LEADERS Hawick head to Heriot’s Blues on Saturday for their penultimate regular season Premiership fixture looking to keep up momentum up ahead of the play-offs and retain the Norman Suddon Memorial Shield, which was dominated by the family of the Greens and Scotland great after he passed away in April 2022.
Last season, in September 2022, Hawick won the inaugural contest for the Shield, 52-21 at home and they now take the shield on the road to Edinburgh, but more pressing for Heriot’s will be the valuable league points they need in the battle for the fourth play-off spot, so it should be a good game.
Currie Chieftains and Marr are battling for second spot and a home play-off semi-final and the former are away to Kelso who are still eyeing up fourth. Marr are at home to already relegated Jed-Forest while Edinburgh Accies and Musselburgh are the other clubs in the mix for fourth along with Heriot’s and Kelso. Accies are at home to Selkirk this weekend with Musselburgh on the road to Glasgow Hawks.
How it stands –
The Lowdown –
Edinburgh Accies v Selkirk
Venue: Raeburn Place @ 2pm
Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; G Woods, R Kent, N Armstrong©, M Wallace; B Appleson, P Ritchie; C Imrie, F McAslan, C Crookshanks, R Thompson, S Whittaker, G Napier, K Slingsby, A Wood. Subs: G Hall, R Dunbar, T Drennan, B Jackson, C Allan.
Selkirk: C Anderson; F Wheelans, A Grant-Suttie, R Nixon, B Cullen; Aaron McColm, H Alderson; L Pettie, J Bett, Z Szwagrzak, Andrew McColm, A Cochrane, L Cassidy, S McClymont©, K Westlake. Subs: S Clark, B Riddell, R Murray, C Turnbull, C Easson.
Key battle: Patrick Ritchie versus Hugo Alderson
Team news –
Edinburgh Accies: George Woods returns to the squad on the wing in an otherwise unchanged backline. Calum Crookshanks comes in at tight-head and Cole Imrie moves back to loose-head with Fraser McAslan replacing the unavailable Cal Davies at hooker. Ross Dunbar rotates to the bench with Grant Hall and Tom Drennan returning to the matchday squad there too.
Selkirk: The squad remains the same as the one that was due to play last week, which means Andrew Grant-Suttie starts this game at outside-centre in place of Ben Pickles who is out for the rest of the season after picking up a serious injury in the game against Musselburgh in December. Blake Cullen comes into the backline as Josh Welsh is unavailable due to a holiday. The starting forwards remain the same from their last game. Sam Clark and Cameron Easson are among the replacements after performing well for the Selkirk ‘A’ team.
What the coaches say –
“It’s our last home league game of the season and one we must win to have any chance of pushing for the play-offs …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)
“After the disappointment of last week’s game being off, we are excited to be back playing this week and numbers have been excellent at both of our training sessions this week. This will be another tough game against Edinburgh Accies who are still in the hunt for a top four finish. Accies have a physical pack and players in their backline that are dangerous with front foot ball. We will need to stay focused defensively and take our chances in attack to gain points from this game …” – Gordon Henderson (Selkirk)
Verdict: Selkirk secured a great win – and the Bill McLaren Shield which they’ll defend at home on February 3rd versus Hawick – at Musselburgh before Christmas and will have taken heart from that. Accies are on home turf and need a win to stay in the top four mix, so that carrot may just be enough for them.
Heriot’s Blues v Hawick
Venue: Goldenacre @ 2pm
Heriot’s Blues: R Steele; P Christie, R Jones, K Kutsuna, C Meager; L Townsend, G Wilson; A Munro, R Jackson, S Cessford, N Doherty, M Keough, J Hill, R Kirkpatrick, A Johnston©. Subs: F Thomas, B Dineen, P Spence, A Hunter, H Hitchen.
Hawick: K Ford; M Tait, C Welsh, A Mitchell, R Purvis; L Armstrong, D Lightfoot; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, S Frizzel, J Linton, D Brooker, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: R Anderson, R Macleod, M Brogan, G Welsh, K Brunton.
Key battle: Ali Johnston versus Stuart Graham
Team news –
Heriot’s Blues: From the team that was due to play last week, Rory Steele comes in at full-back for Angus Hunter who is on the bench. Oisin Quinn drops out.
