Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 14th January

Top of table Hawick host second-placed Currie Chieftains, Selkirk and Marr battle for fourth play-off spot, while Musselburgh and Heriot's Blues fight for Premiership survival

Edinburgh Accies host Glasgow Hawks in the Premiership this weekend, Image: Bob Coats
Edinburgh Accies host Glasgow Hawks in the Premiership this weekend, Image: Bob Coats

SOMETIMES the fixture computer throws up weeks which just have a bit of everything – and the Premiership schedule certainly looks that way this Saturday with big games wherever you look.

With just four rounds of regular season action left before the play-offs and relegation, every team in the top 10 has something to shoot for which should mean healthy crowds at all five matches in round 15.

And although many Scottish rugby fans are already focusing on February 4th and the Six Nations opener down in England, anyone with some time on their hands could do worse than take in a top flight club game.


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Hawick are still unbeaten at the top of the table and they welcome second placed Currie Chieftains to Mansfield Park. The home side won away at Malleny Park earlier in the season and with both team well on course for home semi-finals in the play-offs this could well be a dress rehearsal for the season’s grand finale.

There is a lot of water to go under the bridge before then though and, at the bottom end of the table, Musselburgh host Heriot’s Blues. With ‘Burgh six points adrift, this really is ‘must win’ for them and they are sure to have a vocal home support cheering them on.

There’s also a lot at stake at Philiphaugh, were fifth-placed Marr know that a win will pile the pressure on hosts Selkirk in the battle for the fourth play-off slot, while sixth-placed Glasgow Hawks can keep themselves at least in the conversation by upsetting the odds when they visit Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place.

Jed-Forest and GHA both have a chance to kill off any lingering concerns they may have about relegation when they meet at Riverside Park.

Click HERE to explore The Offside Line’s new Premiership Stats Centre which features up to date info on games played, points scored, dream team selections per player, yellow and red cards, winning streaks, and much, much more.

How it stands  –

The Lowdown –

Edinburgh Accies v Glasgow Hawks

Venue: Raeburn Place @ 2pm

Teams –

Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; K Gossman, M Wallace, N Armstrong, L Wells; J Loomes©, S Broad; C Imrie, C Black, C Lacour, J Mills, R Thompson, T Drennan, J Sole, R Campbell. Subs: G Ratcliff, H Campbell, S Whittaker, M Love, V Hart.

Glasgow Hawks: M Stewart; S Graham, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, R Darroch; L Brims, E Davey; M Downer, I Totic, G Strain, M Crumlish, R Burke, S Leckey©, D Sweeney, Oscar Baird. Subs: P Cairncross, E Cairns, C Harrison, B McGroarty, R Flett.

Key battle: Callum Black versus Istok Totic.

Team news –

Edinburgh Accies: Only one change to the starting team this week with Callum Black in at hooker. Hamish Campbell and Vincent Hart return on the bench.

Glasgow Hawks: Matthew Stewart and Liam Brims come in for the injured Andy McLean and Gav Cruickshanks at 15 and 10 respectively. In the pack, Istok Totic returns from Serbia and starts at hooker, while Ryan Burke will make his debut in the second-row having impressed with the 2nd XV and at training throughout the season. On the bench, Brendan McGroarty has returned from injury and holiday ,while Ryan Flett is also fit again having not played since the start of December.

What the coaches say –

“This weekend we welcome Glasgow Hawks to Raeburn Place and, as always, this will be a tough, physical encounter against a side who have been on the wrong end of some close games. We will have to turn up with the desire we showed last Saturday to outwork our opposition …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

“It’s a massive game for us if we want to keep our slim chances of top four alive …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

Verdict: A second trip to Edinburgh in seven days for Hawks and they know that they simply must win this game to keep their play-off dream going. They have struggled to get a consistent squad out of late and that may again be their downfall here against an Accies side who are looking to build momentum into the play-offs.

Home win.

 

Hawick v Currie Chieftains

(for the Bill McLaren Shield)

Venue: Mansfield Park @ 2pm

Teams –

Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Brunton, H Patterson; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Suddon, D Redpath, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: R Graham, T Hope, R Tait, G Welsh, L Gordon-Woolley.

Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; J McCaig, G Cannie, A Hall, K McGovern; G Hunter, G Christie; J Drummond, R Stewart, C Ramsay, W Inglis, E Stewart, A McCallum, G Nelson, R Davies©. Subs: C Anderson, J Ramsay, K Steel, P Boyer, R Daley.

Key battle: Calum Renwick versus Gregor Nelson.

Team news –

Hawick: In the pack, Dalton Redpath replaces Shaun Fairbairn in the second-row after the latter picked up a small injury against Marr last weekend. Ronan McKean returns from illness to replace Logan Gordon-Woolley on the wing. On the bench, in comes Rhys Tait from the Glasgow Warriors academy and Gareth Welsh.

Currie Chieftains: Jamie Drummond, the Glasgow Warriors academy player, and Will Inglis start in the forwards after coming off the bench last week. In the backs, Jamie Forbes is back and replaces injured Charlie Brett, while Gregor Christie and Greg Cannie, who were on the bench last week, start at nine and 13 respectively with James McCaig moving out to wing.

What the coaches say –

“This weekend we will see a massive game at Mansfield Park. Currie are a top quality team, are very hard to break down and when given chances they will take them. As a squad, we are in a great place and are starting to put in 80 minute performances. We have made Mansfield a tough place for teams to come to again this season and we will need to be at our best, but there’s a good buzz around the squad. We are focused on one thing and that’s a win …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

“I was pretty happy with how we performed against a strong Glasgow Hawks side last week, but we will have to step it up if we are to get points from Mansfield Park. Matty and the other coaches at Hawick have done a great job building a very strong team over the past couple of seasons and they are well deserved favourites going into the fixture. We had the favourites tag last season and we know it can create its own pressure, especially in front of an expectant home support. We need to remain in the fight for the full 80 minutes and stop Hawick from getting the scoreboard ticking up. We have trained well, I believe the game plan is sound and we have a talented group of players, so it’s set to be a great contest …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

Verdict: What a match this is set up to be. These have been the two best sides in the division so far this term and both seem to have squads fairly close to full-strength heading into the business end of things. Hawick will look to get dominance up front, while the experienced half-back pairing of Gregor Christie and Gregor Hunter will be key for Currie. Home advantage may just see Hawick nick this one.

Home win.

 

Musselburgh v Heriot’s Blues

Venue: Stoneyhill @ 2pm

Teams –

Musselburgh: M McMillan; T Foley, R Watt, P Cunningham, S Watt; D Owenson©, F Call; C Owenson, F Duraj, N McNairn, W Fleming, M Badenhorst, P Bogie, M Outram, L Hutson. Subs: R Stott, R Hanning, J Haynes, C Champion, C Marshall.

Heriot’s Blues: C Simpson; R McKnight, O Quinn, R Kay©, R Steele; R Carmichael, G Wilson; M Bouab, M Toward, A Bogle, C Jupp, C Bell, M Hughes, I Hill, A Johnston. Subs: D Dineen, J Lascelles, S Wallace, R Thomson, P Christie.

Key battle: Neil McNairn versus Martin Bouab

Team news –

Musselburgh: Luke Hutson returns to the pack having recovered from a shoulder injury sustained in November meaning a slight reshuffle. The backline needed a more significant reshuffle at nine, 10, 12 and 13 to account for Fin Thomson not being released by the Scotland under-20s this weekend. Jak Haynes could make his 50th appearance for the club off the bench.

Heriot’s Blues: Charlie Simpson, Calum Bell and Ross McKnight (Glasgow Warriors academy) return/are released and go straight in at the expense of Malachy Keough, Iain Kay and Craig Robertson.

What the coaches say –

“Our mindset is simple – we are unburdened by the situation and willing go out and have a crack against Heriot’s. We are relishing the opportunity to do so at home …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

“This is clearly a huge game for both clubs with the win probably more important than the performance. That being said, both teams have a great attacking game so hopefully we will see a high scoring encounter so supporters from both sides are entertained …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)

Verdict: As Phil Smith says, the result is more important than the performance for both teams. Musselburgh simply need to get a good result to avoid being cut adrift at the bottom, but their win at Selkirk was positive, as was their performance last week, albeit in defeat, against Edinburgh Accies. If they can get ball carriers like Michael Badenhorst and Luke Hutson going here they may just breathe life into their campaign.

Home win.

