THE TENNENT’S PREMIERSHIP FINAL takes place for the first time in just under three years at Malleny Park on Saturday – and it is shaping up to be a cracker!
When Ayr defeated Heriot’s 29-23 in a classic at Millbrae on April 6, 2019, to win the 2018-19 top flight title, we all knew a new era was coming, with the FOSROC Super6 due to begin later that year. The first season of the new-look Premiership proved that the top of the tradition club game still had real value before it was cut down in its prime by Covid – but good things come to those who wait (and wait and wait…). Now, finally, 25 months on, we will know who will follow Ayr into the winners circle by 5pm on Saturday.
Will it be Currie Chieftains – the hosts who topped the regular season table and have won their last 18 games? Or will it be Troon outfit Marr – who have had an amazing rise to this level via the West regional leagues over the last decade or so?
On paper, Currie, who last won the top flight in 2009-10, are favourites given that they are unbeaten at home all term. It is also 52 years this month that the club was formed and given they missed proper half century celebrations in 2020 they will want to mark that momentous moment from 1970 with a positive result.
However, Marr are as good as anyone at this level on their day, finished second in the regular season table and it is probably the biggest day in the club’s history so the players won’t be leaving anything out on the pitch come the end. And, of course, they have former Scotland prop Gordon Reid ready and primed like a coiled spring to make an impact from the bench.
With the third Super6 tournament set to start in a couple of weeks’ time, this is likely to be be the last game some of these players play for their respective clubs.
As well as the rugby there will be plenty to keep all members of the family entertained including an ice cream van, local pipe band and a raffle. It should be a cracking day out for fans and neutrals alike.
It is cash only at the gate and at the pitchside bar – entry is £12 for adults, £8 for concessions and under-16s are free.
THE LOWDOWN –
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v MARR
Venue: Malleny Park @ 3pm
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; R Daley, J Reynolds, DJ Innes, C Meager; S Leto, P Boyer; G Carson, R Stewart, AP McWilliam, H Ferguson, C Roman, W Nelson, F Scott©, R Davies. Subs: S Fisher, G Scougall, C Ramsay, G Nelson, C Lessels, J McCaig, F Sayers.
Marr: D Steele; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Sturgeon©, J Scott; C Inglis, G Baird; B Sweet, B Jardine, C Miller, D Andrew, F Grant, A Johnston, R Brown, B Johnston. Subs: C McMillan, W Farquhar, G Reid, M Pearce, S Broad, M O’Sullivan, N Calder.
Key battle: Sam Leto v Callum Inglis
Team news –
Currie Chieftains: A big day for Sam Leto as he replaces the ill Jamie Forbes at stand-off in an otherwise unchanged match-day 22 from the one that defeated Edinburgh Accies in the semi last week. Leto’s contribution from 10 will be key with experienced duo Gregor Hunter and now Forbes missing.
Marr: For the first time this season there are no changes in the squad to the match-day 22 which defeated Hawick in the semi.
What the coaches say –
“It was a great day last weekend against Accies and the guys are looking to continue the momentum built up by the way we finished the match. We are aware it’s a special week and everyone is really enjoying the build-up to what should be a cracking match. We expect a big crowd including a large away support and can’t wait to experience a packed Malleny Park. At this stage of the season, it’s over to the players and myself, Ally [Donaldson] and the rest of the coaching team are excited to see the players perform their best rugby …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
“After a good win at home against Hawick in the semi-final last week, the players, overall club and supporters are looking forward to playing Currie in the final on Saturday. Currie have been the best team in the league all season and are coached very well by Mark and Ally. They are unbeaten at home all season making the challenge for us even greater. We have trained well this week and the players have enjoyed training and are excited about playing in the Premiership Final for the first time. Currie have beaten us convincingly in the previous two games and dominated us from the start of the game. Therefore, it is important that we start well if we wish to have a chance of winning this final …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)
Verdict: As Craig Redpath alludes to, Currie defeated Marr twice in the regular season, 38-12 in September at Malleny and then 34-26 in November at Fullarton Park.
Marr had a very physical game against Hawick last week, but they have been able to name an unchanged 22. The back-row trio of the Johnston brothers and Robert Brown will be tasked with putting pressure on Currie 10 Sam Leto who has not played an awful lot at this level.
On the flip side, Currie will look to protect him while their back-rowers Wallace Nelson, skipper Fergus Scott and Rhys Davies will aim to pressure Marr stand-off Callum Inglis.
There will definitely be quite a few points, there will be thrills and spills, and it will be an entertaining 80 minutes.