Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 14th December

The top two sides in the league clash at Malleny Park this weekend with Currie Chieftains hosting Marr

Marr came out on top when they took on Currie Chieftains at Malleny Park back in September. Image courtesy: Marr Rugby
Marr came out on top when they took on Currie Chieftains at Malleny Park back in September. Image courtesy: Marr Rugby

IT’S the big one at Malleny this week with second in the table Currie Chieftains host top of the table Marr. Both sides were looking fairly untouchable so far as the rest of the league was concerned le, but GHA and Hawick put paid to that air of invincibility with excellent victories over the high-flyers last weekend. There is still a 14 point gap between second and third in the table, but it will be fascinating to see how last week’s hiccup effects this pair’s confidence and general flow.

Hawick have been on a fine run of form of late and will look to keep that going in their Border derby at Philiphaugh, while Jed-Forest will also be looking to building on their win at Glasgow Hawks when they host Aberdeen Grammar at Riverside Park.

Edinburgh Accies have had to decant once again to Newfield and know they face a big challenge against a GHA outfit who will be full of beans after their excellent win at Marr last weekend, while Musselburgh are looking to make it three from three in all competitions this season when they welcome Glasgow Hawks to Stoneyhill.

Scottish Rugby Taxi Board Game

HOW IT STANDS –

PremiershipPWLDFADTBLBPts
Marr RFC1412115072252829160
Currie Chieftains14104046820026810252
Hawick RFC139313322051277146
Aberdeen15870376475-995239
Selkirk RFC1577133433135338
Jed-Forest155100352447-957330
GHA RFC14590313440-1276329
Musselburgh154101361579-2187227
Edinburgh ACC13472299338-395126
Glasgow Hawks144100291393-1025526

THE LOWDOWN –

MUSSELBURGH v GLASGOW HAWKS

Venue: Stoneyhill @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Musselburgh: J Doig; J Ferguson, R Smith, R Watt, G Tait; P Cunningham, D Owenson©; N McNairn, C Owenson, C Arthur, G McKinstry, J Haynes, C Pryde, M Outram, P Brown. Subs: E Bonthron, W Fleming, L Hutson, S Watt, T Foley.

Glasgow Hawks: Y Alagilly; K Gossman, E Oag, C Harrison, M Priestly; L Brims, C Holborn; G Strain, J Gammell, E Rintoul, A Kirkland, R Jackson, S Leckey©, F Christie, R Sweeney. Subs: P Cairncross, D Irvine, L Archer, M Stewart, M Godsman.

TEAM NEWS –

Musselburgh: With midfielders Freddie Roddick and Jonny Crain unavailable due to university exams, Paul Cunningham and Rory Watt both move in one position in the back-line, and Rory Smith starts at 13.  Craig Owenson moves into the hooker position and Neil McNairn makes his first start for the 1st XV this season at loose-head after good showing off the bench against Accies.

Glasgow Hawks: Kerr Gossman returns from his helping the Waterboys win the open tournament at the Dubai 7’s, so Erlend Oag switches back into the centre. Yousif Alagilly wins the starting full-back berth. Connor Holborn comes in at nine for his first start of the year. Academy prospect Rory Jackson will look to continue his impressive form with Hawks having been released by Ayrshire Bulls.

KEY BATTLE: Paul Cunningham versus Liam Brims

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“The squad came away from Accies last week with three points which is a good result away from home but I felt our guys put in a great performance, particularly in the second half, so we are moving in a good direction and honestly believe we deserved more from the game had a crucial decision at the end gone our way. Hawks have clearly been on some good form over the past few weeks but we can look at the previous two games that we have played and won against them to go in with the confidence that we can produce a win.  That said we will have to show the same levels of physicality, intensity and execution that we have against Hawick and Accies.  There is no doubt the set piece will be a huge influence on the result and getting dominance in that area will be key for us …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)

“A massive game for both clubs and both will be desperate to go into the winter break on a high. Musselburgh will feel confident having beaten us twice this year so we will have to be at our best …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

VERDICT: Back in August, Musselburgh knocked Hawks out of the cup – and they won comfortably through at Balgray in the September league encounter. They were maybe unlucky only to get a draw against Accies last week and they got stuck in down at Mansfield a fortnight ago. Graeme Paterson thinks that they are moving in the right direction. The omens are good – but having to reshuffle their back division will not help – and Michael Maltman is still injured.