 

Jed-Forest v GHA

Venue: Riverside Park @ 3pm

Teams –

Jed-Forest: C Young; M Cullen, Gregor Young, O Cranston, R Shirra-Gibb; G Munro, A Bambrick; G Paxton, F Scott, P Ferreira, Garry Young, C Skeldon©, B McNeil, B Roff, B Fotheringham. Subs: A Sweenie, H Meadows, M Atkinson, E Lauder, R Marshall.

GHA: C Hyde; L Bardelli, C Lonergan, K Dixon, G Mollison; C Townsend, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, A Barnett, W Graham, D Ewing©, L McCutcheon. Subs: D Sutton, S Callaghan, M Ryan, R MacFarlane, C King.

Key battle: Gary Munro versus Christian Townsend

Team news –

Jed-Forest: Owen Cranston starts at 12 in place of the injured Robbie Yourston, and Ben McNeil starts at six with Garry Young moving into second-row for Dan Wardrop who is unavailable.

GHA: Chris Hyde and Grant Mollison return to the squad and start at full-back and wing respectively. Glasgow Warriors academy player Christian Townsend has been allocated and starts at stand-off. Up-front, there are three changes with Archie Falconer starting at hooker, Adam Barnett in the second-row and Walker Graham at blindside flanker.

What the coaches say –

“We’re all looking forward to the home fixture against GHA. It was an interesting contest the first time we met this season and a game we should have won. It will be a test and we know how quickly they can strike, so we will have to be on it from first minute …” – Andrew Brown (Jed-Forest)

“We are pleased to have a number of experienced players returning to the squad this weekend. We’ve trained well this week and look forward to the trip to Riverside Park on Saturday …” – Calum Forrester (GHA)

Verdict: After impressive away wins at Glasgow Hawks and Heriot’s Blues in their last two games, Jed will relish their return to hime turf. GHA have lost their last three games and the momentum behind Jed should see the points stay in the Borders.

Home win.

 

Selkirk v Marr

Venue: Philiphaugh @ 3pm

Teams –

Selkirk: C Anderson; L Ferguson, R Cottrell, C Jackson, J Welsh; Aaron McColm©, J Hamilton; L Pettie©, J Bett, B Riddell, A Cochrane, C Turnbull, D Nicol, S McClymont, M Job. Subs: C Mackintosh, K Thomson, C Ward E McVicar, C Easson.

Marr: C Inglis; J Jacobson, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff©, J Scott; C Sturgeon©, G Baird; G Reid, S Clelland, C Miller, D Andrew, C Folan, F Grant, B Jardine, A Smeaton. Subs: C McMillan, A Acton, C Young, G Beckwith, N Calder.

Key battle: Monroe Job versus Archie Smeaton.

Team news –

Selkirk: Two changes up front, Zen Swarzagzak and James Head are unavailable after picking up injuries last week, so James Bett and Callum Turnbull come in. Ross Nixon and Andrew McColm are still out. Callum Mackintosh and Connor Ward could get their first game time off the bench this season.

Marr: Archie Smeaton (Glasgow Warriors academy) comes in at No 8 this week which means Cameron Young is on the bench. Curran McMillan and Andrew Acton are available again and are on the bench.

What the coaches say –

“It’s a Cup final for us this week, if we can win we close in on a top four finish. We’ve taking a huge amount of confidence after winning on the road and coming back from a 14-0 deficit early on last week against GHA. There’s been an added buzz this week around the club with Monroe Job and Callum Smyth being awarded the Macphail Scholarship, but we know how tough it’ll be and Craig Redpath will have Marr in a good place …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)

“After a tough game against a very good Hawick side last week we are away to Selkirk in a ‘must win’ game for us if we wish to keep alive our very slim hopes of a top four finish. Selkirk are a very well drilled and coached team under Scott Wight. This should a be very physical and competitive game as both teams have a lot to play for. We have focused on reducing our errors this week and being more of an attacking threat with ball in hand …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

Verdict: Results last weekend mean that Marr, in fifth, have slipped six points behind Selkirk and the play-off spots. If the Troon outfit are to have any chance of retaining their title they need to win this game and put in their best performance of the season to do so. With their backs against the wall they may just do so after an almighty battle with a Selkirk side who have a real steeliness about them.

Away win.


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About Gary Heatly 314 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.

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