THE Tennent’s Premiership for 2021/22 got underway last weekend for six of the teams, and with Covid concerns – for now at least – gone away elsewhere 10 teams are due to be in action this Saturday.
Two of the clubs who did not play in week one, Edinburgh Accies and Jed-Forest, meet at Raeburn Place, while Selkirk get their first run out at home to Musselburgh and Aberdeen Grammar are on the road to Glasgow Hawks.
Already-mentioned Musselburgh were one team to get the full five points last weekend, the other outfit being Marr, who travel to Malleny Park to face the Currie Chieftains this time in a battle of two clubs with serious title aspirations.
Hawick were the third team to win last week and the challenge for them is now taking their home form on the road to GHA.
THE LOWDOWN –
SELKIRK v MUSSELBURGH
VENUE: Philiphaugh @ 3pm
Selkirk: R Cottrell; F Anderson, J Welsh, A Grant-Suttie, B Pickles; C Anderson, S Clark; L Pettie, J Mackay, B Riddell, T Brown, D Nichol, A McColm, S McClymont, E MacDougall©. Subs: A Cochrane, K Thomson, Z Szwagrzak, R Nixon, C Young.
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; T Foley, L Brook, V Kacori, G Tait; D Owenson©, L Kotze; N McNairn, C Owenson, C Arthur, C Champion, J Haynes, M Crawford, J Lister, L Hutson. Subs: A Forbes, D Hodge, C Pryde, M McMillan, C Veitch.
KEY BATTLE: Ewan MacDougall versus Luke Hutson
TEAM NEWS –
Selkirk: They are led from the front again by Captain Ewan MacDougall while there are debuts for Ben Pickles, Andrew Grant-Suttie and Thomas Brown, while Zenon Szwagrzak could make a debut from the bench. Two young local boys get an opportunity on the bench in Andrew Cochrane and Clark Young.
Musselburgh: A few changes due to injury and unavailability. Tom Foley comes in on the right wing and Van Kacori at 12. Experienced props Neil McNairn and Colin Arthur start, while Calum Champion slots into the second row for last week’s two-try man William Fleming. Matthew Crawford is in at 6 for Michael Maltman, who is away.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“With a very disjointed pre-season it’s great to see us playing rugby on Saturday. This is the first game we have played together as a first XV so we’re all really excited to get going and hit the ground running. We know it’s going to be hard and Musselburgh come to us with an opening-day bonus-point win.” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)
“We had a good performance and result last week against GHA and we know we need to stay at that level to compete against a Selkirk side who are always very difficult on their own ground. They have had a disrupted start to the season, but Scott will have them well prepared and we are not expecting any favours. Although we have a few changes and are missing players like Rory Watt and Michael Maltman we gain key men in the front row with Neil McNairn and Colin Arthur back.” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)
VERDICT: Musselburgh were very impressive last week and will be full of confidence heading to the Borders while Selkirk could be a bit rusty after a disjointed few weeks and no game in week one. However, the visitors are missing some experienced heads and Selkirk, who were on the way to the play-offs in 2019/20, will want to kick start things on home turf and could just do that.
EDINBURGH ACCIES V JED-FOREST
VENUE: Raeburn Place @ 3pm
Edinburgh Accies: V Hart; H Janes, R Kent, R Mill, M Sinclair; J Loomes©, B Grainger; C Imrie, F McAslan, C Lacour, F Simpson, S Whittaker, C Reid, J Sole, R Campbell©. Subs: R Simpson, R Montgomery, M Walker, B Afshar, W Stephen.
Jed-Forest: L Young; R Shirra Gibb, Gregor Young©, R Marshall, K Hayes; G Munro, N Stingl; G Paxton, F Campbell, H Meadows, C Skeldon, D Wardrop, Garry Young, K Grieve, D Buckley. Subs: A Stewart, P Ferreira, B Howe, E Lauder, A Bambrick.
TEAM NEWS –
Edinburgh Accies: Some new, some old and some returning: this would describe the make-up of the squad to take on Jed-Forest. One of the most exciting names on the team sheet is Callum Reid, back at 6 after an extended break out of the game. There are league debuts for Hamish Janes, Fraser McAslan and Finlay Simpson with Ryan Montgomery, Matt Walker and Ben Afshar looking to make debuts from the bench. Accies are delighted to have Vincent Hart and Robbie Kent back at the club after work and Super6 commitments respectively.
