a point to prove with only three games to do so – game on! …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)
“This week we head to Stoneyhill to take on a Musselburgh side who are flying high this season. They have put in some really good performances and ran us close earlier in the season. We were pleased with the majority of the game last week and if we can improve our game management and get front foot ball we feel we have a team that can finish the run in of the season strongly. This is a massive game in context of the play-off positions and we are looking forward to a battle …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)
Verdict: As Matty Douglas says, Musselburgh pushed Hawick very close before losing out 27-25 at Mansfield Park in October, so the league leaders know they are in for a tough game. The home defeat to Selkirk dented Musselburgh’s play-off bid, but they are still in the mix and are a tough side to beat at home. If the experienced Lee Armstrong can control the game from stand-off then Hawick may just have enough to get over the line.