Premiership preview for Saturday 9th December: runners, riders and verdict

Vital points in play-off race up for grabs when Heriot's and Musselburgh clash at Goldenacre

Marr host Edinburgh Accies at Fullarton in the Premiership this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Marr host Edinburgh Accies at Fullarton in the Premiership this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

AFTER the cold snap was the only winner last weekend, fingers are crossed that a full Premiership fixture card gets the go ahead on Saturday.

If it does, Hawick and Jed-Forest will be playing for the Skelly Cup with both sides needing points from the Border derby for very different reasons.

Hawick are top of the table and, at home, the defending champions want to make it 12 league wins in a row to retain their commanding position in the race for this year’s Premiership title, while bottom side Jed are aiming to cause a massive upset to keep alive a smidgen of hope that they can stay up.


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The Skelly Cup is played for once a season between the two old rivals in memory of Jed-Forest past player Graham Skeldon, uncle of current Jed captain Clark Skeldon.

Elsewhere, there is another all-Border affair at Philiphaugh where Selkirk, in eighth, host seventh placed Kelso.

Second placed Marr welcome fifth placed Edinburgh Accies to Troon, and third placed Currie Chieftains are on the road to ninth placed Glasgow Hawks.

At Goldenacre, there is set to be an intriguing match when sixth place Heriot’s Blues take on fourth placed Musselburgh with both sides keen to show they have the staying power to be right in the play-off battle post-Christmas.

How is stands –

 

The Lowdown –

Glasgow Hawks v Currie Chieftains

Venue: Balgray @ 2pm

Teams –

Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; S Graham, J Pinkerton, J McConkey, R Flett; D McCartney, J Imrie; K Shanahan, P Cairncross, M Goodwin, M Crumlish, S Halafihi, S Leckey©, A Syme, JP Thomson. Subs: R Howie, D Irvine, C Nolan, E Muirhead, H Provan.

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

Key battle: Jos McConkey versus Gregor Christie

Team news –

Glasgow Hawks: Sione Halafihi is available so gets the nod after his huge performance versus Marr last time out. JP Thomson comes in to start at No 8 with Lewis Stewart unavailable. The backline remains unchanged other than James Imrie comes in at 9 for Eric Davey, who has been pulled from the squad due to injuries in the under-20s set-up. Euan Muirhead has recovered from a delayed concussion he sustained versus Marr and comes onto the bench where Craig Nolan is also available.

Currie Chieftains: The only change in the pack from the Heriot’s match a couple of weeks ago sees Ali Bain replace the injured Ali McCallum in the second-row. DJ Innes starts at 13 in an otherwise settled backline.

What the coaches say –

“Hopefully we see some rugby this weekend as the boys have missed it and our matches against Currie are usually exciting affairs. Mark Cairns and Ally Donaldson play a good brand of rugby and always have their boys well prepared. This is a season of firsts and we are ideally looking to beat Currie for the first time since this new format of the Premiership began. However, we know how big a task this will be and we have to be at our best as Currie are a quality outfit who are chasing top four …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

“It was disappointing to have our match against Hawick postponed after making great progress over the previous few weeks. In our last match against Heriot’s we were clinical in our attack in the first half, but it was our defence in the second half that was most pleasing. It’s forecast to be a very wet afternoon on Saturday which will challenge both teams’ attacks. We will need to capitalise on this in defence and control territory in attack to come out on top …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

Verdict: Hawks have not managed to play since November 18th and although they lost to Marr that day they played some good stuff in patches. They will need an 80-minute performance if they are to be in with a chance of beating Currie, but the settled-look to things should get the Chieftains over the line.

Away win.

 

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Hawick v Jed-Forest

Venue: Mansfield Park @ 3pm

Teams –

Hawick: K Ford; C Welsh, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, R McKean; K Brunton, D Lightfoot; S Muir©, R Anderson, N Little, D Redpath, F Wilson, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: M Brogan, T Hope, D Brooker, Gareth Welsh, M Tait.

Jed-Forest: L Elder; B Irvine, G Young, D Buckley, R Shirra-Gibb; O Cranston, M Glen; J Ferguson, H Keith, N Bates, C Skeldon©, D Wardrop, E Lauder, B Roff, B Fotheringham. Subs: J Bowie, J Hynd, G Law, B Howe, N Cook.

