Scottish Cup preview: runners, riders and verdict

Five ties featuring Premiership and National One clubs will be played prior to Calcutta Cup kick-off

Hawick host Jed-Forest in a Border derby. Image : Malcolm Grant.
Hawick host Jed-Forest in a Border derby. Image : Malcolm Grant.

FIVE Scottish Cup ties will go ahead tomorrow [Saturday] with Stewart’s Melville calling off their trip to GHK because of a lack of front-row players.

There are three Premiership versus National League Division One ties with Biggar, Gala and Highland out to cause shocks against Heriot’s Blues, Glasgow Hawks and Musselburgh, respectively. The first two have home advantage which should help them.

There is an all-National One tie at Rubislaw where Aberdeen Grammar host Stirling County while, at Mansfield Park, there is a tasty-looking all-Premiership – and all-Borders – affair as Hawick host Jed-Forest.


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The Lowdown –

Aberdeen Grammar v Stirling County

Venue: Rubislaw @ 1.30pm

Teams –

Aberdeen Grammar: S Rutledge; B Renton, C Shephard, G Gourlay, C Hunter; P Paxton, D Kennedy; Y Ahmanache, L Buchan, M Galloway, C Robertson, J Gamba, B Garwood, J Burnett, Y Salem©. Subs: S Mcdonald, P Gaston, A Fitzgerald, S Ryan, O Finlayson.

Stirling County: D Tomanek; B Yarrow, M Heron, L Carroll, R Maiden; J Hope, D Scott; L Quarm, C Richardson, C Murphy, E Cairns, JC Brough, R Sangster, S MacDonald©, C MacPherson. Subs: C Hudeon, K Crainey, A Budde, L Jamieson, A Crozier.

Key battle: Jack Burnett versus Shaun MacDonald.

Team news –

Aberdeen Grammar: Selection this week has been based around trying to get some more minutes into some of the fringe players and youngsters. The club is excited to see the return of Callum Hunter to the starting line-up with Oliver Finlayson back to the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury. Italian No 8 Youssef Salem will captain the team for the first time in the absence of veteran Tom Aplin.

Stirling County: Harry Henderson drops out of the squad and is replaced by Euan Cairns in the second-row with Calum MacPherson moving to No 8. Ross Maitland is in on the wing for the injured Gregor Smith and Chris Hudson comes onto the bench to cover hooker. Lewis Jamieson has been performing well for the 2nd XV at 10, so he takes the step up along with Adam Crozier.

What the coaches say –

“This week gives the players a chance to have a break from the league and hopefully start a successful Cup run. The cup is a great chance to give some other players game time which hopefully will help come the return of the league. Injuries and unavailability with many away in England and Wales have played a part, but we have belief the 20 selected can go and do the jersey proud …” John Stewart (Aberdeen Grammar)

“We know what to expect from Aberdeen having already playing them twice this season in the league, they are a very good team especially at home and we will have to be at our best if we want to progress …” – Craig Deacons (Stirling County)

Verdict: 12th and 10th in National League Division One, this will be a welcome break from the league for both sides. Aberdeen will be keen to make home advantage count, but experienced players like Jonny Hope may just guide County through.

Away win.

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Biggar v Heriot’s Blues

Venue: Hartree Mill @ 1.30pm

Teams –

Biggar: F Crozier; A Lamb, A Jardine©, C Lavery, G Forrest; A Jardine, E Bogle; A Orr, C Gray, L Henderson, C Dunlop, J McLean, E Stewart, M Bertram, R Jackson. Subs: D Voas, A Koetze, C Frame, G Lang, J Barr.

Heriot’s Blues: C Simpson; I Kay, F Stanier, M Gray, C Robertson; D Martin, G Wilson; M Bouab, M Toward©, J Lascelles, A Woolfson, D Webb, M Hughes, S Wallace, M Keough. Subs: D Dineen, A Munro, A Johnston, O Quinn, N Henry.

Key battle: Aird Jardine versus Fraser Stanier.

