THE curtain will come down on the 2023 Super Series Sprint with a double-header at Meggetland tomorrow, with Boroughmuir Bears and Southern Knights kicking off the action in the tournament’s 5th/6th place play-off at 3pm, followed by Watsonians (who have decamped across Colinton Road because their pitch at Myreside is currently being deployed as a school running track) taking on Stirling Wolves in the 3rd/4th place play-off.
- Tickets for the matches are available HERE.
The earlier match is a re-run of last weekend’s final round of the regular season, when Bears came out on top [19-33] at the Greenyards, and home head coach Graham Shiel has made five changes to his starting XV, with Iain Carmichael, Corey Tait and Martin McGinley returning in the front-row, Trystan Andrews recalled at No 8 and Callum Ramm rewarded for his virtuoso try off the bench against the Knights by being handed the No 15 jersey.
“We equipped ourselves reasonably well last week at The Greenyards in round six, but as ever lots of areas that we can improve as we evolve,” said Shiel. “The pleasing thing was that we got out of the blocks well, however we also let Southern Knights back into the game at regular intervals which made life tricky. Our second half performance, whilst not perfect, was composed and controlled as we made our replacements to close out a rare away victory.
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“Messaging within the group remains the same: consistency in our performance, starting well and reducing the number of unforced errors that we make in games which affect the outcome of results.”
Meanwhile, Knights head coach Alan Tait has the rare luxury of being able to select from a fully fit forwards group, meaning Clark Skeldon returns in the second-row after taking the step-up from the Premiership with Jed-Forest to Super Series level in his stride.
Rory Brand returns at scrum-half, while Donald Crawford comes in at outside centre after a successful Kings of the Sevens campaign with Melrose, while a reshuffle in the back- three sees Kieran Clark come in at full-back and Ollie Melville move to the wing.
“We have reviewed last week’s game thoroughly and after a couple of good training sessions we believe we are more than capable of finishing fifth,” said Tait. ” Everyone is keen to go, and looking to finish on a high.”
In the later game, Watsonians have had to contend with yet more injury disruption, with centre George Pringle and full-back Jack Brown dropping out this week, to be replaced by Lewis Berg (who has had his own injury woes this campaign) and Matt Reid (on loan from Selkirk). Teenage scrum-half Hector Patterson and second-row Kieran Watt are given a chance to show what they can do from the start, with Murray Scott and Jamie Berrisford dropping to the bench.
“After the disappointment of last week [when Watsonians lost out on the chance to compete for the title by losing 59-24 away to Ayrshire Bulls], it’s important this group of players finish the Sprint series with a good performance,” said head coach Stevie Scott. “We know Stirling will have been hurting since the game we played up at Bridgehaugh [a 29-38 win for the Edinburgh side] and we fully expect Eddie & his coaches to have his squad fired up.
Wolves head coach Eddie Pollock has freshened up his front-row with club captain Reyner Kennedy and Scotland Under-20s man Callum Norrie being promoted from the bench to start at hooker and tight-head prop respectively, Tom Smith, the ex-Highland lock comes on to the bench for his first taste of Super Series rugby.
In the backline, Craig Jackson and Ben Salmon miss out through injury, so Craig Jardine and Gregor Smith come in, the latter making his first start, while Marcus Holden swaps the No 12 for the No 10 jersey.
“We were obviously disappointed with our performance and the result at Goldenacre last weekend, however the squad has responded well and the quality of training this week has been excellent,” said Pollock.
“Our games against Watsonians are always very competitive and I am sure both teams will be doing their level best to finish the Sprint on a high. We know the quality of the opposition we are up against, but our sole focus will be on performing to the high standards we have set ourselves as a group during the Sprint Series, to give ourselves the best chance of gaining a positive result.”
Boroughmuir Bears (versus Southern Knights at Meggetland on Saturday at 3pm): C Ramm; M Cullen, A Thom, S Robeson©, J Jenkins; T Quinlan, B Young; I Carmichael, C Tait, M McGinley, J King, J Fisher, L McConnell, S McGinley, T Andrews. Substitutes: J Blyth Lafferty, L Alessandri, M Goodwin, S Whittaker, K Westlake, R Swan, G Paul, A Scott.
Southern Knights: K Clark; O Melville, D Crawford, A Hall, F Douglas; C Grieve, R Brand; C Greer, R Anderson ©, D Gamble, C Skeldon, J Campbell, G Young, S Derrick, R Brown. Substitutes: J Bett, J Dobie, E Harrison, E Demirel, W Hopes, C Davidson, P Anderson, A Ferrie.
Key battle: Mason Cullen versus Freddie Douglas
Verdict: Bears had too much firepower for Knights at the Greenyards last weekend and it is hard to see the balance of power shifting in seven days, especially as they will have home advantage this time. Home win.
Watsonians (versus Stirling Wolves at Meggetland on Saturday at 5pm): M Reid; R McKnight, L Berg, S King, A Guthrie; J Baggott, H Patterson; H Courtney, C Davies©, M Wilson, L Ball, K Watt, S Cecil, C Wilson, N Irvine-Hess. Substitutes: F Duraj, C Davidson, G Scougall, J Berrisford, J Morris, M Scott, F Thomson, B Riley.
Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; L Jarvie, M Heron, C Jardine, G Smith; M Holden, K McGhie, G Breese, R Kennedy©, C Norrie, H Ferguson, J Pow, R Knott, C Gordon, B Grant. Substitutes: A Falconer, A Wood, M Tamosaitis, T Smith, J Spurway, S Macdonals, F Burgess, I Sim.
Key battle: Campbell Wilson versus Connor Gordon
Verdict: It has been a frustrating first campaign at the helm for Stevie Scott with his Watsonians side missing several key players for long periods through injury, while Eddie Pollock has overseen an upturn in Stirling Wolves’ fortunes after his ascent to the Bridgehaugh hot-seat on an interim basis. Wolves shot themselves in the foot repeatedly when these sides met earlier in the campaign, but they could sneak this one if they keep the costly mistakes in check. Away win.
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