Andy Hill thought Hawks were ‘suckered into trying to play too much rugby’ against Jed last week. You can bet that there will be no repeat against Musselburgh – and the result will maybe turn on who wins the battle in the set pieces – and who kicks their goals.

Narrow home win.

The Thornwood
The Thornwood bar is delighted to support Glasgow Hawks

EDINBURGH ACADEMICALS v GHA

Venue: Newfield @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Edinburgh Accies: R Wilson; J Paterson, R Campbell, N Armstrong, M Campbell; R Mill, M Love; C Imrie, S Crombie, C Lamberton, C Bain, P O’Sullivan, C Thomson, J Sole©, J Bruce. Subs: R Gregor, D Anderson, C Dinnen, M Sinclair, C Armstrong.

GHA: G Mollison; J Craig, A Hughes, R McCallum, A Purewal; J MacKinnon, A Gillman; T Brogan, D Ewing, E McLaren, A Barnett, J McCarthy©, A Kerr, M Ryan, L McCutcheon. Subs: K Chernick, M Fox, M Marinkovic, G Baird, A Lamb.

TEAM NEWS –

Edinburgh Accies: Cole Lamberton returns from Scotland Under-19 duty at tight-head prop, second-row Patrick O’Sullivan is back from a long weekend in Dubai with Waterboys, and winger Jack Paterson has recovered from the illness that forced him to be a late call-off last week.

GHA: SRU Academy Stage Three players Euan McLaren and Robbie McCallum start at tight-head prop and inside-centre, respectively. Jordan Craig is on the wing after playing for Scotland U19’s last week.

KEY BATTLE: Cole Imrie versus Euan McLaren

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“GHA will be riding high after a great win in Marr last weekend and we will need to be at our best …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

“We are looking to kick on after a great performance against Marr last week but Edinburgh Accies will be a tough challenge for us and we know that they will work hard for 80 minutes, and will put us under pressure. We had a great battle against them earlier in the season at Braidholm and don’t expect anything to be different this time around …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)

VERDICT: Accies will have to improve dramatically on their disappointing showing against Musselburgh in their first ‘home’ game of the season to have any chance against GHA – but there is no shortage of talent. Good players do not become bad players – but they sometimes become slipshod players.

Charlie Lonergan is injured – but GHA must be on a huge high after their heroics against Marr last week – and it is difficult to see them not exploding into this game – and giving themselves a real chance of making the play-offs.

Away win.

Apartments in Leith

CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v MARR

Venue: Malleny Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Currie Chieftains: J McCaig; C Meager, S Hamilton, A Hall, A McLean; G Hunter, G Christie; G Carson, F Scott, R Patterson, M Poole, M Vernel, R Vucago, W Nelson, R Davies. Subs: M Argiro, S Edwards, H Ferguson, J O’Brien, F Sayers.

Marr: G Montgomery; J Scott, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, R Dalgleish; C Sturgeon, J Preston; W Farquhar, O Rossi, C Henderson,  E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: A Muir, B Sweet, B Johnston, F Hazel, C Inglis.

TEAM NEWS –

Currie Chieftains: Roy Vucago and Matt Poole come in to start at flanker and in the second-row, respectively, with Hamish Ferguson and Sam Edwards drop to the bench.  Gregor Hunter is back so Adam Hall shifts to the centre,  James McCaig starts at 15 and Fraser Sayers drops to the bench.

Marr: Three changes in personnel from last week. Greg Montgomery returns at full-back for Rory McGee, Calvin Henderson starts at tight-head prop with Brandon Sweet moving to the bench, and Ben Johnston is on the bench for the unavailable Cody Cunningham.

KEY BATTLE: Roy Vucago versus Mackenzie Pearce

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“It’s time to see how much we have improved as a team after being well beaten by Marr back at the start of the season. Marr will be disappointed by their performance last week against GHA and will have worked hard in training to right the wrongs. It’s going to be a big Malleny day with lunches booked-out and a real buzz about the club. I know the boys will be up for what will be a real physical and intense encounter …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“After a disappointing performance and result against GHA last week we face an extremely tough away fixture to Currie. We will have to be at our best defensively as they have scored more than 30 points for all their home games this season. They will also be determined to return to winning ways after defeat to Hawick last week. We will have to reduce the errors that have crept into our game over the last few weeks if we wish to have any chance of winning on Saturday …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

VERDICT: The big one – the game of the day – perhaps the game of the season.