Hawick: Dalton Redpath and Ross Graham are both away this week and Connor Sutherland misses out through injury. Sam Frizzel, promoted from the bench, and Jae Linton, returning from suspension, are in the second-row while Scotland under-20 hopeful Marcus Brogan joins the bench. Winger Ronan McKean misses out this week, Ryan Purvis coming in to earn his first start in the first team. Ruaridh Macleod joins the bench after a spell in Australia.
What the coaches say –
“It now feels like an off season of preparation, as it is six weeks since we last played. However, having the top team in the league as the challenge will hopefully sharpen the minds. The aim will be to get up to speed as quickly as possible, stay in the game as long as possible, then see what we can achieve at the end. We also have the exciting prospect of our 2nd XV winning the Inter-District League on Saturday, so post-match could be busy and full of fun, particularly as Hawick always bring a strong travelling support who bring their own atmosphere to Goldie …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)
“For the fourth week running we head to Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. We know we are in a tough run of fixtures and to finish with this batch of away games will test our resilience and squad depth. We feel last weekend was our best performance of the season but Heriot’s will cause us different problems. We have trained very well this week and are looking to back up last week, the play-off places are really heating up and we know what we need to do in the next couple of weeks to ensure a home semi-final. Saturday is another hurdle we must overcome against a Heriot’s side who have played some quality rugby this season and we will need to be at our best …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)
Verdict: These two sides like to get the ball wide, so if the weather allows this could be an entertaining fixture evoking memories of old between the clubs. However, the hard yards will need to be done by the packs and Hawick will feel if they can get on the front foot in that area that they can back up last week’s win at Musselburgh, but it could be tight.
Marr v Jed-Forest
Venue: Fullarton Park @ 2pm
Marr: G Montgomery; J Scott, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, J Jacobson; C Sturgeon, G Baird; A Rogers, B Sweet, A Apthorpe, D Andrew, F Grant, C Folan, C Young, B Jardine. Subs: S Reekie, C Smith, K Vallance, R Baird, C Inglis.
Jed-Forest: L Young; B Irvine, G Young, R Shirra-Gibb, K Grieve; O Cranston, M Glen; J Ferguson, H Keith, D Campbell, G Law, C Skeldon©, D Wardrop, E Lauder, B Fotheringham. Subs: D McNeil, J Bowie, J Hynd, L Elder, R Marshall.
Key battle: Greg Montgomery versus Lewis Young
Team news –
Marr: Jack Scott comes in on the wing for the injured Scott Bickerstaff. Struan Reekie is added to the bench.
Jed-Forest: Pretty much the same team that was selected for last week’s postponed game against Hawks.
What the coaches say –
“Hopefully we get some rugby this week as we need it. Jed are always tough opposition and the team they have picked is strong. We will need to be at our best defensively and make sure we take our chances when they come …” – Kenny Diffenthal (Marr)
“The lads were disappointed that our game against Hawks was off last week. That’s now five weeks without a game which isn’t the best preparation for travelling through to Troon Saturday’s trip to Fullarton will be a tough one, Marr are pushing for that home semi-final spot so we expect them to come at us right from the start …” – David Grieve (Jed-Forest)
Verdict: Marr on home turf and chasing a top two finish in the regular season table will have too much for already relegated Jed here.
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Glasgow Hawks v Musselburgh
Venue: Balgray @ 2.30pm
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; T Macleod, F Callaghan, C Ferrie, R Flett; G Cruickshanks, J Imrie; F Muir, P Cairncross©, K Shanahan, M Crumlish, S Halafihi A Syme, R Howie, T Wright. Subs: C Nolan, M Goodwin, JP Thomson, D McCartney, J Blair.
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; R Hindhaugh, B Heber, R Watt©, S Watt; M McMillan, R Condie; N McNairn, C Owenson, D Miller, J Haynes, M Badenhorst, J Lister, M Crawford, P Bogie. Subs: E Bonthron, R Brown, M Outram, R Smith, T Foley.
Key battle: Gavin Cruickshanks versus Matthew McMillan
Team news –
Glasgow Hawks: A relatively settled pack at the moment. Ryan Howie is available and starts in the back-row while Tiaan Wright has recovered from illness that would have ruled him out versus Jed last week. Gavin Cruickshanks has won his place at 10 through training this week while the evasive winger Torquil Macleod returns from the injury which has sidelined him since pre-Christmas. Finlay Callaghan will make his Hawks debut having been injured for some time and replaces James Pinkerton, who is at his brother’s wedding. James Couper and Ryan Flett start after being unavailable last week.