Jed-Forest: Having not played last week, Jed will be looking to the experienced players in their side – the likes of skipper Gregor Young and his twin brother Lewis – to lead from the front while Nik Stingl and Garry Munro have a good understanding at 9 and 10.
KEY BATTLE: Ben Grainger versus Nik Stingl.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Fingers crossed we will get to play some rugby this weekend. We head into the unknown as neither Jed nor ourselves played last weekend, but as a coaching group we are excited by the team that will take the field. We know Jed will offer a test with like ourselves a mix of youth and experience and it’s always an exciting game when Accies play Jed.” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)
“Having missed out last week, we are all looking forwrd to getting our league campaign underway” – Gavin Kerr (Jed-Forest)
VERDICT: With both sides having been idle last week this is a hard one to call because neither have played a competitive match for 18 months. Getting someone of Callum Reid’s quality back is big for Accies and the back row featuring him, Jamie Sole and co-captain Ruairi Matthew is an exciting one that will be looking to get their team on the front foot with some big carries.
If they can do that, home win.
GHA v HAWICK
VENUE: Braidholm @ 3pm
GHA: G Mollison; A Scott; C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, L Bardelli; J Crilly, R MacFarlane; T Brogan, G Hiddleston, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy©, D Ewing, W Graham, J Bruce. Subs: E Cavan, L Archer, M Marinkovic, G Baird, N Kelly.
Hawick: K Ford; R McKean, L Gordon-Woolley, K Brunton, J Delaney; B Donaldson, G Welsh; T Hope, M Carryer©, R Macleod, R Smith, S Fairbairn, S Frizzel C Sutherland, J Linton. Subs: C Renwick, N Little, R Linton, D Lightfoot, M Tait.
TEAM NEWS –
GHA: One change in the pack this week with Jack Bruce coming in for Will Alton who is away on international duty with Hungary. Adam Scott moves to the wing with John Crilly, Grant Mollison, Charlie Lonergan, Luca Bardelli, Max and Rory McFarlane all making their first Premiership starts for GHA this season in the backs.
Hawick: Front-row Ruaridh Macleod comes in and earns a starting spot after impressing off the bench for the injured Shawn Muir last week. Kyle Brunton slots in at 12 after missing last week and replaces Aaron Redpath who took a knock. Nicky Little, who is very experienced at prop, comes onto the bench after a strong performance against Currie for the Force with Calum Renwick also added to the replacements.
KEY BATTLE: Charlie Lonergan versus Logan Gordon-Woolley
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“The boys have being working on clarity and composure this week after our disappointing game against Musselburgh last weekend. Hawick had a great win against Currie and will be full of confidence going into this game on Saturday. We are looking for a more controlled game for 80 minutes and think we have the squad that is up for this challenge and looking to get something out of this match.” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)
“Another tough game this weekend away to GHA as they will be looking to put right their defeat to Musselburgh from last weekend. Away form will be massive this season so we need to be at the top of our game to come away with a victory. The players now know exactly what is needed to grind out results and what is expected of them, so we are looking forward to the challenge at Braidholm this weekend.” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)
VERDICT: Having a number of key backs returning to the starting XV will certainly help GHA after last week’s opening defeat at Musselburgh while they will want to put on a show for their home supporters after so long away. Hawick were very impressive last time out in beating Currie, but the key to any good triumph is to back it up and doing that on the road is always tricky in this league.
It is going to be a tight one, but Hawick may just have enough in the tanks to ride the crest of the wave from week one and make it two wins from two.
GLASGOW HAWKS v ABERDEEN GRAMMAR
VENUE: Balgray @ 3pm
Glasgow Hawks: Y Alagilly; T Glendinning, M Stewart, F Gosse, H Lee; L Brims, J Hastings; M Downer, P Cairncross, G Strain, S Halafili, S Leckey©, L Stewart, T Brown, L McNamara. Subs: I Carmichael, A Rogers, A Strain, F Burgess, J Strain.
Aberdeen Grammar: R Cameron; B Renton, M New, T Aplin©, D Russell; A Addy, T Morrison; C Reddish, B Inglis, M Schosser, S Renfrew, C Buchan, N Coe©, M Emmison, G Ryan. Subs: J Robertson, L Buchan, P Mulholland, E Fairweather, S Knudson.
