WE are only a month into the Premiership season, but there is already a big clash at the bottom end of the table with Jed-Forest, who have collected just one point to date and are 10th, hosting ninth placed Musselburgh, who have drawn one and lost two to give them four points.
Meanwhile, in Edinburgh at Malleny Park, first and second meet with Currie Chieftains doing battle with Heriot’s Blues.
Third placed Edinburgh Accies take on Hawick in fifth, fourth placed Marr will defend the Bill McLaren Shield for the first time in Troon against seventh placed Selkirk, while eighth takes on sixth when Kelso welcome Glasgow Hawks to Poynder Park.
How it stands –
The Lowdown –
Currie Chieftains v Heriot’s Blues
Venue: Malleny Park @ 3pm
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; R Daley, DJ Innes, C Gray, J McCaig; J Forbes©, C Lessels; T Jeffrey, R Vucago, G Carson, A McCallum, C West, K Steel, S Cardosi, R Davies. Subs: R Stewart, O Blyth-Lafferty, A Fletcher, M O’Neil, S Leto.
Heriot’s Blues: A Hunter; F Carden, R Steele, P Burns, P Christie; D Tomanek, K Kutsuna; A Munro, A Johnston©, A Bogle, N Docherty, B Dineen, I Hill, S Wallace, R Kirkpatrick. Subs: L Forsyth, M Bouab, M Dillon, J McNaughton, C Yuill.
Key battle: Roy Vucago versus Ali Johnston
Team news –
Currie Chieftains: In the forwards, hooker Roy Vucago is back whilst Courtney West and Kyle Steel come in for the unavailable Will Inglis and Ali Bain in the second-row and back-row respectively. The backs remain unchanged from last week’s win away to Musselburgh.
Heriot’s Blues: Rory Jackson, Malachy Keough, Trent Storen and Cammy Meagher are unavailable through injury this weekend after a tough fixture versus Edinburgh Accies. This means Lachlan Forsyth, Innes Hill and Matt Dillon return to the match-day squad while Finn Carden will make his Premiership debut on the wing and John McNaughton is set to make his off the bench.
What the coaches say –
“There were some pleasing moments against Musselburgh last week, but we know there is still plenty room for improvement. We go into a really challenging run of games now that starts with Heriot’s at home this weekend. This has always been a big fixture for the club and Heriot’s come to Malleny unbeaten after a strong win against Accies last week. It’s set to be a cracking match and our guys are really up for it …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
“The final play in last week’s humdinger had shades of our final play try in the first ever Premiership play-off final against Melrose a few years ago and it is credit to the boys to keep going at the end of a tough match and come away with a 15-phase attack to clinch the win. Our prize is a trip to Malleny Park to play the league leaders. Our recent fixtures against Currie, while not successful in respect of a win, have been entertaining affairs, so the healthy crowd that follow Currie should hopefully see another entertaining match. Our chances of winning can only increase once the TOL staff predict Currie to win …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
Verdict: With these two clubs at the top end of the table together it is a throwback to the ‘old’ Premiership pre-pandemic when they had some great tussles. The 2nd XVs are also meeting in a top of the table clash. Three times this season the TOL ‘expert’ has predicted that Heriot’s would lose and three times they have been left with egg on their face as the Goldenacre men have notched up two wins and a draw. Maybe it will happen a fourth time. Although it will be close, with the players Heriot’s are missing and Currie being at home the Chieftains should have enough to win this one.
Home win … stick that on your dressing room wall, Phil!
Edinburgh Accies v Hawick
Venue: Raeburn Place @ 3pm
Edinburgh Accies: S Wells; M Wallace, R Chalmers, G Woods, F Macneill; J Loomes©, P Ritchie; C Imrie, F McAslan, S Habib, C Bain, S Whittaker, F Simpson, K Slingsby, J Sole. Subs: G Hall, A Hain, C Thomson, B Grainger, B Appleson.
Hawick: K Ford; M Tait, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, R McKean; K Brunton, G Welsh; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, F Wilson, D Redpath, S Graham, C Renwick, J Linton. Subs: R Anderson, T Hope, C Sutherland, S Goodfellow, B Donaldson.
Key battle: Jamie Sole versus Jae Linton
Team news –
Edinburgh Accies: George Woods replaces the injured Neil Armstrong at centre, Finlay Macneill is in on the wing and Ben Appleson comes onto the bench. Up front, Fraser McAslan starts at hooker and Jamie Sole returns at No 8. Chris Thomson replaces the injured Angus Inwood on the bench.
Hawick: The visitors have named an unchanged starting XV with young second-row Fraser Wilson, a late call-up versus Kelso, retaining his spot. fit again Connor Sutherland, Russell Anderson and Bailey Donaldson join the bench.