Key battle: Connor Sutherand versus Elliot Lauder

Team news –

Hawick: This is the same squad as was due to play Currie last week. Key back-rower Jae Linton is suspended for four matches after being cited by Kelso for an off-the-ball incident.

Jed-Forest: Rory Marshall and Harry Meadows are unavailable this week so Brodie Irvine and Nicky Bates come into the starting line-up. Lewis Elder and Dan Wardrop also return.

What the coaches say –

“After a week off we welcome Jed to Mansfield Park and we are keen to keep our momentum going into the Christmas break so aren’t taking them lightly. They will be coming to Mansfield to try and put us under real pressure, but if we stick to our game-plan and bring an energy to what we do then we feel we can really kick on into the last few games of the regular season. Hopefully we have a good home support down and we can put in a big performance before the festive period …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

“The 61 points that Hawick scored against us still hurts and we need to make amends for that result back at Riverside in October. Playing at Hawick will be tough, especially as they’ve not been beaten at home for at least two seasons. I’ve said it before, but we need to take our chances when we get the chance, Saturday will be no different …” – David Grieve (Jed-Forest)

Verdict: These two old rivals will have a healthy crowd out watching them and Jed will be giving it everything, but there is only one outcome here as top takes on bottom.

Home win.

 

Heriot’s Blues v Musselburgh

Venue: Goldenacre @ 2pm

Teams –

Heriot’s Blues: R Steele; P Christie, T Storen, K Kutsuna, C Meager; L Townsend, K Singleton; A Munro, R Jackson, S Cessford, N Docherty, M Keough, R Kirkpatrick, M Dillon, A Johnston©. Subs: D Westwood, J Lascelles, J Hill, G Wilson, R Jones.

Musselburgh: P Cunningham; R Hindhaugh, R Watt©, R Smith, S Watt; M McMillan, D Owenson; N McNairn, C Owenson, E Bonthron, M Badenhorst, J Haynes, M Maltman, M Crawford, P Bogie. Subs: D Miller, R Brown, J Lister, B Heber, F Call.

Key battle: Angus Munro versus Euan Bonthron

Team news –

Heriot’s Blues: Trent Storen is at 13, Keir Singleton is at nine, Niall Docherty is in the second-row and the experienced Ross Jones comes onto the bench.

Musselburgh: Neil McNairn returns to the side at loose-head having recovered from a knee operation and Rory Hindhaugh returns from suspension. Craig Owenson moves to hooker and his brother Danny to a more familiar scrum-half role, the latter shift making room for Matthew McMillan to start at 10.

What the coaches say –

“This has the makings of a terrific fixture and a good day at the club. Both firsts and seconds are at home, the Christmas lunch is sold out and, in this match, both teams are vying for a play-off spot. The game at Stoneyhill threw up a 73-point thriller back in October, but, of course, three days of rain this week means it could very well be a 3-0 battle at ‘Gluepot Goldie’. On a more serious note, both ourselves and Musselburgh have pushed on from last year and should both be delighted with this progression. However, this is not the time to reflect on this as a play-off spot is now a reality, meaning I envisage a full-blooded affair where both teams’ attacking beliefs will put our defensive frailties to the test …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)

“Putting the break last week into context means that it was the first weekend without a game in 17 weeks [including pre-season]. We cannot underestimate what that means for bodies and minds to recover from what feels like a relentless run of games for us. The re-sequencing of games means that our trip to Goldenacre is a significant head-to-head that can make or break the back end of the season for either team. Couple that with the conditions and I reckon we are in for a physical challenge. Let’s hope it’s a challenge we are willing to rise to as on their day Heriot’s have the beating of any team in the league and, with a run of home games to look forward to, they are likely to be after a momentum builder. What a privilege it is to be involved in games like these so deep into the season …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

Verdict: The meeting between the sides earlier in the campaign when Musselburgh won 39-34 was certainly entertaining. Both sides still have their focus firmly on a play-off spot and getting into that top four would be a great achievement for either. Home advantage and the experience of Jason Hill, Graham Wilson and Ross Jones from the bench may just sway this one in Heriot’s favour.

