Scottish Cup semi-final preview: two tense tussles are on the cards

Ayr will host local rivals Marr at Millbrae while Glasgow Hawks have decamped to Hughenden for visit of Hawick

Hawick and Glasgow Hawks will meet on the opening weekend of the men's Premiership season. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Hawick and Glasgow Hawks will meet on the opening weekend of the men's Premiership season. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE first Scottish Cup post-pandemic has conjured up two cracking semi-finals which are both being played in the west of the country this Saturday afternoon.

Ayr are the only National League Division One side left in the competition, and they are also the holders having won the Cup back in 2018-19 before Covid and before Super6/Super Series rugby came along. A bumper crowd is expected at Millbrae for their hotly anticipated local derby with Marr in the last four.

As a Premiership outfit, the men from Troon should be favourites, but given the way Ayr have seen off top flight clubs GHA and Selkirk in the last two rounds whilst scoring 40 plus points agains both those teams, this one is a close call.


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The other semi-final will be played at Hillhead Jordanhill’s Hughenden ground because Glasgow Hawks usual home of Balgray is unavailable.

Hawks will start as underdogs versus double-chasing Hawick, but on their day Andy Hill’s men certainly have the attacking weapons in their armoury to hurt most teams.

Hawick are looking to emulate the 2001-02 double winners from Mansfield Park but they have not played since March 25th after they were given a walkover in the quarter-finals after GHK withdrew.

The final will be at Murrayfield on May 6th.

The Lowdown –

Ayr v Marr

Venue: Millbrae @ 3pm

Teams –

Ayr: J McCorkindale; H Lynch, R Anderson, J Bova, Z Howard; J Anderson, R McCorkindale; S Rae, D Young, R Sayce, M Leatherbarrow, C Lynch, M Kirk, R Pottie, C Reece©. Subs: S Collier, C Rae, B Cree, C Brown, E Bulloch, F Thomson, J Craig.

Marr Rugby: C Inglis; J Jacobsen, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff©, A Ramage; C Sturgeon©, J Scott; G Reid, C McMillan, A Acton, D Andrew, H Murray, F Grant, C Young, B Johnston. Subs: B Nicholl, L Morrison, C Folan, A Johnston, M Blair, J Evans, G Paxton.

Key battle: Cam Reece versus Ben Johnston.

Team news –

Ayr: Johnny McCorkindale is back in the squad after a lengthy injury and starts at full-back. Jack Craig is stepping up from the under-18s and could make his 1st XV debut off the bench.

Marr: Fraser Grant will make his 200th 1st XV appearance for the club. Scott Clelland and Gregor Beckwith are out through injury, so Curran McMillan starts at hooker and Jack Scott switches from his usual wing position to cover scrum-half, with Andrew Ramage onto the wing. Callum Folan, Angus Johnston and Gregor Paxton are all returning from injury and are on the bench.

What the coaches say –

“The boys have trained really well this week. Everyone is really looking forward to the weekend and I’m sure it will be a big crowd at Millbrae and they’ll see a great game of rugby …” – Stuart Fenwick (Ayr)

“We are really looking forward to the prospect of playing knock-out rugby in a local derby at a packed-out Millbrae. Ayr always present a real challenge and for both sides the prize of a Cup final day at Murrayfield adds an added edge, especially as our opponents are the current holders of the trophy. Ayr have been going really well, they enjoyed a convincing win in the quarter-final against Selkirk and we need to ensure we are performing at the top of our game to get the result we want. Our players have prepared well and know they will have to maintain focus, be accurate in defence and attack and stick to our game plan …” – Kenny Diffenthal (Marr)

Verdict: This has all the makings of a classic. A lot has changed in the rugby landscape since Ayr won the last Cup back in 2019, but one thing that has not changed is the rivalry between these two clubs. Ayr will fancy this one with home advantage while, after losing out in the Premiership semi-finals, Marr will be determined to reach their first ever Cup final. If Marr’s experienced players step up, they may just sneak this one.

Away win.

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Glasgow Hawks v Hawick

(for the Bill McLaren Shield)

Venue: Hughenden @ 3pm

Teams –

Glasgow Hawks: E Muirhead; R Flett, J Pinkerton, S Graham, A McLean; G Cruikshanks, E Davey; M Downer, P Cairncross, G Strain, S Leckey©, R Burke, V Carlsson, T Wright, S Hastings. Subs: T McTeir, K Shanahan, M Crumlish, J Porter, C Harrison, C Ferrie, H Mitchell.

Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Brunton, G Welsh; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Redpath, S Fairbairn, S Frizzel, C Renwick, J Linton. Subs: M Carryer, R Macleod, H Donaldson, M Brogan, D Lightfoot, G Huggan, C Welsh.

Key battle: Paul Cairncross versus Fraser Renwick.

Team news –

Glasgow Hawks: Ryan Burke comes into the second-row for Alfie Maitland who has sustained a concussion and Vilhelm Carlsson starts in the back-row. In the backs, Sam Graham moves to centre for Matthew Stewart who is unavailable, which sees Andy McLean come onto the wing. Max Crumlish comes onto the bench having been a late withdrawal versus Heriot’s Blues due to illness, while veteran Callum Harrison is also a replacement. Istok Totic is unwell.

Hawick: Lewis Ferguson returns on the wing while Sam Frizzel is handed the number six jersey after good recent showings for the Force (2nd XV). Frizzel replaces the suspended Stuart Graham while former Scotland under-18 cap Marcus Brogan earns a bench spot.

What the coaches say –

“It’s pleasing to pick a fairly settled squad for the first time since Christmas. You can’t hide from the fact that Hawick are unbeaten Premiership champions, so will be heavy favourites. However, I believe we have the players and the game plan to win. The players have to believe this, put Hawick under pressure for the entire 80 minutes and then be ruthless with the few opportunities that come our way. We are one game away from a final and if that doesn’t give you an incentive to fight for 80 minutes nothing will …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

“This is another big opportunity for this playing squad to make a final if we can get through a tough trip to Glasgow. Hawks are a team we know well and they have played very well away from home in the Cup to get to the semis, so we need to focus heavily on our discipline this week as it’s been pretty poor in the last couple games. The boys have worked hard and are keen to get going again, knock-out rugby is different and if we want to keep our season going for a couple more weeks we will need to put in a big performance …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

Verdict: Hawks have battled through three away games to get to this point and they will look to throw everything at Hawick as they aim to become the first team to beat them this season. It should be an entertaining tussle as both teams have exciting attacking players, but Hawick should have enough to progress if their pack plays well.

Away win.


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About Gary Heatly 462 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.

1 Comment

  1. Well, Marr showed that even when down to 14 men they had this game sewn up.
    Congratulations, & good luck for the final!

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