HERIOT’S have a chance to go top of the Super Series Sprint table with one round of the regular season left to play, if they can get the better of current summit-dwellers Ayrshire Bulls at Millbrae tomorrow evening. The match kicks-off at 5pm and tickets can be purchased HERE.
Head coach Ben Cairns has been forced into a reshuffle of his midfield with Matt Davidson on GB 7s duty this weekend, so Aidan Boyle comes in at 12 with Grant Hughes moves to 13. Ben Evans comes in for the unavailable James Couper on the wing in an otherwise unchanged back-line.
In the pack, Cammy Fenton, Struan Cessford and Ruairidh Leishman rotate in for Michael Liness, Euan McLaren and Callum Anderson, respectively. Teenager Euan McVie starts in the second-row allowing Charlie Jupp to shift to blindside flanker, replacing Wallace Nelson who will miss the remainder of the Sprint through injury.
On the bench, Ross Jones returns to the 23 after missing the Bears game, and Edinburgh Accies winger Lewis Wells is in line to make his debut having joined the squad as a long term injury replacement.
“There is no greater test in Super Series rugby than trying to pick up a result at Millbrae,” said Cairns. “The Bulls are a formidable side, especially at home, and we know no less than a performance close to our best will be enough to win.
However, we go there with confidence having gone unbeaten through the last three rounds. We have put ourselves in a position to contest for top spot and have come back in from the break week raring to go and ready to give the challenge on Saturday a proper crack.
The hosts are fielding a settled side with the addition of Ryan Sweeney and Lewis McNamara to the back-row in place of Archie Smeaton and Blair Jardine the only changes from the side which won comfortably at Southern Knights last time our. Glasgow pros Enrique Pieretto and Ally Miller as well as academy prospect Ben Afshar are added to the bench to replace the unavailable William Farquhar, Jamie Drummond and Reiss Cullen.
“After a few weeks on the road, it’s good to be back at Millbrae in front of our home crowd,” said Bulls head coach Pat MacArthur. “The players showed renewed energy at training this week after a well-deserved week off and are eager to get stuck into what will be two big games to close of the Sprint Series.
“Heriot’s are a team who likes to throw the ball about, especially in broken play, so we’ll need to be accurate in our defence. They also have a well-drilled maul which takes some stopping so discipline will be key.”
In the earlier match, Stirling Wolves know that a home win can keep their quest for involvement in the 1st/2nd place play-off alive going into their final game of the regular season against Heriot’s at Goldenacre next Saturday.
“We again make several changes to the side reflecting the depth we have at the moment,” explained interim head coach Eddie Pollock. “In the backs, Logan Jarvie comes in for Craig Jardine, with Ben Salmon moving to outside centre. Finlay Burgess starts at scrum-half with Kyle McGhie looking to make an impact in the second half after four strong performances as a starter. The rest of the backline has a settled look and is full of experience.
“Up front, Murphy Walker, who has just been selected in the 41-man training squad for the World Cup, returns to Bridgehaugh and will receive a great welcome. Max Williamson, another young Warriors pro, also returns to his home club and takes a spot on the bench.
“Southern Knights are coached by Alan Tait, the ex-Scotland and British Lions player, who as you would expect is developing a committed and hard-working young squad who are improving with every outing in the Super Series. They will arrive at Bridgehaugh full of ambition to play and it will need a full 80-minute performance from our Wolves team if we are to come away with the result we need.
“With only two games left in the regular season there is no room for error if we are to maximise our play-off chances.”
Still winless Knights may ostensibly be playing for only pride, but there is a definite sense of progress about this squad following a period of stagnation during 2022.
“A tough selection after last week’s lay off with players returning to fitness after injury and pushing for contention,” said head coach Tait. “Dan Gamble starts at tight-head, alongside Craig Greer, who slips to loose-head, making a pretty powerful front-row. Gary Young is now over his ankle injury, and we are really excited to see how he goes at blindside flanker after impressing in pre-season training, and Rudi Brown [recently released from the Edinburgh academy] starts at No 8.
“In the backs, young Harris Rutherford starts at 10 after impressing off the bench in previous games. Callum Grieve plays alongside him at 12, giving us two good ball handlers. Adam Hall, who has been our top performer in the backs this season, slips to 13. In the back three, Murray Wilson, whilst normally a centre is on the wing and should benefit greatly from the experience.
“Stirling Wolves have turned the corner and are one of the form teams in the Sprint,” added Tait. “They have a couple of good old heads in the backs in Craig Jackson and Marcus Holden who hold them together. In the pack, we will need to match them physically.
“Gregor Hiddleston and Connor Gordon are excellent ball-stealers and they have a couple of lumpy young second-rows who will put themselves about.
“It’s the physicality that we need to match against the Wolves, but we went there last year and got a great result. We had a different group of players [then], but we are really looking forward to going up there and playing on the grass and giving them a game.
Stirling Wolves (versus Southern Knights at Bridgehauhgh on Saturday @ 3pm): G Bryce; S Hamilton, B Salmon, M Holden©, L Jarvie; C Jackson, F Burgess; G Breese, G Hiddleston, M Walker, H Ferguson, J Pow, R Knott, C Gordon, B Grant. Substitutes: R Kennedy, L Quarm, M Tamosaitis, M Williamson, S Macdonald, K McGhie, C Jardine, M Heron.
Southern Knights: O Melville; F Douglas, A Hall, C Grieve, M Wilson; H Rutherford, R Brand; C Greer, C Anderson ©, D Gamble, C Skeldon, J Campbell, G Young, A Ferrie, R Brown. Substitutes: B McLean, J Dobie, E Harrison, W Hopes, S Derrick, C Davidson, R Chalmers, A Cross.
Key battle: Craig Greer versus Murphy Walker
Verdict: Refreshed and re-energised, Southern Knights are entitled to view this match as a golden opportunity to break their duck this season – but County have a potent combination of youth and professional experience which should be enough for a home win.
Ayrshire Bulls (versus Heriot’s at Millbrae on Saturday @ 5pm): E Caven; L Bardelli, J Shedden, K Yule, T Glendinning; F Climo, G Baird; A Nimmo, G Stewart, C Henderson, E Bloodworth, R Jackson, R Sweeney, L McNamara, B Macpherson ©. Substituties: B Jardine, C Miller, E Pieretto, A Miller, T Brown, B Afshar, A Bogidrau, C Elliot.
Heriot’s: D King; B Evans, G Hughes, A Boyle, M Gray; B Houston, C Jones; C Keen, C Fenton, S Cessford, E McVie, R Seydak, C Jupp, I Wilson©, R Leishman. Substitutes: M Liness, J Scott, E McLaren, C Cobbett, C Anderson, E McAra, R Jones, L Wells.
Key battle: Ed Bloodworth versus Euan McVie
Verdict: Opportunity knocks for the visitors, and it will certainly be tight for 60 minutes, but firepower off the Bulls bench will de decisive in a home win.