Home win.

 

Marr v Edinburgh Accies

Venue: Fullarton Park @ 2pm

Teams –

Marr: J Scott; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, J Jacobson; C Sturgeon, G Baird; A Rogers, S Reekie, B Sweet, D Andrew, F Grant, A Apthorpe, B Johnston, B Jardine. Subs: W Farquhar, C Young, K Vallance, R Baird, C Inglis.

Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; M Wallace, N Armstrong©, G Woods, F MacNeill; B Appleson, P Ritchie; R Dunbar, F McAslan, C Crookshanks, C Bain, R Thompson, A Inwood, D McGrath, T Drennan. Subs: C Davies, C Imrie, T Jones, B Grainger, R Kent.

Key battle: Blair Jardine versus Tom Drennan

Team news –

Marr: The same starting XV that was due to play last week has been named, David Andrew makes a 50th top team appearance in the second-row. Cameron Young is added to the bench.

Edinburgh Accies: Max Wallace returns on the wing in an otherwise unchanged backline. Richard Thompson and Tom Drennan replace the injured Struan Whittaker and Jamie Sole respectively. Cal Davies, Cole Imrie, Ted Jones and Robbie Kent come onto the bench with the latter returning for the first time this season.

What the coaches say –

“This week the boys are raring to go after not having a game last weekend. The last time we played Accies we did not put in a good showing and we hope to put that right. They are a tough side to break down so we will need to be at our best. We are ready for a tough game …” – Kenny Diffenthal (Marr)

“Marr away is one of the toughest trips in the Premiership, but as a group we are excited about the challenge that Saturday will bring. Our effort levels need to be high and we must embrace the physical challenge that Marr will bring whilst focusing on getting our game right …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

Verdict: Accies travel having lost their last three, but they are still just three points off a play-off spot and certainly have the squad to make top four if they can get on a positive run. Marr scored 50 points at Selkirk two weeks ago and are a hard nut to crack at home.

Home win.

 

Selkirk v Kelso

Venue: Philiphaugh @ 3pm

Teams –

Selkirk: C Anderson; F Wheelans, B Pickles, R Nixon, J Welsh; Aaron McColm, H Alderson; L Pettie, J Bett, Z Szwagrzak, C Turnbull, A Cochrane, Andrew McColm, S McClymont©, K Westlake. Subs: B Riddell, J Millburn, L Cassidy, A Grant-Suttie, B Cullen.

Kelso: A Barbour; N Stingl, D Patterson, F Robson©, R Tweedie; M Hastie, A Tait; G Shiells, J Glendinning, T Logan, C Thompson, K Melbourne, L Tait, C Brown, B McNeil. Subs: E Knox, A Asante, A Common, E Thompson, M Wilson.

Key battle: Ben Pickles versus Dwain Patterson

Team news –

Selkirk: The only change in the forwards this week sees Andrew McColm moving into the back-row with Callum Turnbull starting in the second-row. In the backs, Callum Anderson starts at full-back after playing for the Steelers in Dubai last weekend. Andrew Grant-Suttie is on the bench after recovering from injury.

Kelso: Nik Stingl starts on the wing with Angus Roberts unavailable, so Andy Tait is at scrum-half. Angus Common takes a place on the bench.

What the coaches say –

“Border derbies always have an extra edge and Saturday’s game against Kelso will be no different. The players are buzzing for to get back playing after last week being called off. Kelso had a strong performance in their last game against Hawick so we know that we need to be at our best in all areas – and back our physically – to get the points …” – Gordon Henderson (Selkirk)

“Another Border derby to look forward to, hopefully the match is on and the weather is decent …” – Bruce McNeil (Kelso)

Verdict: When these sides met in October, Selkirk edged it 21-19 and this should be another tight affair. Kelso have not played since a 28-20 loss to Hawick three weeks ago while Selkirk were not at their best when they shipped 50 points at home to Marr a fortnight ago. If Selkirk’s pack can get on the front foot the points may just remain at Philiphaugh, but it could go either way.

Home 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.