HERIOT’S will secure top spot in the final Super Series Championship league standings with any sort of win or draw against Watsonians at Goldenacre tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon. And even if they fail to get a positive result from this capital city derby then they will have another bite at the cherry in the final game of the regular season campaign away to Southern Knights next Friday night because the best Ayrshire Bulls can manage against the Future XV tomorrow is to move two points clear at the top of the table and that is their last game of the regular season.
Meanwhile, Watsonians know a win will keep them in the hunt to finish second, with one game left to play against the Future XV next Saturday.
Matt Davidson returns to the home backline at 13 with George Barber moving in one to 12 for the injured Grant Hughes. Liam Richman gets the nod at 10 with Ross Jones starting on the bench. Jack Blain and Fin Campbell also return to the side with Sam Pecqueur moving to the bench and Euan McAra missing out.
In the pack, Ruairidh Leishman (who will captain the side), Ronan Seydak, Euan McLaren, Michael Liness (who will make his 50th Appearance) and Chris Keen all return. Callum Anderson, Wallace Nelson, Duncan Hood and Josh Scott drop to the bench while Struan Cessford misses out all together.
“In what was a taxing week, we were so proud of the player group who fronted up with three matches in nine days and came away with maximum points,” said head coach Ben Cairns, reflecting on his team’s recent clean-sweep against the Bulls, Stirling Wolves and Future XV. “That run has put us in a great position going into the final TWO matches of the regular season, we now need to finish the job off.
“We know Watsonians will come to Goldenacre in confident mood and will be hugely motivated to set the record straight after our last encounter [a 66-0 hammering at Myreside at the start of September]. They have been in good form of late having won their last five matches and are still in the hunt to secure a home semi-final. They are a very physical side, who tend to stay in the right areas of the pitch and have a good group of leaders, so we know we will need to put in another big performance if we are going to get the result we need.”
Opposite number Nikki Walker has a settled side. He has swapped Lomond Macpherson in on the wing for the bench Freddie Owsley, while Cam Murphy for Fin Clarke as loose-head cover is the only change to the bench.
“Heriot’s have been the team to beat and catch from day one of this year’s Super Series Championship, and they have scored lots of points against everyone this season, particularly us in the first half of the tournament,” reflected Walker. “That result has been used as a catalyst to where we are now, and we are very confident that we are going to be very competitive going into the climax of the season. Heriot’s at Goldenacre is just the challenge we need before going into the semi-finals.”
Heriot’s (versus Watsonians at Goldenacre on Sunday at 3pm): D King; L Wells, M Davidson, G Baber, J Blain; L Richman, F Campbell;C Keen, M Liness, E McLaren, R Seydak, J Campell, C Jupp, S Wallace, R Leishman ©. Substitutes: D Hood, J Scott, C Ramsay, W Nelson, C Anderson, S Broad, R Jones, S Pecqueur.
Watsonians: D Coetzer; L Macpherson, G Pringle, L Berg, S King; J Baggott ©, C McAlpine; C Davidson, C Davies, G Scougall, K Watt, A Scopes, L Ball, K Main, K van Niekerk. Substitues: F Duraj, C Murphy, B Bratton, J Berrisford, S Cecil, M McAndrew, L Miller, F Owsley.
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell
Key clash: Matt Davidson versus George Pringle
Verdict: It is going to be much tighter than the last meeting between these two teams but Heriot’s still have the edge in terms of momentum and self-belief which will see them home. Narrow home win.
Meanwhile, Ayrshire Bulls head coach Pat MacArthur has made seven personnel and two positional changes to his side for their last game of the regular season, with Jamie Drummond (back from injury), Rhodri Tanner and Craig Miller coming into an all-new front-row, Oscar Baird replacing Rory Jackson in the engine-too, Lewis McNamara taking over from Tim Brown at openside, Reiss Cullen getting chance at scrum-half Jamie Shedden moving from wing to out-side centre for the injured Chris Elliot, and Luca Bardelli reverting to the wing so that Chris Hyde can start at full-back.
“It’s a must win again for us this week being the last game of the regular season,” said MacArthur. “We have healthy competition in the squad and players know this is the last chance for them to put their hands up for the semi-final.
“The Future XV have had some mixed results but looking at the stats they have the fastest ruck speed in the league and score a lot of tries. They are a fit young team that will come at you for the whole 80 minutes, which means we cannot lose concentration. With us playing just before the World Cup Final we are hoping for the usual big crowd at Millbrae.”
Robbie Deans comes back into the Future XV starting line-up at loose-head after missing last week’s Heriot’s game through injury and Ryan Burke starts in the second-row in place of Liam McConnell, while the only change in the backs sees Amena Caqusau restored to the wing.
“Millbrae is one of the toughest places to go and play and is exactly the type of experience these young players need to be exposed to,” said co-coach Scott Forrest. “Our first half against Heriot’s showed a lot of improvements from the previous game against the Wolves and that is what we are looking for again this Saturday. We have started to see some more consistency in our selection which we hope starts to translate into our performances on the pitch.
“Some of our individual performances have been outstanding over the course of the season, our challenge for our remaining matches is to see a big step up in our performance as a team.”
Ayrshire Bulls (versus Future XV at Millbrae on Saturday at 5pm): C Hyde; T Glendinning, J Shedden, O Horne, L Bardelli; B Roderick-Evans, R Cullen; J Drummond, R Tanner, C Miller, E Bloodworth, O Baird, R Sweeney, L McNamara, B Macpherson©. Subs: A McGuire, W Farquhar, C Henderson, R Jackson, T Brown, F Johnston, C Townsend, A Bogidrau.
Future XV: J Hocking; K Johnston, B Salmon, K Yule, A Caqusau; I Coates, F Burgess; R Deans, J Blyth-Lafferty, C Norrie, R Burke, R Hart, T Currie©, Freddy Douglas, J Morris. Subs: M Brogan, T Banatvala, O Blyth-Lafferty, C Nolan, C Ferrie, J Beveridge, M Urwin, F Watson.
Referee: Finlay Brown
Ket battle: Ryan Sweeney versus Tom Currie
Verdict: Another tough day at the office for the Future XV. Home win.