AT least one National League team will make it into the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup at the end of March, with Gala hosting Heriot’s Blues in this weekend’s quarter-final at Netherdale. The city side are currently second top of the National One table, while the Borderers are fifth, but Opeta Palepoi’s team will draw confidence from coming out on top [29-21] when the two sides met last weekend, and they are unbeaten at home since coming up short against runaway league leaders Biggar back in September.
Another National League side in Highland also have a chance of making it into the last four, but they will have their work cut-out when they host Premiership front-runners Marr – who are pretty close to full strength – at Canal Park.
“Only one change from starting team last week with Curran McMillan starting and Ollie Rossi on the bench,” said Marr head coach Craig Redpath. “With seven subs for the cup we see Gregor Ness and Josh Harvey return to the squad along with Isaac Renucci who will be looking forward to his first start for the 1st XV.
“We face a tough physical game against Highland this week. They have an excellent home record with only one loss to Heriot’s this season. We will have to be at our best to win as the games we have analysed clearly show they developed into an excellent team. “
The other two quarterfinal matches are all Premiership affairs, with Edinburgh Academicals hosting Jed-Forest at Raeburn Place, and Currie Chieftains taking on Hawick at Malleny Park.
Jed-Forest have shown in the last couple of weeks that when they put a performance together, they can be really dangerous, and we expect them to bring that on Saturday,” said Edinburgh Accies head coach Iain Berthinussen. “I am looking forward to the reaction from our players after what was a disappointing performance down at Mansfield last weekend and we’ve had a good week’s training.
“Ben Appleson returns to the starting line-up for the first time since October and Richard Mill slots in at inside centre with Robert Wilson and Callum Ramm moving to the wings. Mark Sinclair starts at scrum -alf and young Ben Grainger keeps his place on the bench. Ross Gregor get a start at hooker after impressing for the 2nd XV last weekend and Clem Lacour comes in at tighthead to add some leadership. Angus Inwood and Monty Cairnes return to the bench after long term injury lay-offs.”
Chieftains head coach Mark Cairns reckons his team are in pretty good shape for what is certain to be a ferocious challenge against an in-form Hawick side, having overcome their pre-Christmas wobble with a big win at home against Glasgow Hawks in he league last week.
“The pack remains unchanged from the Hawks game, bu there is a forced reshuffle in the backs as Gregor Hunter is unavailable due to a concussion. Adam Hall moves to 10 and James McCaig starts on the wing and pushes Steven Hamilton into 13,” he explained.
“Last week was much more like us,” he added. “We played with a speed and an accuracy that was tough to stop. We are under no illusions that Hawick present a huge challenge but we are excited to test ourselves against the in-form Premiership team.
“We will need to be disciplined, our set-piece will need to be strong and we must get off the line in defence to stop their momentum. If we can match this with speed and good decision-making in attack then we will put ourselves in a good position to win. It’s set up to be a big day at Malleny that will show everyone what the premiership has to offer.”
Hawick are without South African powerhouse centre Wiaan Griebenow but head coach George Graham is unconcerned.
“We have been going through a recent run of good results over the last few weeks but this will be our biggest test of character, especially being at Malleny,” he said. “Both teams had good results last week and I have no doubt Mark will have the analysis done and the game-plan ready.”
Scottish Cup quarter-final preview –
Edinburgh Academicals (versus Jed-Forest at Raeburn Place: 1.30pm kick-off): B Appleson; R Wilson, R Campbell, R Mill, C Ramm; R Bonner, M Sinclair; C Imrie, R Gregor, C Lacour, R McConnell, C Bain, D Dinnen, J Sole©, C Thomson. Subs: C Black, F MacKenzie, A Inwood, T Jones, B Grainger, M Cairnes, J Adamson.
Jed-Forest: L Young; C Young, R Marshall, R Yourston, J Laing; M Mitchell, N Stingl; P Ferreira, G Paxton, H Meadows, B Saxton, G Law, G Young, E Lauder, D Grieve. Subs: M Purves, J Bowie, F McKerracher, J Ferguson, J McGough, S Paxton, L Turnbull.
Currie Chieftains (versus Hawick at Malleny Park: 1.30pm kick-off): F Sayers; C Meager, S Hamilton, R Southern, J McCaig; A Hall, G Christie; G Carson, F Scott©, M Argiro, M Poole, M Vernel, R Vucago, W Nelson, R Davies. Subs: R Patterson, S Edwards, J O’Brien, A Harley, A McLean.