Team news –

Biggar: Six changes to the side that beat Stirling last week. In the front-row Andrew Orr moves from hooker to loose-head to let promising Cameron Gray get a start. Second-row Jordan McLean comes back from injury to take Twickenham-bound Craig Borthwick’s place. At nine, Euan Bogle takes the place of Dave Reive who is also away in London. Young Gregor Forrest is in for the injured Rowan Stewart, and Findlay Crozier gets another chance at 15 in place of Fergus Watson, who plays for Glasgow under-18s on Sunday. On the bench, two promising youngsters in Adrian Koetze and Gregor Lang are given a chance.

Heriot’s Blues: Hooker Matthew Toward is given the captaincy, Fraser Stanier is in at centre.

What the coaches say –

“This is a transition year for Biggar, blooding young, local lads. The Cup allows us to continue with this philosophy with some regulars not being available. Heriot’s obvious priority is to stay in the Premiership, but looking at their team they are still a strong looking outfit. We have had good games over the past few seasons when they were in National One and I’m hoping we can continue with that theme …” – Davie Wilson (Biggar)

“Our hope is to build a bit of confidence as we look ahead to the two important league games the lie in wait …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)

Verdict: Biggar, sixth in National League Division One, will fancy their chances of an upset at home against struggling Premiership opposition. Heriot’s have picked a pretty strong squad though and may just have enough experience in key positions to get through here.

Away win.

 

Gala v Glasgow Hawks

Venue: Netherdale @ 1.30pm

Teams –

Gala: K Young; A Mitchell, C Pate, J Turnbull, B Gill; C Dods, L Johnston; K Scott, J Easson, G Brough, E Dods, G Mccrum, T McKavanagh, A Dun©, J Glendinning. Subs: M Angus, C Pate, B Ballantyne, M Wilson, R Kerr.

Glasgow Hawks: H Lapslie; H Mitchell, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, R Darroch; C Harrison, E Davey; M Downer, P Cairncross, G Strain, M Crumlish, S Leckey©, L Stewart, S Hastings, Oscar Baird. Subs: T McTeir, A Al-agilly, V Carlsson, G Cruikshanks, B McGroarty.

Key battle: Euan Dods versus Max Crumlish.

Team news –

Gala: Two changes from last week with Harris Rutherford travelling with Scotland under-20s and Scott Peffers being unavailable. Craig Dods moves back to 10, John Turnbull is at 12 and Ben Gill returns on the wing with Cammy Pate and Murray Wilson bolstering the bench this week.

Glasgow Hawks: Mike Downer, Lewis Stewart and Seb Hastings are all available this week and will add experience to the pack. The only change in the backs is Harris Mitchell returning to the 1st XV after a lengthy lay-off. Only Vilhelm Carlsson remains on the bench from last week with Tom McTeir and Adam Al-agilly coming in, and 1st XV regulars Gavin Cruickshanks and Brendan McGroarty looking to add their experience when they come on.

What the coaches say –

“We are aware of the challenges that Glasgow Hawks present and look forward to welcoming them to Netherdale. The Cup is always great and gives us the opportunity to challenge ourselves against a Premiership team. We look to continue the momentum gained last week with our win at Kelso, but know this performance was by no means the finished article, so have been working hard in training to improve on these areas. We know that, as underdogs, on Saturday we will have to produce our best performance of the season to give ourselves a fighting chance but it is an occasion we are relishing …” – Euan Dods (Gala)

“It’s been a good few years since we last battled at Netherdale and we can’t wait to play at one of the most iconic and best pitches in Scottish rugby. Gala had a great result beating table toppers Kelso last week and we have to get back to winning ways after a string of poor results …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

Verdict:  Gala will be buoyant after their win over Kelso while Hawks’ Premiership season is limping to an end. The Maroons will have a good home support here and might just cause a shock.

Home win.

 

Hawick v Jed-Forest

(for the Bill McLaren Shield)

Venue: Mansfield Park @ 1.30pm

Teams –

Hawick: C Welsh; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Ford, G Welsh; S Muir©, R Graham, R Macleod, D Redpath, S Fairbairn, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: F Renwick, T Hope, M Carryer, J Linton, G Huggan.