What the coaches say –
“Whilst the result last week was disappointing there were some real learnings to take from the game. The players have responded well this week, and we look forward to taking on the champions Hawick at Raeburn Place …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)
“We are looking forward to this weekend when we face a tough trip to Raeburn Place to face Edinburgh Accies. We were pleased with last week’s performance and are keen to get back on the road and look to back up our home win. Accies are a strong side at home and we will be ready for a backlash from their result last weekend. They move the ball well and have quality players to put them in the right areas of the park. We are expecting another tough battle, but will be looking raise our performance for the trip to Edinburgh …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)
Verdict: When these sides met at the same venue last season, it took a last gasp try and conversion to win it for Hawick. Expect a similarly tight tussle this time around with Accies keen to bounce back from their reverse at Heriot’s Blues and Hawick looking to win on the road for the first time this season. If their pack can get the upper hand they may just do that.
Jed-Forest v Musselburgh
Venue: @ 3pm
Jed-Forest: M Glen; L Walker, G Young, D Buckley, R Shirra-Gibb; G Munro, A Bambrick; P Ferreira, J Ferguson, H Meadows, C Skeldon©, B Hope, D Wardrop, E Lauder, B Roff. Subs: R Briggs, J Story, R Thomson, L Elder, S Murdoch.
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; J Ferguson, R Watt©, B Heber, S Watt; R Smith, F Call; C Owenson, R Stott, C Arthur, J Haynes, M Badenhorst, J Arnold, M Crawford, J Lister. Subs: J Crain, R Brown, G Inkster, M McMillan, O Craig.
Key battle: Harry Meadows versus Craig Owenson
Team news –
Jed-Forest: Dom Buckley starts for the first time this season in the centre alongside Gregor Young who was unavailable last Saturday. Lewis Walker switches from centre to wing in place of Lewis Elder, who drops to the bench. The pack is pretty settled, Elliot Lauder retains his place in the back-row after scoring two tries last Saturday against Selkirk as Jack Howe isn’t fit to play, and Paulo Ferreira comes into the front-row in place of Ryan Briggs.
Musselburgh: Craig Owenson gets the nod ahead of Ross Brown in the front-row meaning Ross Hanning drops out of the squad this week. Bob Stott returns at hooker which allows Raymond Mackie and Darren Miller a chance to recover from some niggles, so Jonathan Crain covers hooker off the bench. Michael Badenhorst is back in the second-row, Joss Arnold shifting to six. Matthew McMillan continues his return to action from shoulder surgery with a spot on the bench.
What the coaches say –
“Last Saturday’s score line was a hard one to take, to concede 10 tries in any game isn’t acceptable and we need to tighten up our defence. Musselburgh will certainly test our defence. Jed versus Musselburgh games in the past have always been high scoring games and I don’t see Saturday being any different. Both Musselburgh and ourselves desperately need the points so I’d imagine both teams will give the Riverside crowd an entertaining game…” – David Grieve (Jed-Forest)
“We are starting to see the drip feed of players back from short and longer-term injuries which presents some headaches and heartaches in terms of selection. You’d be forgiven for thinking all is not well with where we are in the league three games in but sometimes the table can lie. We have had some nice spells over the first three games and for 60 minutes last week we were in it with last season’s ‘nearly men’ Currie. We can take solace from that, but nice spells don’t win you rugby matches. We must head to Riverside with a desire to dial in and perform across the 80 minutes as Jed have a habit of punishing those who don’t …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)
Verdict: To survive in this league you have to do well in your home games and Jed-Forest know that they have to start picking up points at Riverside Park quickly. Jed have conceded 160 points in just three games while Musselburgh caused Currie issues at times last week. As such, many may see an away win coming, but you just get the feeling that Jed may well just react positively on their home turf to get over the big Selkirk defeat.
Kelso v Glasgow Hawks
Venue: Poynder Park @ 3pm
Kelso: A Barbour; H Tweedie, J Thompson, F Robson©, R Tweedie; A Utterson, A Tait; G Shiells, E Knox, M Thompson, C Brown, K Melbourne, L Tait, M Woodcock, B McNeil. Subs: C Marshall, A Asante, E Thompson, J Glendinning, G Ponton.
Glasgow Hawks: H Lapslie; J Blair, J Pinkerton, S Graham, J Adamson; L Brims, H Roxburgh; A Al-Agilly, A Burgess, M Goodwin, S Leckey©, A Syme, L Stewart, JP Thomson, T Wright. Subs: M Downer, D Irvine, M Crumlish, T Sofidaya, J McConkey.