Chieftains with Gregor Hunter at No 10 are a different proposition to Chieftains without Gregor Hunter at No 10. They lost their way when he left the field injured after only four minutes at Fullarton in the September fixture – and he missed the defeat at Mansfield last week. They did not, however, play well against Hawick – and their scrummaging and their discipline will have featured significantly in this week’s preparations.

Marr totally dominated possession and territory against GHA last week – but were goosed by the atrocious weather conditions and GHA’s indomitable spirit. They will, however, have learnt from the experience – and will come out all guns blazing at Malleny tomorrow afternoon.

At the end of the day, it will probably come down to home advantage and the result of the kicking duel between Hunter and Colin Sturgeon.

Narrow home win.

Cala Homes supports Currie Chieftains

JED-FOREST v ABERDEEN GRAMMAR

Venue: Riverside Park @ 3pm

TEAM –

Jed-Forest: L Young; C Young, R Marshall, R Yourston, J Laing; G Munro, N Stingl; T Jeffrey, F Scott, P Ferreira, D Tjombie, G Law, B Saxton, M Weekley, Garry Young. Subs: A Keeler, H Meadows, D Buckley, M Mitchell, J McGough.

Aberdeen Grammar: F Sneddon; C Shepherd, M Mitchell, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson©, J Troup; C Reddish, L Buchan, R Anderson,  V Ojogwu, A Robertson, C Robertson, F McKenzie, N Coe. Subs: C Neilson, M Martin, R Larment, A Ovenstone, P Ritchie.

TEAM NEWS –

Jed-Forest: Callum Young returns from Scotland 7s duty which offsets the unavailability of brother Gregor in a reshuffled back-line. The same starting pack as was put out for last week’s win at Glasgow Hawks.

Aberdeen Grammar: Several key members of the pack including second-row Robin Cessford and No 8 Greg Ryan are missing, while promising youngster of Fraser Sneddon has a chance to impress from full-back after replacing Sean Mills, who picked up a head knock last weekend.

KEY BATTLE: Robbie Yourston versus Tom Aplin

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“Another challenge for us this week. Aberdeen have had some good reults this season therefore we will need another big performance . Not taking anything for granted. Our forwards need to play with the same intensity as last week and that will hopefully provide us with the opportunities to get a result …” – Gavin Kerr (Jed-Forest)

“We travel to Jed on Saturday with a number of new faces in the match day squad. It’s a real opportunity for some guys to put hands up for more regular selection in the 1st XV …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)

VERDICT: A disappointing home defeat to Selkirk last week dented Aberdeen’s play-off aspirations – and they badly need a result at Riverside to keep them in the hunt. They have, however, been hit by unavailabilities of key players Sean Mills, Robin Cessford and Greg Ryan on top of the continuing absence of Matthew Schosser and Nathan Brown. One would suspect that this will come down to attitude rather than personnel in what is a very challenging away fixture.

Callum Young’s return is a big plus for Jed – particularly with brother Gregor not being there – but they have firepower all over the back-line. As well as looking from the same commitment that his forwards showed against Hawks, Gavin Kerr will want Gary Munro to keep them on the front foot as he did with such style last week.

Home win.

Scottish Rugby Taxi Board Game

SELKIRK v HAWICK

Venue: Philiphaugh @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, W Griebenow, L Gordon-Woolley; A Weir, G Welsh; S Muir©, C Renwick, D Johnstone, A Piotrowski, D Suddon, J Linton, S Graham, B McNeil. Subs: M Carryer, C Bachurzewski, S Fairbiarn, B McNeil, B Donaldson.

TEAM NEWS –

Hawick: No change to the side which defeated Currie Chieftains last week.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“Selkirk have had some good results over recent weeks and will be confident that they can turn us over after holding us to a draw at Mansfield earlier in the season. If we can improve our set piece from last week we should be able to put pressure on up front. As we are all aware form goes out the window with Border derbies. …” – George Graham (Hawick)

VERDICT: Hawick have got things sorted – and now have a settled feel about them. They played well against Chieftains last week –  their scrum was strong, their centres were outstanding and their bench was influential –  though they did struggle to convert pressure into points –  a problem they will be at pains not to repeat at Philiphaugh tomorrow.

Away win.

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1638 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.