Premiership Final preview: Hawick v Currie Chieftains: runners, riders and verdict

Hosts hunt historic double-double while visitors aim to exorcise Mansfield hoodoo

Hawick host Currie Chieftains in the Premiership play-off Grand Final tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon] Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Hawick host Currie Chieftains in the Premiership play-off Grand Final tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon] Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

MANSFIELD PARK has not been a happy hunting ground for Currie Chieftains in recent times. They slumped to 16-3 defeat to Hawick there at the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup three weeks ago without really firing a shot, and were on the wrong end of a 35-13 shellacking during September’s visit on regular league season duty.

Almost certainly the most painful of their recent disappointments at that venue was in the corresponding fixture to this of last season, when an injury-time try for 13-man Hawick scored by Ronan McKean clinched a 21-18 win for the Greens, while the regular season result that year was an excoriating 43-7 home win. The Borderers were 25-20 victors when the two sides met at the iconic ground at the start of the 2021-22 season, 20-14 winners at Mansfield during the Covid-curtailed 2019-20 season, and gritty 9-3 winners in 2018-19.

All of which means you have to go back to 2nd September 2017 – over a year before the launch of Super6 – to revisit the last time Chieftains tasted success on the banks of the Teviot, with a 28-39 scoreline.


Boroughmuir get their ducks in a row for life after Super Series

Kenta Kutsuna on beating cancer, playing for Heriot’s Blues and meeting Mr Greig

Breadalbane Finance Community Rugby Story Of The Month … Hillhead Jordanhill


Current captain Jamie Forbes is the only survivor from that match in the visiting line-up for tomorrow’s winner-takes-all showdown, with the veteran playmaker shifting one place in from inside-centre (where he played in that Cup semi loss) so as to provide big-match composure and control in the crucial stand-off slot. This will have come as a blow to youngster Callum Beckett – a stand-out performer for Caledonia Reds in the recent Inter-District Championship – who must now look to make an impact off the bench.

To facilitate this midfield rejig, Cammy Gray has been called up from the bench to start at 13, with DJ Innes moving to 12. The other backline change sees Gregor Christie swap in for the benched Paddy Boyer at scrum-half.

With an unchanged pack and highly-rated teenage tight-head prop Ollie Blyth-Lafferty named on a strong bench, Chieftains will fancy themselves to finish strongly if they are still in the hunt around the hour mark, as they chase a first Premiership title since 2010.

“Hawick got it spot on against us last time round at Mansfield and it was a tough one to take having done well going into the wind,” said head coach Mark Cairns. “The boys have picked themselves up quickly and we’ve had the last couple of weeks to prepare for the match and put things right. Last year’s Final came down to the final play and we are hoping to be in the fight right to the end.”

Meanwhile, Lee Armstrong, Kyle Brunton, Nicky Little, Fraser Renwick, Dalton Redpath, Stuart Graham and Shawn Muir (who was a replacement that day and is now club-captain) are the Hawick survivors from that defeat back in 2017, which reflects some of the continuity within the squad which has been key to their recent successes.

Incidentally, Darcy Graham was on the wing for Hawick that day, just a year ahead of making his senior Scotland debut against Wales in the Autumn of 2018, which rather undermines the claim that the pre-Super6 Premiership was a death-trap for aspiring players.

Charlie Shiel and Tom Gordon were two future pro players in the visiting team in that match, while other current or future pros on show in the Premiership that weekend included: Stafford McDowall, Robbie Smith and Ryan Grant with Ayr; Johnny Matthews and Jordan Edmunds with Boroughmuir; Kyle Rowe, Ross Thompson, George Horne and Grant Stewart with Glasgow Hawks; Kaleem Barreto with Marr; Ally Millar and Ross McCann with Melrose; Chris Fusaro and Calum Hunter-Hill with Stirling County; and Jamie Hodgson with Watonians.

 

 

Enjoyed this article? Quality journalism like ours is made possible by readers like you. If you value our in-depth coverage of Scottish rugby at all levels and want to see more, please consider supporting us with a subscription or donation. It helps us keep delivering the news you love. Thank you for being a part of The Offside Line community!

 

 

As has become customary for the defending league champions, changes this week have been kept to a minimum, with the same starting XV named for the third big knock-out game on the bounce, while the only alteration to the bench during that period has been versatile forward Ross Graham coming in for Hughie Donaldson.

Continuity on the park has contrasted with some serious upheaval in the coaching team, with the recent decision to move on Matty Douglas creating a storm of controversy the club could well have done without during this crucial stretch of the season.

The fact that Hawick have maintained their record of only one loss over the last two seasons during the two games played since that saga came to a head indicates that the squad have not been distracted by the change of regime, although letting a 32-12 lead early in the second half slip to only three points at the end of last weekend’s Cup Final against Edinburgh Accies will have been a cause for mild concern for the Mansfield men who generally put a lot of store in their relentless defensive resolve, especially as they came out on the wrong side of the try count by conceding five touchdowns in a match for the first time since their big league win over Heriot’s Blues back in October.

That said, interim head coach Graham Hogg was right to point out immediately after the Cup Final win that when it really mattered his side were absolutely ruthless in hemming Accies back inside their own half.

“We’ve trusted our defence, we’ve trusted our new system in terms of what we’ve brought in defensively, a couple of little malfunctions let them out, but that last one, by hook or by crook they were staying in that 22 and they were not getting out,” he said.

When announcing his team for tomorrow’s quest to complete a historic double-double, Hogg said: “Another Premiership play off final at Mansfield park and something our boys never take for granted. After a great result in the Cup last week it’s brilliant to be coming back home with the opportunity to do a special treble this season [Border League, Cup and Premiership]. A good week of work put in by the boys and we look forward to the challenge that Currie will bring us this week.”

 

Teams –

Hawick: K Ford; C Welsh, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, R McKean; K Brunton, G Welsh; S Muir ©, F Renwick, N Little, C Sutherland, D Redpath, S Graham, C Renwick, J Linton. Replacements: R Anderson, T Hope, R Graham, F Wilson, D Lightfoot, B Donaldson, M Tait,

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, C Gray, DJ Innes, R Daley; J Forbes©, G Christie; T Jeffrey, R Stewart, G Carson, A Bain, C West, R Davies, A Fletcher, S Cardosi. Replacements: R Vucago, C Anderson, O Blyth-Lafferty, A McCallum, K Steel, P Boyer C Beckett.

Key battle: Jae Linton versus Sam Cardosi

Verdict: Mansfield factor too much for visitors to overcome


Breadalbane Finance Community Rugby Story Of The Month … Hillhead Jordanhill

About David Barnes 3957 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.

3 Comments

  1. Well done to Currie victory from a Hawick supporter .you done your homework .
    Tremendous performance being a man down for red card .
    Redemption for last year maybe.
    It looked like a game too far for Hawick

Leave a Reply

Please be respectful in your replies. Abusive language is automatically blocked. Your email address will not be published.


*