Hawick: K Ford; L Gordon-Wooley, A Mitchell, G Walker, L Ferguson; A Weir, G Welsh; S Muir©, M Carryer, D Johnstone, S Fairbairn, D Suddon, J Linton, B McNeil, S Graham. Subs: C Renwick, C Bacherzewski, A Piotrowski, M Bannerman, B Donaldson.
Highland (versus Marr at Canal Park: 2pm kick-off): R Rokoduguni; J Nawacalevu, I Chisholm, S Ross, M Gordon; S Fraser, R MacDonald; S Murray, C Carson, L Sinclair, S Blair, S MacDonald-Butler, O Baird, G Gregor, A Findlater. Subs: M Paterson, K Brown, T Smith, I Crush, R Cross, C Irvine.
Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, J Scott; C Sturgeon, J Preston; W Farquhar, C McMillan, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: O Rossi, B Sweet, I Renucci, J Harvey, C Inglis, G Ness, T Steven.
Gala (versus Heriot’s Blues at Netherdale: 3pm kick-off): R Cooke; A Mitchell, D Nicholson, R Jefffrey, B Gill; R Howarth, F Johnston; K Scottm J Easson, M Chrystie, R Irvine, C Roman, A Dun, L Scott, J Irvine. Subs: M Tamosaitis, S Cairns, J de Vries, R Tod, G Mein, D Teddie, M Cullen.
Heriot’s Blues: C Simpson; C Robertson, O Quinn, L Meyner, J Rae; D Martin, G Wilson; H Simpson, D Dineen, R Hutchison, S Johnstone, M Oliver, M Hughes, N Sutherland, R Winton. Subs: S Mustard, O Osuntoki, P McKerr, M Nimmo, F McIlwraith, S Martin, C Lineen.
Premiership runners, riders and verdict …
Meanwhile, there is one re-arranged Premiership match, with Glasgow Hawks taking on GHA in an eagerly anticipated west coast derby.
GLASGOW HAWKS v GHA
VENUE: Balgray @ 2pm
Glasgow Hawks: N Moffat; K Gossman, M Stewart, C Harrison, C Harrison, M Godsman; L Brims, P Boyer; L Archer, P Cairncross, G Strain, A Kirkland, S Leckey©, J Gammell, F Christie R Sweeney. Subs: P Henderson, S Halafihi, J McLean, C Holborn, E Oag.
GHA: J Edgar; J Craig, G Mollison, C King, A Purewal; C Armstrong, G Baird; E Cavan, H Clark, M Fox, A Barnett, J McCarthy, M Marinkovic, M Ryan, L McCutcheon. Subs: S Carson, S Fisher, M Conroy, S Simpson, R O’Keefe
TEAM NEWS –
Glasgow Hawks: Nathan Moffat comes in for the concussed Yousif Alagilly at full-back, while Callum Harrison replaces Luke Armstrong in the centre and Paddy Boyer returns to the starting 15 having fully recovered from his ankle injury. In the pack Lyall Archer and Ryan Sweeney return after being late call-offs last week due to sickness. Fraser Christie makes his return after sustaining an injury in training over Christmas, while Paul Cairncross moves back to his preferred position at hooker, with captain Stephen Leckey moving forward into the second row to make space for Jack Gemmell on the flank.
GHA: With Adam Kerr (who is headed to South Africa on the Macphail scholarship on Monday) and Andrew Hughes unavailable, Ciaran Armstrong comes in at 10 and Cameron King moves to 12. There is only one change in the pack with Milan Marinkovic starting at blindside in place of Adam Kerr. Matthew Conroy and Ruairi O’Keefe come onto the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Paddy Boyer versus George Baird
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Not much needs to be said to inspire either side. It’s a Glasgow derby and both teams will be desperate for a win which could take them to 5th in the table. Let’s hope it’s another high scoring encounter to showcase the talent in Glasgow …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)
“This weekend is a huge game for both teams, especially for us after a disappointing loss to Aberdeen Grammar last weekend. We will be looking for a more accurate and disciplined performance this week as we know what Glasgow Hawks will bring. We will have to be at our best to win this fixture. Local derbies always have a great atmosphere and edge to them which we are looking forward too …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)
VERDICT: Round one at Braidholm back at the start of October was a thriller with GHA eventually edging a 31-26 win. Both teams will be desperate to bounce-back after disappointing performances and poor results last week, and the home side are boosted by the return of several influential men, which allied with home advantage could give them the edge.
Narrow home win.