TEAM NEWS –
Glasgow Hawks: A few changes from the defeat to Marr and an outstanding performance by the second XV v GHA. Charles Afuakwah couldn’t speak more highly of Mike Downer, Tim Brown and Finlay Burgess’s performances, so they have earned themselves an opportunity. A shuffle in the backs sees Matthew Stewart come in to develop the attack and add his experience. Joe Strain also comes onto the bench and will look to add a spark with his expansive play.
Aberdeen Grammar: Grammar are giving debuts to a number of new recruits with Corey Buchan in the forwards and Ross Cameron in the backs. Paddy Mullholland comes onto the bench as an impact player and apart from a couple of players unavailable they have named a strong squad.
KEY BATTLE: Mike Downer versus Mattias Schosser.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“With this being Aberdeen’s first game of the season we know they will be buzzing to get back to competitive rugby and throw everything at us. We look forward to seeing a couple of friendly faces in Jonny Spence who is helping coach while injured and Mark New who made a massive impression at Hawks with his eccentric style on and off the pitch. Our focus is for us to perform to the standards we know we can in attack which will release pressure in defence. Excited to see if we can take what we have done in training into the game this weekend.” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)
“We are looking forward to getting the season under way after our false start last week. Hawks have been a struggle for us in recent times and we know we are in for a tough game. Some of the calibre of player who didn’t make the first-XV squad this week shows the increasing depth of quality we are building in the squad so competition for places is fierce and it will be up to the players selected to do the business this weekend.” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)
VERDICT: Hawks were disappointed not to fire too many shots away at Marr last week and they will be looking to put that right on home turf. The players brought up from the second XV will be looking to make their mark while No.8 Lewis McNamara was very impressive in week one and will be a big ball carrier for them. Grammar have an experienced spine to the team – the likes of Mattias Schosser, Matthew Emmison, Greig Ryan and Mark New – and, as a club, they are excited for the campaign.
Both times like to play expansive rugby and Hawks should just edge this one at home.
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v MARR
VENUE: Malleny Park @ 3pm
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; C Meagher, R Southern, DJ Innes, J McCaig; G Hunter, P Boyer; A McWilliam, G Carson, G Scougall, R Davies, H Ferguson, G Nelson, F Scott©, W Nelson. Subs: R Stewart, C Ramsay, A Robertson, A Hall, M Bradshaw.
Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, S McDonald, C Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon, S Broad; B Sweet, B Jardine, W Farquhar, D Andrew, H Murray, M Pearce, R Brown, F Grant. Subs: C McMillan, G Reid, K Vallance, C Inglis, J Shedden.
TEAM NEWS –
Currie Chieftains: A few changes made from the team that played Hawick last week. Gregor Scougall is back to strengthen the pack and Gregor Nelson is promoted to the starting team after impressing last week off the bench. In the backs, Cammy Meager and James McCaig are both fit to start on the wings and Ryan Southern starts in the centre.
Marr: There are a couple of changes to the squad from last week. Blair Jardine starts at hooker after being at a wedding last week so Curran McMillan moves to the bench. Ben Johnston is unavailable due to work commitments, so Fraser Grant moves to No 8 and David Andrew will start in the second row. Scott Bickerstaff moves to the right wing which allows a first start for Scott McDonald at outside centre.
KEY BATTLE: Wallace Nelson versus Fraser Grant
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Well done to Hawick last week, they played really well and more importantly they demonstrated how far the right attitude can go in determining the outcome of a match at this level. We are back at Malleny for our first competitive fixture in too long and I am sure attitude won’t be an issue this week. We have been working hard in training to improve some key areas and are looking forward to testing ourselves against the Premiership favourites.” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
“After a good win and performance last week against Glasgow Hawks we have focused this week on improving certain areas of our game which we think need to be improved for a tough away game to Currie. We are expecting a physical battle and they will be determined to put last week’s defeat at Hawick behind them with a good home win against us.” – Craig Redpath (Marr)
VERDICT: Before the season started both of these clubs, on paper, were expected to be challenging for the play-offs and the title and both will look to show what they are all about in this game. Last week’s loss at Hawick will have stung coaches Mark Cairns, Ally Donaldson and skipper Fergus Scott and you can be sure the Currie squad will have been worked hard at training this week. Marr will be looking to go up a notch from the way they played against Hawks.
It should be a real ding-dong battle and the criticism Currie received will have them up for this, but Marr are the team to beat in this league and should just have enough to record an away win.