Musselburgh: Rex Condie makes his debut as a product of the club’s continuing relationship with Loretto School, the current senior six pupil coming in at nine in place of the injured Fionn Call. Jak Haynes and Ruaridh Hindhaugh return from their unavailability last week along with Rory Smith on the bench in place of Ollie Craig who picked up an injury in an impressive second half display against Hawick.
What the coaches say –
“Musselburgh have gone well this season and know if they win this weekend they could take it down to their final match for a top four spot which is a huge testament to them. Games versus Musselburgh are always tight, attritional affairs and we are still searching to consistently be at our physical best, but if we want to win this weekend we know we will have to be as they bring some big physical men. However, we know what we are capable of in attack and defence and if we play with the same ambition and ruthless edge as we did in the second half versus Accies we are a match for any opposition in this league. The lads deserve a victory for what they have been asked for – and how they have performed at times – this season. But wins are never given to you, you have to earn them and that’s what we are having to learn, the hard way, at the minute …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)
“Despite the loss last week there were aspects of our game on the defensive side of the ball that I was quite pleased with against a team who have only lost once in the league in nearly two years. I hope that will see us in good stead as we face a Hawks team who will feel hard done by with a 42-42 draw last time we played. We are heading there as underdogs and a team in search of a result having last registered a win on November 25th. Our target all year has been to have a season of ‘best evers’ in the Premiership and despite being in seventh we have registered more league points and less losses than any other season in the top flight of amateur club rugby in Scotland. We can be proud of what we have achieved so far but we shouldn’t settle for it. I’m excited to see how the players embrace that challenge over the final few days of our league campaign, starting Saturday …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)
Verdict: Musselburgh head coach Derek O’Riordan says his side are the underdogs going into this one having not won since late November, but Hawks have not won since late October. While Musselburgh’s play-off hopes are still alive they will keep battling and their experienced players should help them get the triumph needed here.
Kelso v Currie Chieftains
Venue: Poynder Park @ 3pm
Kelso: A Barbour; J Thompson, D Patterson, F Robson©, R Tweedie; M Hastie, A Tait; G Shiells, E Knox, T Logan, E Thompson, K Melbourne, l Tait, C Brown, B McNeil. Subs: A McGregor, A Asante, J Glendinning, M Woodcock, N Stingl.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, DJ Innes, I Sim, R Daley; J Forbes©, G Christie; J Ramsay, R Stewart, G Carson, A Bain, C West, R Davies, R Vucago, S Cardosi. Subs: T Jeffrey, K Steel, A Fletcher, C Beckett, C Lessels.
Key battle: Grant Shiells versus Graeme Carson
Team news –
Kelso: Euan Thompson gets a start in the boiler house after impressing off the bench last weekend, Cammy Thompson very unluckily misses out altogether, and Liam Tait makes a return to the back-row with Murray Woodcock moving to the replacements.
Currie Chieftains: The only changes this week from the postponed game against Marr are Jacob Ramsay starting at loose-head prop and Cameron Lessels coming into the squad to cover the backs from the bench.
What the coaches say –
“This will be our last home XVs fixture of the season and we want to finish on a high if possible. Currie are the best attacking team in the division and put us to the sword in the reverse fixture. To avoid this at Poynder we will need to be very disciplined and organised in defence and willing to work hard without the ball. The Farmers Lunch is a sell out so hopefully we can put on a great match and get the win…” – Bruce McNeil (Kelso)
“With the Marr game postponed last week, I managed to get down to watch the Accies play Kelso as we play both teams back-to-back starting with Kelso this weekend. It was a very physical game and I thought Kelso managed possession and territory really well. Kelso have had a great year and have only been beaten at home on two occasions so we know how difficult a task we have in front of us. We were happy with our second half against Hawick and will need this level of performance to take points from Poynder Park …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
Verdict: Kelso have been very good at home this season and with a big hospitality lunch this weekend it sounds like they will be cheered on well this weekend. They will be giving it everything to stay in the play-off picture, but Currie want a home play-off semi-final and a largely unchanged squad should get them a hard-fought win here.