Scottish Cup preview: runners, riders and verdict

Four games go ahead but two cancellations is a cause for concern

Musselburgh and GHA will renew acquaintances at Stoneyhill in the Scottish Cup this weekend. Image: John Durham
Musselburgh and GHA will renew acquaintances at Stoneyhill in the Scottish Cup this weekend. Image: John Durham

WHILE all roads have been leading to Rome this week for the charity cyclists and thousands of Scotland supporters, the road to Murrayfield begins on Saturday as the Scottish Cup gets underway.

Four first round ties are going ahead as scheduled and one of them is an all-Premiership clash with Edinburgh Accies and Glasgow Hawks meeting at Raeburn Place, while Highland are at Myreside to play Watsonians in an all-National One meeting.

Premiership finalists Currie Chieftains take on National One champions Ayr at Malleny Park in what should be an intriguing game, with National One GHA looking to cause a shock at top flight Musselburgh.


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Glasgow Accies and Biggar both have injury issues after a busy time in National One recently and withdrew from their games meaning reigning champions Hawick and Marr [respectively] are already through to next weekend’s quarter-finals. Dundee Rugby and Heriot’s Blues already had byes.

With Jed-Forest, Kelso, Selkirk, Gala, and Melrose having withdrawn from the event before it started, these extra call-offs mean that the Cup only has 12 teams in it from the off, which is not a great look.

That is something that will need to be looked at –  is there still the same appetite for the Cup as previously? –  but that is for another day.

After the last eight matches on March 16th, the semi-finals are set for April 13 with the final on April 27 as part of Silver Saturday at the national stadium.

 

 

The Lowdown –

Edinburgh Accies v Glasgow Hawks

Venue: Raeburn Place @ noon

Teams –

Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; G Welsh, R Kent, N Armstrong©, M Wallace; B Appleson, R Cadzow; C Imrie, C Davies, C Crookshanks, J Mills, S Whittaker, G Napier, A Wood, J Sole. Subs: F McAslan, R Dunbar, T Drennan, B Grainger, C Allan.

Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; R Speers, R Flett, J McConkey, J Blair; D McCartney, J Imrie; K Shanahan, A Burgess, M Goodwin, S Leckey©, S Halafihi, R Howie, Y Shaheen, C Nolan. Subs: F Muir, E Cairns, J Blane, H Roxburgh, W Burrows.

Key battle: Cal Davies versus Aaron Burgess

Team news –

Edinburgh Accies: Ross Cadzow comes in at scrum-half having impressed for the 2nd XV since returning from St Andrews University. In the pack, Jake Mills gets his first start of the after a long-term injury and Jamie Sole returns.

Glasgow Hawks: A few changes from the previous team due to availability and the Glasgow Varsity game on Friday night. Paul Cairncross pulled his hamstring on Tuesday night with Aaron Burgess coming in at hooker. Sione Halafihi is fit and Ryan Howie is available while Finlay Callaghan is injured so Ryan Flett returns at 13. Ross Speers and Jamie Blair come in to play on the wing. Josh Blane will look to make his debut off the bench.

What the coaches say –

“We have just finished our second mini pre-season block for season 2023-24, with many of our players having not played since February 2nd. The players have been training hard, but nothing compares to matches and Glasgow Hawks have played two games in that time so we must be aware of a team who are battle hardened.  However, this has given us some time to reflect on our league season and make some changes to how we want to approach the cup competition this season …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

“We’ve not won against Accies for the past couple of seasons now, however, we come into this game off the back of three good wins. Hopefully this will allow us to embrace and enjoy the occasion on Saturday. Paul Cairncross will be a big miss given his contributions through the season, but Aaron Burgess has started a number of times and offers us real work rate around the pitch …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

Verdict: Hawks finished the Premiership season with three wins and will take confidence from that. Neither side will have been overly happy with their final league placings  seventh and eighth respectively   and Accies last played in early February. They beat Hawks at this ground in January and after their ‘mini pre-season’ may have enough if they can get into their stride early.

Home win.

 

 

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Currie Chieftains v Ayr

Venue: Malleny Park @ 2pm

Teams –

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, DJ Innes, J Forbes©, R Daley; C Beckett, P Boyer; T Jeffrey, R Stewart, G Carson, A Bain, K Steel, R Vucago, A Fletcher, S Cardosi. Subs: E Blair, K Borthwick, R Morrison, C Lessels, C Gray.

Ayr: S Watson; T Lanni, H Lynch, G North, A McGowan; D McCluskey, B Frame; B Cree, T Martin, R Sayce, J Stafford, A Troop, R Airlie, C Reece©, P McCallum. Subs: S Collier, B Paterson, M Leatherbarrow, J Bova, R McCorkindale.

Key battle: Callum Beckett versus Danny McCluskey

Team news –

Currie Chieftains: The backs remain unchanged. In the forwards, Kyle Steel and Roy Vucago start due to injuries to Courtney West and Rhys Davies.

Ayr: Talented young prop Jake Shearer is away with the Scotland under-20s as 24th man while the more experienced Danny McCluskey comes in at 10.

