Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 29th February

A full schedule of fixtures looks set to go ahead in the top flight of Scottish club rugby for only the second time this calendar year

Jed-Forest head to Malleny Park to take on Currie Chieftains. Image: Bill McBurnie
Jed-Forest head to Malleny Park to take on Currie Chieftains. Image: Bill McBurnie

A BREAK in the Six Nations, and in the relentless run of storms which has blighted club rugby this month, means a full fixture card of Premiership matches is set to go ahead for only the second time this year.

With the top five teams in the division all jostling for play-off qualification/seedings, and the bottom five all scrabbling to escape the dark spectre of relegation, another afternoon of high drama is on the cards.


National One preview: Biggar aim to put daylight between themselves and Heriot’s Blues

National Two preview: leaders Dumfries Saints host second-placed Stew-Mel

The end of an era for Mike Dalgetty, but also the start of something new


HOW IT STANDS –

[lt id=”12″]

THE LOWDOWN –

HAWICK v ABERDEEN GRAMMAR

VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Hawick: K Ford; R McKean, W Griebenow, A Mitchell, L Gordon-Wooley; A Weir, G Welsh; S Muir©, M Carryer, D Johnstone, M Renwick, D Suddon, J Rowley, J Linton, B McNeil. Subs: C Renwick, R MacLeod, R Toogood, B Donaldson, M Bannerman.

Aberdeen Grammar: N Brown; C Shepherd, J Troup,, M Mitchell, C Ruston; T Aplin, T Morrison; J Robertson, A Cook, R Cessford, S Renfrew, A Robertson, D Wallen, B Inglis, G Ryan. Subs: Y Almanache, L Buchan, N Coe, J Spence, M Running.

KEY BATTLE: Shawn Muir versus Robin Cessford

TEAM NEWS –

Hawick: A settled backline, but a reshuffled pack, with Dale Johnston coming in at tight head in place of Craig Greer, and Murray Renwick getting a run in the second-row in place of Adam Piotrowski, who is on international duty with Poland. Daniel Suddon comes back from injury in the second-row, while a reshuffle in the back-row sees James Rowley at 6 and Billy McNeil at No 8.

Aberdeen Grammar: With a number of players off skiing there is a fair bit mixing and matching. Nathan Brown moved from wing to full-back, Tom Aplin moves from centre to stand-off and Robin Cessford moves from the second-row to tight-head prop.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“Aberdeen will be desperate to pick up a much needed win. Nothing but a win will do for us to keep the pressure on Currie for a home play-off spot …” – George Graham (Hawick)

“We take a strong squad down to Hawick although some players will be playing in unusual positions. It’s our last away trip of the regular season, and on the back of another week off the boys are ready and excited. Last time out against Hawick we were far too passive in defence and this is something we worked on since that game. Weather dependent it could be a really slow, physical game or if you’re on the 3G pitch a really fast and open game. We have prepared for both so either way, we are looking forward to it and will give it a best …” – Ali O’Connor  (Aberdeen Grammar)

VERDICT: It is a long haul down to Hawick by bus on Saturday morning for an under-strength Aberdeen side – facing a game they must win to have any chance of making the play-offs. Hawick now have the strength in depth to compensate for the absence of their two Polish international forwards, and will be confident of extending their run of seven consecutive league victories, thus keeping alive the outside chance of landing one of the advantageous home berths in the play-offs.

Comfortable home win.

GHA v MUSSELBURGH

VENUE: [email protected] 3pm

TEAMS –

GHA: R O’Keefe; J Edgar, G Mollison, C King, A Purewal; J MacKinnon, G Baird; E Cavan, H Clark, M Fox, A Barnett, J McCarthy©, M Ryan, D Ewing, L McCutcheon. Subs: S Fisher, S Callaghan, M Marinkovic, S Simpson, J Craig.

Musselburgh: J Ferguson; G Tait, R Watt, P Cunningham, S Watt; F Roddick, D Owenson; C Owenson, E Bonthron, C Arthur, J Haynes, P Brown, M Maltman©, M Outram, L Hutson. Subs: J Crain, R Stott, W Fleming, C Pryde, R Smith.

