Premiership preview for Saturday 3rd February: runners, riders and verdict

Plenty still to play for in final full round of fixtures

Heriot's Blues and Glasgow Hawks meet at Goldenacre. Image: Bob Coats
Heriot's Blues and Glasgow Hawks meet at Goldenacre. Image: Bob Coats

HAWICK are looking to secure top spot, while Marr and Currie Chieftains will continue to battle it out for second in the standings, and four clubs will keep fighting for the fourth play-off spot in the last full round of matches in the Premiership this Saturday.

Any match points at all from their away match at Selkirk will make sure that Hawick finish top of the regular season standings for a second successive year, but they know it will not be easy at Philiphaugh. Selkirk are eighth, but won at Edinburgh Accies last time out and are defending the Bill McLaren Shield on home turf for the first time.

Marr and Currie each have two games left with the former enjoying a two point advantage as they look to secure a home play-off semi-final. The men from Troon are at Musselburgh while Currie host Accies.


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Seventh placed Musselburgh and fifth placed Accies are two of the teams still in with a shot of fourth, but they need to win their last games here and hope other results go their way.

Kelso, currently in pole position for fourth, are away to already relegated Jed-Forest in a Border derby with Heriot’s Blues, in sixth, hosting ninth placed Glasgow Hawks.

How it stands –

 

The Lowdown –

Currie Chieftains v Edinburgh Accies

Venue: Malleny Park @ 2pm

Teams –

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, DJ Innes, I Sim, R Daley; J Forbes©, G Christie; T Jeffrey, R Stewart, G Carson, A Bain, C West, R Davies, A Fletcher, S Cardosi. Subs: J Ramsay, R Vucago, A Hoggarth, C Beckett, C Lessels.

Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; G Welsh, R Kent, G Woods, M Wallace; C Allan, P Ritchie; R Dunbar, F McAslan, C Imrie©, R Thompson, S Whittaker, G Napier, K Slingsby, T Drennan. Subs: G Hall, A Hain, J Mills, B Jackson, B Grainger.

Key battle: Thomas Jeffrey versus Cole Imrie

Team news –

Currie Chieftains: The backs are unchanged and in the forwards Archie Fletcher starts at seven after a strong performance off the bench last time out, and Andrew Hoggarth comes into the squad as a replacement.

Edinburgh Accies: Gavin Welsh returns to the team on the wing with George Woods moving to inside centre and Connor Allan starting at stand-off. Ross Dunbar starts at loose-head, while Cole Imrie moves to tight-head and is captain. Guy Napier returns at blindside after being a last-minute call-off last week and Tom Drennan starts at No 8. Accies are delighted to welcome back Jake Mills to the matchday squad after long-term injury alongside the returning Arran Hain and Ben Grainger.

What the coaches say –

“We have worked really hard this week to right some of the wrongs from Kelso last week, underpinned by a need for a much higher ‘off ball’ work rate. With two games of the regular season to go achieving a home play-off semi-final is still in our hands. This week we take on an Accies team full of attacking threats and we’ll need to be at our best to get the win …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“We head to Malleny Park this weekend to play a Currie Chieftains team who will be wanting to right some wrongs from last week’s defeat to Kelso at Poynder Park. However, we also have some demons to right and finish s frustrating season on a high …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

Verdict: Both sides suffered frustrating defeats last weekend but still have lots to play for. Home advantage should get Currie through this one.

Home win.

 

Heriot’s Blues v Glasgow Hawks

Venue: Goldenacre @ 2pm

Teams –

Heriot’s Blues: A Hunter; P Christie, O Quinn, K Kutsuna, C Meager; L Townsend, G Wilson; B Dineen, R Jackson, S Cessford, P Spence, M Keough, C Shand, R Kirkpatrick, J Hill©. Subs: F Thomas, J Lascelles, R Simpson, TBC, H Hitchen.

Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; T Macleod, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, F Callaghan; D McCartney, J Imrie; F Muir, P Cairncross©, E Cairns, M Crumlish, S Halafihi, L Stewart, B Skinner, T Wright. Subs: A Burgess, G Strain, C Nolan, R Gordon, B Morriss.

Key battle: Oisin Quinn versus James Pinkerton

Team news –

Heriot’s Blues: A number of changes due to injury and boys heading to Wales.