Jed-Forest: M Cullen; L Elder, Gregor Young, O Cranston, R Shirra-Gibb; C Young, L Walker; A Sweenie, P Ferreira, H Meadows, D Wardrop, C Skeldon©, Garry Young, F Scott, B Fotheringham. Subs: J Story, e Lauder, J Hynd, A Bambrick, C Douglas.

Key battle: Charlie Welsh versus Mason Cullen.

Team news –

Hawick: Charlie Welsh earns a start at full-back after impressing for the the Force (2nd XV). Kirk Ford moves to 10 as Kyle Brunton has a knock and Gareth Welsh is at nine as Hector Patterson is with Edinburgh under-18s. Ruaridh Macleod is at loose-head. Jae Linton is back on the bench after a trip abroad.

Jed-Forest: Ben McNeil, Gary Munro, Blake Roff and Matthew Atkinson are unavailable so Jamie Hynd, Paulo Ferreira, Lewis Elder and Clark Douglas come in. Callum Young moves to 10 and Lewis Walker starts at nine after impressing off the bench last time out.

What the coaches say –

“This week we turn our attention to Cup rugby. As a squad we are looking forward to the challenge of a Border derby and aim to replicate our league form. Jed are a side who have improved massively over the season and will have a point to prove coming to Mansfield, but we are focused on doing as well as we can in the Cup and feel we show this by the level of squad we are putting out this weekend …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

“A great opportunity for us to have another crack at the top team in the league. It’s got potential to be a great game, but not without its challenges for both teams …” – Andrew Brown (Jed-Forest)

Verdict: It’ll be a battle up front, but if Hawick can get on the front foot then they should be too strong.

Home win.

 

Musselburgh v Highland

Venue: Stoneyhill @ 1.30pm

Teams –

Musselburgh: P Cunningham; T Foley, F Thomson, R Smith, C Marshall; M McMillan, F Call; R Hanning, Robert Stott, C Arthur, J Haynes, M Badenhorst©, P Bogie, M Crawford, L Hutson. Subs: C Owenson, E Bonthron, L Milne, C Champion, Ronan Stott.

Highland: R MacDonald; M Henry, R Rokoduguni, T Junior, A Kellock; S Fraser©, H Crush; S Murray, K Brown, J Milton, O McDonald, G Jamieson, R Tagivetaua, A Macdonald, C Carson©. Subs: O Smith, P Ratumaisese, s Watson, K Bruce, M Gordon.

Key battle: Luke Hutson versus Callum Carson.

Team news –

Musselburgh: The Watt brothers and Danny Owenson get the opportunity to nurse some niggles this week which gives an opportunity for Calum Marshall and Fionn Call to get valuable game time in the 1st XV.  Fin Thomson also returns from the Scotland under-20s affording him his first club game in 2023. Jak Haynes, Ross Hanning, Matthew Crawford and Colin Arthur all rotate in for a start this week with Michael Badenhorst captaining the club for the first time.

Highland: Only three changes from last week due to work commitments. Alex Macdonald comes in for Sean Blair in the back-row, Andrew Kellock comes off the bench to replace Craig Findlater on the wing and Mike Gordon takes his place on the bench.

What the coaches say –

“Cup games have a funny habit of throwing up surprises and league status or position really counts for nothing. We learned some harsh lessons when underestimating National League sides in pre-season and we recognise and respect the threat a savvy Highland will bring at the weekend. Our focus is on continuing to build momentum and consistency in the latter stages of the season and I hope we can give the folk at Stoneyhill something to smile about two weeks in a row …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

“Everyone is looking forward to the game and the change from league duties .There is no pressure on us being from a lower division, so we have told the players to go out and play our normal fast flowing game and enjoy themselves .It’s always a great test playing against Premiership opposition and shows the players the level we need to reach …” – Davie Carson (Highland)

Verdict: Musselburgh are midway through trying to complete a ‘great escape’ from Premiership relegation. They’ll be wary of a Highland team with nothing to lose and captain for the game Michael Badenhorst will look to set the tone for the hosts.

Home win.


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About Gary Heatly 457 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.