TEAM NEWS –

GHA: Jamie MacKinnon, James Edgar, Hamish Clark and Michael Fox come back into the starting XV.

Musselburgh: Paul Cunningham starts at 12 with Rory Watt moving to 13 and Rory Smith dropping to the subs bench. In the pack, Euan Bonthron swaps in at hooker for Jonny Crain, and Robert Stott returns from injury to sit on the bench.

KEY BATTLE: Luke McCutcheon versus Luke Hutson

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“This fixture is a huge game for both clubs in their quests to secure a place in the top league. We have to raise the bar for this game after a hugely disappointing performance against Jed-Forest. The boys were hurting after that and have worked hard over the last couple of weeks and look forward to the challenge ahead. Musselburgh are a strong team who aren’t afraid to move the ball wide but I feel conditions on the day will dictate how this game plays out. …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)

“We are definitely now facing the ‘do or die’ situation as we head into this weekend’s game at GHA but that is something that we are looking forward to – proving to ourselves, and others, that we are good enough to remain in the Premiership.  I believe we have the players who are physically, tactically and mentally ready to produce a performance worthy of the situation we are in and achieving our goal of winning against a good GHA side to take a massive step forward in our survival plans.  The guys have been really positive in the last two weeks training since the Selkirk game, and with a strong pack that will hopefully set the tone for the game it will allow the backline to express themselves.  With two good playmakers at 10 and 12, we will be looking to take what chances we create and play some positive rugby when the occasion arises, however we know that the game is often won and lost up front so the forwards know their role in this contest. We always have to be aware of GHA’s threat in attack so controlling the game through quality defence and field position has been the key messages …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)

VERDICT: Match of the day at Braidholm. A must-win for both clubs. GHA have blown hot and cold all season, and just did not play at all at Riverside a fortnight ago – but, they will have learned from that chastening experience – and on paper, at least, they look stronger than they did then. Games, are not however, won on paper.

Musselburgh are on a roll. They fought tooth and nail for their draw with Selkirk at Stoneyhill last time out – and they played well to comfortably beat Jed in the game before that. They have some good players and they are impressively committed – and they know that it is ‘make-or-break’ time.

It was a great game when they met at Stoneyhill in November – with Musselburgh just sneaking home 39-35 – and this one should be just as tight. It could go either way – but home advantage might swing it.

Narrow home win.

Cala Homes supports Currie Chieftains

MARR v GLASGOW HAWKS

VENUE: Fullarton Park @ 3.o0pm

TEAMS –

Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, R Dalgleish; C Sturgeon, J Preston; W Farquhar, O Rossi, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F  Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: C McMillan, B Sweet, J Harvey, J Scott, T  Steven.

Glasgow Hawks: L Brims; K Gossman, E Oag, C Harrison, M Priestly; J Strain, P Boyer; G  Strain, J Gemmell, E Rintoul, S Halafihi, A Kirkland, S Leckey©, F Christie, R Sweeney. Subs: P Cairncross, L Archer, C Holborn, M Stewart, Y Alagilly.

TEAM NEWS –

Marr: The one change to the squad picked for the postponed game against Edinburgh Accies a fortnight ago is on the bench, with Curran McMillan replacing Andrew Muir.

Glasgow Hawks: Sione Halafihi returns after a recent shoulder injury while Ewan Rintoul also comes back in at prop. Paul Cairncross and Lyall Archer will look to add their experience off the bench. In the backs Joe Strain comes in at 10 with Liam Brims moving to full-back while Max Priestly is released to play by Scotland Under-20’s. Finally, Erlend Oag comes back into the starting line up at outside centre while Yousif Alagilly will look to make an impact off the bench after recovering from a head knock which kept him out of the GHA game.

KEY BATTLE: Jack Preston versus Paddy Boyer

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“This will be extremely tough and we are expecting a close and physical contest. Hawks will be determined to put in a performance against us and win to move up the table. At full strength, they are a team capable of defeating anyone in the league. We are looking forward to the challenge and getting back to playing after a five week break.”  …” – Craig Redpath.