Glasgow Hawks: Regular props Kyle Shanahan and Marcus Goodwin are unavailable this week so Fraser Muir retains his starting berth from last week, while Eben Cairns makes a timely return after injury. The only change to the pack sees Ben Skinner earn a start with Ryan Howie working. In the backs, James Pinkerton returns to play his last game before moving to New Zealand for at least a year. That sees Finlay Callaghan move out to his more familiar role on the wing with Ryan Flett injured. On the bench, Rory Gordon will look to make his debut while Gary Strain has answered the Hawks signal to ‘dig them out’ after a raft of injuries and unavailability in the front=row.

What the coaches say –

“Last week’s performance was remarkable given we had not played in so long and were playing the current leaders. With that in mind, we have to keep up the momentum. Hawks will bring physicality and that will focus the minds …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)

“Our games against Heriot’s are always enjoyable affairs and our lads love travelling there as they have one of, if not the, best pitch in Scotland to play some running rugby. Phil Smith has done what he’s always done which is great create a good team that is difficult to beat and that is why they are pushing for top four. They have a much harder edge than when we last played them built around a strong scrum and maul. We will need to front up here while maintaining our attacking edge. We felt as if we weren’t far off of things clicking against Musselburgh so it’s been small fixes this week while highlighting how important our own discipline is …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

Verdict: Heriot’s are missing a few players, but home advantage and the top four hopes still being alive will be their focus here against a stretched Hawks’ squad.

Home win.

 

Musselburgh v Marr

Venue: Stoneyhill @ 2pm

Teams –

Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; J Ferguson, R Watt©, B Heber, S Watt; P Cunningham, R Condie; R Brown, C Owenson, D Miller, J Haynes, M Badenhorst, J Lister, M Outram, P Bogie. Subs: E Bonthron, C Arthur, M Crawford, G Inkster, T Foley.

Marr: J Scott; R Baird, N Calder, C Bickerstaff©, J Jacobson; C Inglis, G Baird; A Rogers, B Sweet, W Farquhar, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, B Johnston, C Young, A Apthorpe. Subs: C Smith, K Vallance, M Blair, G Beckwith, L Jarvie.

Key battle: Jordan Lister versus Ben Johnston

Team news –

Musselburgh: Darren Miller comes in for Neil McNairn and Colin Arthur rejoins the squad on the bench. Max Outram starts ahead of Matty Crawford, who is joined on the bench by ft again Gavin Inkster following a training ground injury sustained in November. Paul Cunningham starts at 10 for the first time this season, joined with Loretto School pupil Rex Condie at nine after impressing against Hawks last week.

Marr: Several changes to Marr’s squad due to injuries and other commitments. In the forwards, Will Farquhar is back from injury at tight-head and this allows Alex Apthorpe to switch to strengthen the back-row at No 8. Ewan Hamilton-Bulger gets a start in the second-row while, after some good performances, Murray Blair steps up from the 2nd XV to take a place on the bench. In the backs, Calum Inglis switches to stand-off and Jack Scott moves from wing to cover full-back. Nairn Calder is promoted from the 2nd XV to play centre. After showing some electric pace against Jed-Forest, Robbie Baird starts on the wing. On the bench, the versatile Gregor Beckwith is called up and he is joined there by Glasgow Warriors academy player Logan Jarvie, who is returning from injury.

What the coaches say –

“You might be forgiven for thinking the game at the weekend means little to us given we are safe and with Kelso taking control of fourth spot. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Depending on how things go we can finish higher than we ever have before or things go another way and we remain as we are. Fortunately, while it means a lot there is little in the way of pressure on us which is pretty liberating, so the boys have license to take the shackles off, have a crack and hopefully see the season off in style …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

“This is going to be a real test for our squad. Stoneyhill is always a tough place to visit and come away with any points. Musselburgh, who have only lost twice at home this season, are playing their final match of the campaign and as they are in with an outside chance of making the fourth spot in the play-offs, will throw everything at us to get the bonus point win. Derek will have his squad well prepared and we need to make sure players like Rory Watt and Michael Badenhorst are kept in check. We need to build on our performance from last week and be patient and precise in defence and attack. The changes in our squad provide an opportunity for the players coming in to show what they can do as we approach an intense period of rugby activity to finish our season with the play-offs and the start of the Cup campaign …” – Kenny Diffenthal (Marr)

Verdict: Musselburgh play with a real attacking intent at home and will give this everything as their successful regular season comes to an end. Marr are missing a few key men, but they still have plenty of leaders in their group and they may just battle to get them over the line here.

