WATSONIANS full-back Josh Rowland scored one try on Saturday, and sparked the brilliant, length-of-the-field move that put his side ahead against Stirling County, which earns him selection at full-back ahead of the perennially excellent Fraser Thomson of Melrose.
Kyle Rowe‘s two tries for Ayr get’s him the nod ahead of Currie Chieftains’ Ben Robbins – who was great going forward but had one or two handling errors – on the right wing. Jordan Edmunds of Boroughmuir starts on the left wing.
At outside centre, George Spencer, a 19-year-old South African who was brought over to Scotland midway through last season so that the SRU could have a closer look, stepped up to the plate during Edinburgh Accies’ top-flight return with an intelligent, energetic and physical performance in defence against Ayr, plus two tries in attack for good measure.
He is partnered in the middle of the park by Mark New, who dropped out of the SRU academy set-up during the summer after an injury-ravaged 2017-18 season. New provided a focal point for Hawks as they battled in vain against a Heriot’s side who threatened run away with the game from fairly early on, but didn’t quite manage to until the final quarter . His opposite number on Saturday, Robert Kay, also made a case for selection with a terrific tackling display, while George Taylor of Melrose and Robbie Nelson of Currie Chieftains were their usual powerful selves.
Craig Jackson was a threat every time he got the ball and orchestrated Melrose’s emphatic victory at Hawick, so he gets the nod at stand-off (where he started the game before moving to centre in the second-half); with team-mate Murdo McAndrew edging in ahead of Andrew Simmers of Heriot’s and Robbie Davis of Edinburgh Accies at scrum-half.
In the pack, Michael Liness of Heriot’s was his team’s top tackler from the middle of the front-row, and gets through a lot of unheralded tight work every week; Struan Cessford played most of the second-falf in the middle-row but his power remained evident throughout and will be key to Heriot’s this season; and Edinburgh pro Rory Sutherland not only registered huge stats at loose-head for Accies, but has really impressed at Raeburn Place during the last few weeks with his willingness to roll up his sleeves and muck in for the cause as he works his way back to full match fitness.
In the middle-row, Marshall Sykes promises to be a fantastic addition to an Ayr pack which lost some key performers – including George Hunter, Robin Hislop, Rob McAlpine and Scott Sutherland – during the summer; and Dalton Redpath was a stand-out for Hawick.
Bruce Flockhart put in a huge shift in a losing cause for Glasgow Hawks, as did Gregor Nelson on the winning side for Watosnians, but both lose out in the battle for the number six jersey to Luke Crosbie, who was a two try hero, influential all over the park in both attack and defence, and a constant source of good line-out ball for Currie Chieftains.
Iain Wilson is at open-side. “Unbelievable,” was Heriot’s coach Phil Smith‘s assessment of his captain’s performance. “For me, he outplayed [Glasgow Warriors pro] Matt Smith. He is just one of your honest, amateur rugby players, who doesn’t get paid and brings that every week.”
Blair Macpherson edges is ahead Bruce McNeil of Hawick and hard-running Rory Drummond of Boroughmuir at number eight.
15. Josh Rowland (Watsonians)
14. Kyle Rowe (Ayr)
13. George Spencer (Edinburgh Accies)
12. Mark New (Glasgow Hawks)
11. Jordan Edmunds (Boroughmuir)
10. Craig Jackson (Melrose)
9. Murdo McAndrew (Melrose)
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Accies)
2. Michael Liness (Heriot’s)
3. Struan Cessford (Heriot’s)
4. Dalton Redpath (Hawick)
5. Marshall Sykes (Ayr)
6. Luke Crosbie (Currie Chieftains)
7. Iain Wilson (Heriot’s)
8. Blair McPherson (Ayr)