“More than anything, the boys are glad to get back out on the field and have the opportunity to pitch themselves against the best team in the league. Our last encounter came down to the width of the cross-bar and we are hoping to be as competitive again …” – Andy Hill  (Glasgow Hawks)

VERDICT: Hawks pushed Marr all the way when they met at Balgray in November and were very unlucky to lose 18-17,  but not much has gone their way since – and it is difficult to see them getting the result they so desperately need down at Fullarton.

Comfortable home win.

Note: there is a 9am pitch inspection at Fullarton. If the pitch is unplayable, the game will move to the Astro pitch at Marr College with a 2.30pm kick-off.

CCL Logistics

CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v JED-FOREST

VENUE: Malleny Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Currie Chieftains: S Hamilton; C Meager, S King, A Hall, J McCaig; G Hunter, R Southern; G Carson, F Scott©, M Argiro, M Vernel, S Edwards, R Vucago, W Nelson, R Davies. Subs: R Patterson,  C Ramsay, H Ferguson, F Sayers, C Lessells.

Jed-Forest: L Young; C Young, G Young, R Yourston, R Marshall; M Mitchell, N Stingl; P Ferreira, G Paxton, H Meadows, B Saxton, G Paxton, D Grieve, M Weekley, G Young. Subs: F Campbell, E Lauder, J Ferguson, J McGough, J Laing.

TEAM NEWS –

Currie Chieftains: Gregor Christie and Matt Poole are both injured, but Cairn Ramsey, Roy Vucago, Gregor Hunter and Scott King come back into the mix, meaning Grant Williamson drops out of the squad, and Fraser Sayers is on the bench. Ryan Southern has played the majority of his rugby at 9, so the South African should cope with the switch in field from centre.

Jed-Forest: Michael Weekley starts in the back-row in place of unavailable Dom Buckley. Finlay Campbell and Elliot Lauder return from injury to take places on the bench.

KEY BATTLE: Andy Hall versus Robbie Yourston

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“The weather forecast is not great but the pitch is holding up well, so we expect the game to go ahead. I was pleased with how we handled extremely challenging conditions away to Aberdeen in our last match. We will need to reproduce this if we are to beat a Jed team who got it spot-on against GHA. They used their big ball carriers well, simplified their line-out and still had the ambition to play from anywhere with their dangerous backs. It was a great performance …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“Following a good win against GHA, we hope to continue winning ways, however we know Currie will be strong at home …” – Gav Kerr (Jed-Forest)

VERDICT: Jed were on fire against GHA at Riverside – but Chieftains at Malleny is a very different proposition – and they will need to have their ‘A’ game well honed to take anything away from it.

If, however, they front up and keep their shape and their discipline, they have the talent to test Chieftains – and conceivably work their way into play-off contention.

Gregor Hunter’s return from concussion changes the dynamics for the hosts – and they seem to be comfortable with Ryan Southland’s switch to scrum-half – so they should be well capable of handling whatever it is that Jed throws at them.

Home win.

Cala Homes supports Currie Chieftains

EDINBURGH ACCIES v SELKIRK

VENUE: Raeburn Place @ 3pm

TEAM –

Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; M Cairnes, R Campbell, R Mill, C Ramm; R Bonner, M Love; C Imrie, S Crombie, C Lacour, A Inwood, D Dinnen, C Thomson, J Sole©, J Bruce. Subs: C Black, D Anderson, R McConnell, M Sinclair, W Stephen.

TEAM NEWS –

Edinburgh Accies: An unchanged team from last weekend’s narrow loss to Hawick, for the first time this season.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“I will never fault the attitude and commitment of our players – what we need to do is tighten, concentrate and be consistent on some aspects of our game. We will be back at Raeburn Place this weekend. Everything is in our hands still …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

VERDICT: A vital game for Accies. They beat Selkirk at Philiphaugh in November, and they will be looking for a similar result here to hopefully put some daylight between themselves and Hawks.

They have struggled for continuity and consistency on and off the pitch all season – so will see being able to field an unchanged team for the first time this season as some kind of omen.

Narrow home win.


Opinion: ‘There is something rotten at the heart of Scottish Rugby’

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article

Support our coverage  of all levels of Scottish rugby.

Invest in our gameyou can make a difference by keeping Scottish rugby at all levels in the news.

Chasing The Rugby Dream
CCL Logistics