Away win.

 

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Jed-Forest v Kelso

Venue: Riverside Park @ 3pm

Teams –

Jed-Forest: L Young; B Irvine, G Young, O Cranston, R Shirra-Gibb; D Buckley, M Glen; J Ferguson, H Keith, D Campbell, G Law, C Skeldon©, D McNeil, G Law, D Wardrop, B Fotheringham. Subs: H Stenhouse, J Bowie, B Howie, L Elder, R Hogg.

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, C Brown, M Woodcock, B McNeil. Subs: A McGregor, A Asante, J Glendinning, C Thompson, N Stingl.

Key battle: Lewis Young versus Archie Barbour

Team news –

Jed-Forest: Dom Buckley comes back in at stand-off with Owen Cranston moving to the centre to join Gregor Young. Jamie Hynd and Elliott Lauder suffered injuries last week so Hamish Stenhouse and Ben Howie join the squad.

Kelso: Liam Tait has been lost to knee injury which is frustrating for the club given how well he has been performing. Murray Woodcock starts in the back-row and Cammy Thompson returns on the bench.

What the coaches say –

“Although we were heavily beaten last week I was really pleased with the attitude shown by the players. We missed a lot of experience, especially in the backs, but key players returning this weekwill certainly make a difference. Kelso are playing well and are full of confidence, they’re now in that fourth play-off spot so they’ll not want to lose the chance to play in a Premiership semi-final, but this is a local derby which both teams desperately wanting win …” – David Grieve (Jed-Forest)

“Jed will be very fired up for this one, we must be ready for that and stick to our game plan. We must win this if we have any chance of making the play-offs …” – Bruce McNeil (Kelso)

Verdict: They say form goes out the window in a derby, but Kelso have been in too good form and there is too much riding on this one for them to fluff their lines now.

Away win.

 

Selkirk v Hawick

(for the Bill McLaren Shield)

Venue: Philiphaugh @ 3pm

Teams –

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, C Turnbull, J Welsh, C Easson.

Hawick: K Ford; C Welsh, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, R McKean; K Brunton, G Welsh; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Redpath, F Wilson, S Graham, C Renwick, J Linton. Subs: R Anderson, R Macleod, D Brooker, D Lightfoot, M Tait.

Key battle: Scott McClymont versus Calum Renwick

Team news –

Selkirk: Only one change in the squad with Josh Welsh available after injury and holidays to take Ruaridh Murray’s place on the bench.

Hawick: Dalton Redpath, Scotland under-20 wider squad member Fraser Wilson, Gareth Welsh and Ronan McKean all return to the starting XV.

What the coaches say –

“It is a massive and exciting challenge for Selkirk this week against a very strong Hawick side. We have had excellent wins against Musselburgh and Edinburgh Accies in our last two league games and this will be another opportunity to build on these performances and push Hawick all the way. We will need to disciplined and focused for the whole game as Hawick will attack with pace and physicality. The players have prepared well this week and know the level we will need to play at to compete and to stay in the game …” – Gordon Henderson (Selkirk)

“We have had a few things to work on this week after a brilliant win at Heriot’s last week. We know how tight games in the past have been against Selkirk and are expecting a typical Border derby. We need to match them physically and implement our game plan from the word go. If we do that then we feel this game can put us in the right frame of mind heading into the play-offs. We know what’s needed for us to finish a second consecutive season at the top of table so the guys minds are focused on one thing – ensuring a win on Saturday …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

Verdict: This should be a cracker. Selkirk have had good recent results and can put everything into it while Hawick have eyes on sealing top spot. It’ll be a real ‘ding dong’ battle which the title chasers should win.

Away win.


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About Gary Heatly 439 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.

2 Comments

  1. Can’t see beyond Hawick in the Playoffs. Dominated again and look unstoppable. Marr always dangerous and Kelso will fight for everything, not so sure about Currie, flatter to deceive IMO. There’s a real consistency to the Green Machine.

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