Key battle: Grant Shiells versus Marcus Goodwin
Team news –
Kelso: Murray Hastie misses out this week as he is in France. Archie Cowens, Dwain Patterson, Cammy Thompson, Liam Herdman and Angus Roberts are all unavailable due to injuries, and Terry Logan is suspended. Keith Melbourne and James Thompson make their first starts of the season in the second-row and at centre respectively after impressing from the bench last week. Euan Knox comes in at hooker and Andy Tait returns at scrum-half.
Glasgow Hawks: After a physical encounter versus Marr, it is no surprise there are a few injuries and subsequently some changes. Paul Cairncross and Kyle Shanahan are out of the front-row with Adam Al-Agilly coming into the squad from the 2nd XV and Aaron Burgess starting at hooker. In the backs, Sam Graham comes in for the injured Wayne Burrows at 12 and Jamie Blair and Howie Roxburgh replace Ross Darroch and James Imrie to earn their first starts for the club. Henry Lapslie also comes in for the unavailable James Couper at full-back. On the bench, Mike Downer returns and new recruits Tobi Sofidaya and Jos McConkey are included.
What the coaches say –
“Last week was an under-par performance against a well drilled and determined Hawick side at Mansfield. We quickly turn our attentions to Glasgow Hawks who were very unlucky not to turn over Marr last weekend, so another tough match awaits us. We must be better in defence and get our structures in place early in the match to put pressure on Hawks. Another heathy crowd is expected at Poynder and we don’t want to disappoint the home support so a big reaction is needed …” – Bruce McNeil (Kelso)
“Last week was a disappointing defeat and was one we walked away from thinking ‘how did we lose that?’. It’s been a tough week training given conditions and the number of changes we’ve had to make. We’ve worked hard over pre-season and throughout the first few games to maintain continuity in the squad, but this week will really test our cohesion and it will require players to stand up given that senior players Paul Cairncross, Ryan Flett and James Couper are out. However, it is a great opportunity for players to stake a claim for an starting jersey and I’m extremely excited to see how we handle the travel, the pressure of the crowd and the physicality Kelso will bring. They will be desperate for their first win, especially at home, so we have to rise to the challenge and play our brand of rugby …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)
Verdict: Kelso are coming off the back of shipping 61 points, but they are a different beast at home, while Hawks could and maybe should have beaten Marr. Both teams are missing a few players and it will come down to who adapts the quickest. It will be a dogfight, but Hawks’ settled tight-head second-row and back-row may just give them the platform to get over the line here.
Marr v Selkirk
(for the Bill McLaren Shield)
Venue: Fullarton Park @ 3pm
Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, J Jacobson; C Sturgeon, R Baird; A Rogers, C McMillan, A Apthorpe, D Andrew, C Folan, F Grant, C Young, B Jardine. Subs: S Clelland, G Dick, M Blair, C Inglis, J MacKinnon.
Selkirk: C Anderson; F Wheelans, A Grant-Suttie, R Nixon, J Welsh; C Easson, Aaron McColm; L Pettie, F Easson, J Millburn, A Cochrane, C Turnbull, R Murray, S McClymont©, Andrew McColm. Subs: B Riddell, Z Szwagrzak, C Ward, B Pickles, A Penman.
Key battle: Jake Jacobson versus Finlay Wheelans
Team news –
Marr: Full-back Greg Montgomery, stand-off Colin Sturgeon and scrum-half Robbie Baird come into the starting XV.
Selkirk: Bruce Riddell comes back into the squad with Zen Szwagrzak after missing last week to cover the front-row from the bench. Donald Nichol and James Bett are added to the injury list while a bit of rotation sees Callum Turnbull start in the second-row with Connor Ward dropping to the bench where he is alongside Ben Pickles, who is available again after missing last week.
What the coaches say –
“Last week, Hawks put us under a lot of pressure, so we did not execute what he had planned through the week. We expect similar if not more pressure from Selkirk after their win against Jed. They will be full of confidence coming to Fullarton. We have planned for this and hopefully learnt how to play under pressure. We are looking forward to another tough challenge this weekend …” – Kenny Diffenthal (Marr)
“As a coaching and playing group we were delighted to get back on the winning trail against Jed-Forest last week, but know that Marr will present a massive increase in intensity and physicality. The players are looking forward to the challenge and are excited by the opportunity to test themselves against a team who are consistently near the top of the league …” –Michael Jaffray (Selkirk)
Verdict: Both sides had good wins last week, Marr’s rather toughed out while Selkirk scored 10 tries against Kelso. Marr picked up the Bill McLaren Shield from Hawick a fortnight ago and will now look to win four home games on the trot to have the club’s name engraved on it. It will be a tough test here, but they should get victory number one of the four in this one.