TWO games have fallen victim to the lingering effects of Storm Ciara and the current influence of Storm Dennis at time of publication, with the Glasgow Hawks versus Hawick at Balgray and Edinburgh Accies versus Marr at Raeburn Place being postponed to a yet to be confirmed date. That leaves three matches going ahead, which all look like having real significance to both the battle for play-off seedings and the relegation dog-fight.
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
MUSSELBURGH v SELKIRK
VENUE: Stoneyhill @ 3pm
Musselburgh: J Ferguson; S Watt, R Smith, R Watt, G Tait; F Roddick, D Owenson; C Owenson, J Crain, C Arthur, J Haynes, P Brown, M Maltman©, M Outram, L Hutson. Subs: E Bonthron, W Fleming, C Pryde, A Reddick, P Cunningham..
TEAM NEWS –
Musselburgh: Michael Maltman returns to captain the side from blindside after missing the Jed-Forest game. Jack Haynes comes in to start in the second-row from the bench replacing William Fleming in a straight swap. Gregor Tait has recovered from a leg injury and returns on the wing and Freddie Roddick has the 10 jersey after a good performance as an early replacement against Jed.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“A good win against Jed-Forest seems an age away now with the extended break in the season, but we are keen to get back out onto Stoneyhill and re-launch our survival bid against a strong Selkirk team. It will take another performance like the first 60 minutes in the last game to give us the opportunity to win the game and gain valuable points in this relegation dog-fight, whilst Selkirk will no doubt be looking to get into the play-offs. I am expecting a tough battle up front and this will probably shape the destiny of the points with set-piece platform key to both teams to launch their attacks. I am looking for our strong pack to provide this to our exciting backs who can do some damage when given the chance …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)
VERDICT: Musselburgh did the business big style against Jed last time out – and they will be encouraged by the return of key players Michael Maltman and Gregor Tait for this absolutely crucial home game. It is a big ask – but they are a much better side than their results suggest – and if they can get themselves onto the front foot (and stay there!) they must have a chance – albeit against the odds.
Narrow away win.
ABERDEEN GRAMMAR v CURRIE CHIEFTAINS
VENUE: Rubislaw @ 3pm
Aberdeen Grammar: F Sneddon; N Brown, M Mitchell, T Aplin D Russell; S Knudson©, J Troup; C Reddish, A Cook, M Schosser, N Coe, J Robertson, D Wallen, B Inglis, G Ryan. Subs: S Renfrew, R Anderson, A Robertson, A Addy, C Shepherd.
Currie Chieftains: F Sayers; C Meager, S Hamilton R Southern, J McCaig; A Hall, G Christie; G Carson, F Scott©, M Argiro, M Poole, S Edwards, M Vernel, W Nelson, R Davies. Subs: R Patterson, G Williamson,, J O’Brien, H Ferguson, F McKay.
TEAM NEWS –
Aberdeen Grammar: No Robin Cessford so Nat Cole, fresh from his Scotland Club XV involvement, shifts from the back-row to the middle-row, while Tommy Morrison is also missing at scrum-half so Jamie Troup wears the No 9 jersey.
Currie Chieftains: Only one change to the team that started against Hawick in the Cup. Roy Vucago is unavailable so Sam Edwards starts in the second-row and Mike Vernal moves to blindside flanker.
KEY BATTLE: Tom Aplin versus Ryan Southern
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“It’s been a while since we played together as a group so all the boys are looking forward to pushing on in the race for play-off qualification. When we played Currie away we had a difficult day as they are a top quality outfit. If we are serious about going for the play-offs we need to pick up a result on Saturday …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)
“This time of year is always a little disrupted by the Six Nations and the poor weather impacting training. Rubislaw is a tough place to get points and Aberdeen have been going well in recent games, so we can’t afford to be off our game. Fortunately we have had many guys playing over the past couple of weeks with good representation in the Scotland Club XV. We have also had players playing for the 2nd XV and some involved in a friendly at Stirling County. The boys are really enjoying their rugby at the moment. We are looking forward to spending the day together and relishing the physical challenge Abeerdeen Grammar will present us with …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
VERDICT: Aberdeen have had a horrendous time with injuries this season and it says much for their tenacity that they are still in there with a chance of making the play-offs – but with Chieftains, Hawick and Marr to play, it is a tough mission – and Robin Cessford is the last guy they needed to be missing this weekend – particularly having been on the wrong end of a hammering in the reciprocal fixture at Malleny back in November.
Chieftains lost their way fairly dramatically in December but they bounced back against Hawks in the league and played well against Hawick in the Cup. They are still without Gregor Hunter and Rubislaw is sometimes a difficult place to play – but they will have their eye firmly fixed on a home tie in the play-offs and are unlikely to be distracted.
JED-FOREST v GHA
VENUE: Riverside Park @ 3pm
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 Law, D Grieve, G Young, D Buckley. Subs: F Scott, M Weekley, M Purves, J McGough, J Laing.
GHA: R O’Keefe; J Craig, G Mollison, C King, A Purewal; C Armstong, G Baird; E Cavan, D Ewing, S Fisher, A Barnett, J McCarthy©, A Kerr, M Ryan, L McCutcheon. Subs: H Clark, M Fox, M Marinkovic, S Simpson, A Lamb.
TEAM NEWS –
Jed-Forest: Gregor Young returns from suspension to the captain the side in the centre, with Rory Marshall moving to the wing. Finlay Campbell and Gary Munro are ruled out through injury. Max Purves retains his place in the squad after impressing the coaches at Edin Accies in the Cup, while Finlay Scott comes into the squad assuming he doesn’t play too many minutes for Heriot’s in Super6 on Friday night.
GHA: Sean Fisher comes in at tight-head with Adam Kerr and Dario Ewing also returning to the pack. In the backs, there is one change from the Glasgow Hawks game, with Ruairi O’Keefe starts at full-back.
KEY BATTLE: Gregor Young versus Grant Millison
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“A tough game in prospect with both teams looking for points to ease relegation fears. Possession and territory will be key in what looks to be a tightly fought contest …” – Gav Kerr (Jed-Forest)
“Due to the breaks in fixtures at this stage of the season: focus, commitment and discipline are key for us this week. We are currently taking one game at a time but they don’t come any harder than Jed-Forest away. We need to play smart rugby and reduce any attack opportunities Jed-Forest have, their back-three are dangerous and could beat anyone on their day. We are looking forward to the challenge ahead. …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)
VERDICT: Jed have suffered a couple of disappointing games on the road recently – against Musselburgh in the league and against Accies in the cup – but they dug deep and played sensible rugby in difficult conditions to see off Selkirk in their last home game – and they will be looking for more of the same here. Basics and discipline is what they need to earn them some breathing space in the relegation tussle – with the magic of the Young brothers seen as a bonus.
Trevor Carmichael appears to have a pretty clear idea of the challenge his side faces at Riverside – and what they need to do to counteract it. The best of luck to him and his team.
Narrow home win.