What the coaches say –

“Last week against Marr was one of the best performances I have been part of as Currie coach, but we now have to back this up against a strong Ayr team who are used to winning. Currie versus Ayr was always a huge fixture prior to the creation of Super6 and we expect a tough encounter this weekend. We have prepared well this week and analysed Ayr over their last few matches so we have a good idea what to expect. We are looking forward to getting back out at Malleny and performing in front of our home support …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“We have had a very successful season and are looking to continue that. Currie versus Ayr games have always served up exciting rugby and we expect the same here. Having played in many of the encounters myself, we have tried to prepare the boys in a way which we think will make for an exciting game. Our game has evolved a lot this season and, with our destination next season being confirmed, we are keen to challenge ourselves against one of the best teams in the country. Currie dismantled Marr very efficiently last week so we are under no illusions of the challenge that lies ahead, however, we feel that if we can execute our gameplan and play the way we know we can, we can challenge any team we face. Pete McCallum has made the decision to retire at the end of the season, so potentially, this could be his last game. Obviously, he has been a massive part of every bit of success Ayr has had over the last 10 years. The whole club are keen to ensure that he has a send-off to remember, so we will be doing our utmost to ensure this isn’t his last game …” Grant Anderson (Ayr)

Verdict: Ayr won National One at a canter after 15 wins from 15, but lost their last three games. They are clearly a strong side who will be out to cause an upset, but Currie are riding the crest of the wave after last weekend’s fine Premiership play-off semi-final win over Marr.

Home win.

 

 

Musselburgh v GHA

Venue: Stoneyhill @ 3pm

Teams –

Musselburgh: O Craig; T Foley, B Heber, R Watt©, S Watt; P Cunningham, D Owenson; C Owenson, R Mackie, E Bonthron, J Longwell, J Haynes, J Lister, M Crawford, P Bogie. Subs: R Brown, D Hodge, M Badenhorst, R Condie, L Brook.

GHA: G Drummond; R O’Keefe, K Dixon, M Macfarlane, S Derrick; A Goudie, F McCoss; C Stewart, L Barron, L Henderson, A Kerr, S Callaghan, D Kilpatrick; D Ewing©, O Lonergan-Black. Subs: S Faulds, D Sutton, F Faulds, J Peacock, L Molinaro.

Key battle: Matthew Crawford versus Dario Ewing

Team news –

Musselburgh: James Longwell makes his debut for the club having signed in November and now completed his rehab from long-term injury. Danny Owenson returns to the team for the first time since Christmas and he is joined in the starting team by Tom Foley and Ollie Craig, who get a chance to impress.

GHA: Louis Henderson starts at tight-head after some strong performances off the bench. He joins Cammy Stewart, getting his first start at loose-head, in the front-row. Oscar Lonergan-Black returns to the starting XV at No 8. Ferg McCoss is back at nine and Kyle Dixon moves into outside centre resulting in Scott Derrick coming back on the wing. Luca Molinaro is set to make his 1st XV debut off the bench.

What the coaches say –

“Our fourth game in 13 weeks thanks to what can only be described as a joke of a scheduling programme means that we carry little in the way of momentum into this one-off fixture against GHA. Our opponents have done incredibly well this season in a difficult league and will be arriving at Stoneyhill with their tails up after an impressive run of games. Motivation won’t be in short supply either with the way in which the season drew to a close last year and a kick of the ball could have seen us relegated instead of them. It should be a cracker of a game for those who can peel themselves away from the Scotland game to watch it …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

“We have had a strong end to the season with some great performances since Christmas. There is a real buzz around the squad at the moment and we are looking forward to the fixture. We are in for a physical encounter against a team who we know very well. Everyone is looking forward to the challenge …” – Jamie McCarthy (GHA)

Verdict: GHA made sure of a second place finish in National One last weekend with a bonus point win over Glasgow Accies. They will head to East Lothian all guns blazing against a Musselburgh side who haven’t played since early February. If Musselburgh’s pack can get the upper hand, home advantage and recent Premiership experience should get them through.

Home win.

 

 

Watsonians v Highland

Venue: Myreside @ 3pm

Teams –

Watsonians: D Williamson; R Coetzer, H Fisher, C Kidd, J Mitchell; B Morris©, T Urquhart; J Law, M Pritchard, T Gracie, A McInnes, A Stevenson, B Robertson, A Steven, J Minty. Subs: J Holligan, C Murphy, J Sutherland, T Natiri, G Tulloch.

Highland: F Riach; D Corr, J Blair, C Boyd, M Henry; S Fraser©, H Crush; S Murray, O Smith, P Ratamatasi, G Jamieson, E Milton, S Pederson, G Gregor, C Macpherson. Subs: J Milton, O Macdonald, D Monk, J Talbot-Heigh, A Kellock.

Key battle: Tom Gracie versus Stephen Murray

Team news –

Watsonians: The squad sees quite a few changes from last week’s final league game. They will be without club captain Stuart Allison whose quality will always be missed while 1st XV regulars Fin Broomfield and Ally Davidson have knee injuries keeping them out.

Highland: Co-captain Callum Carson and the experienced Kevin Brown are out injured. Stephen Murray will make his 300th appearance for the 1st XV while 18-year-old Fergus Riach making his first start.

What the coaches say –

“Looking ahead to the game, we are desperate to do well and maintain our unbeaten record at home this weekend. We know Highland very well and are under no illusions that this will be a tough game and we will have to be at our best to make it into the next round of the Cup. With some players out, it does provide opportunities for a few 2nd XV players. Our twos have been exceptional this season and players stepping up into the ones have done really well of late. Keep an eye out for young Ryan Coetzer who is getting his first start for the 1st XV and is a very exciting player. Hopefully he can follow in the footsteps of his brother Dom Coetzer who has been a top player for the Watsonians Super Series team over the last few seasons …” – Jason Riley (Watsonians)

“Having had a few weeks off since the end of the league, we’re looking forward to the Cup game. It’s going to be a tough game against a good side especially at home, but the lads have had two good sessions to prepare this week and are looking forward to it with the prize of a game against Premiership side Marr for the winners …” – Dave Carson (Highland)

Verdict: These sides won one apiece in the league versus each other this season and both had pretty good National One campaigns. Both of them are missing key men for this tie so it may depend on how the fringe players settle in terms of who goes on to win it. Watsonians are unbeaten at home all of 2023-24 so far.

Home win.


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About Gary Heatly 455 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.