Six players to watch in the BT Cup Final

Image: Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
by STUART RUTHERFORD

Will Bordill – Ayr

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After spending the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons on partnership contracts shared by Ayr and Glasgow Warriors, Bordill made Millbrae his full-time home in the summer of last year. Having developed through the Sale Sharks Academy, whilst representing Scotland at nearly every age level, the combative flanker has shown a maturity beyond his years since arriving full-time north of the border. A stocky ball-winner in close quarters play, he has also chipped in with six tries this season. His battle against Grant Ranchman will be fascinating once again, and central to the outcome of this game. At 23-years-old, he is still in the burgeoning stages of his career, but the rugby adventures which lie ahead won’t be with Ayr – he has already taken a job in London and has been flying up to play in recent weeks so as to see out the season.

Jason Baggott – Melrose

 
Image courtesy: Douglas Hardie

Ayr stand-off Frazier Climo grabbed the lion’s share of plaudits in last weekend’s BT Premiership play-off Grand Final, but his opposite number delivered an equally impressive performance. The South African ‘project player’ – who is a stage three member of the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy – has grown in stature over the course of his second season in Scotland, and has proven to be a stalwart in an ever-changing Melrose backline. In last weekend’s encounter, the stand-off picked apart Ayr’s back-three with a masterful display of line kicking. Two examples spring to mind: a wonderful diagonal into the corner midway through the first half, which flustered opposition full-back Grant Anderson into fluffing his lines and Baggott was able to open his team’s account with a penalty a few moments later; then a 60 yard torpedo which bounced into touch just a few feet short of Ayr’s try line with ten minutes to go, which set up that gripping finale. The Melrose playmaker will be keen to demonstrate his full kicking range once again on Murrayfield’s much wider pitch.

 

Craig Gossman – Ayr

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Al Davis, the legendary owner of the Oakland Raiders, once said: “You can’t teach speed. Everything else can be taught, but speed is a gift from god.” This saying certainly applies to Gossman. At 28-years-old, he is no longer a spring chicken, but he has lost none of the explosiveness which has made him so dangerous for Ayr these last five seasons, and with Glasgow Hawks before that. The winger will be licking his lips at the prospect of once again stalking the touchlines of Murrayfield’s spacious pitch; and Ayr coach Callum Forrester will, no doubt, look to involve the former Scotland Sevens star early on in the match. Gossman may have been kept quiet in last weekend’s BT Premiership play-off final, but doubt him at your peril.

Fraser Thomson – Melrose

 
The spectacle of Fraser Thomson gliding his way past an array of lunging defenders has been a joyous and reliable feature of watching top flight club rugby in Scotland for the best part of a decade. The former Gala star was once named Glasgow Warrior’s ‘Development Player of the Year’, and became the most capped Scotland club XV player when he played against English Counties in February. He has struggled with a hamstring issue during this campaign, but was back was back to his swashbuckling best in last weekend’sGrand Final, entertaining the Greenyards faithful with a number of dazzling runs.

Ross Curle – Ayr

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Curle was made to sweat while the SRU’s disciplinary committee weighed up what the sanction should be for the red-card he picked up as a consequence of a reckless no-arms tackle late in his team’s play-off semi-final victory over Hawks. It could have been much worse for the prickly centre, because the two week suspension they decided upon meant that while he missed the Premiership Grand Final, he is back in the starting line up for his side’s trip to Murrayfield. Curlers replacement last week, teenager Stafford McDowall, performed admirably at inside centre , so it is outside centre Archie Russell who makes way. With this being his last season in the pink and black of Ayr, the 28-year-old will be looking to depart on a high note: and there is no better way to do so than by winning the BT Cup for the fourth time.

Neil Irvine-Hess – Melrose

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www.craigwatson.co.uk

Much of Irvine-Hess’s toil around the park tends to go unnoticed, but make no bones about it: the former George Watsons pupil is one of the most crucial cogs in the Melrose machine. His positional fluidity – he can play across the back-row, as well as in the second-row – is an invaluable asset, but it is his relentless work at the breakdown which makes him so important to his club. A relentless support runner, the former Scotland Under-20 internationalist can be found on the shoulder of most breakouts, as was demonstrated in the crucial role he played in his team’s length of the park try agains Ayr at Millbrae last September; and his athleticismin the line-out is a critical part of the Borders side’s game-plan.

About Stuart Rutherford 50 Articles
Stuart hails from the Borders town of Selkirk and has been around rugby all his life, largely thanks to the influence of his father, John. Not only a fan of the modern game, he is a keen rugby historian, and produces a regular 'Throwback Thursday Column' for The Offside Line.