AFTER just two Tennent’s Premiership sides took to the field last weekend, eight are set to be in action this Saturday afternoon as the countdown to the end of the regular season continues.
With Scottish Rugby earlier this week extending the waiver which allows teams to postpone adult games due to Covid concerns without fear of sanction, bottom of the table Aberdeen Grammar will not be travelling to third placed Hawick, but the other scheduled fixtures are due to go ahead.
Apart from fifth placed Glasgow Hawks, who kept their top four play-off hopes alive last time out with an impressive bonus point win over Hawick, none of the other seven clubs involved this weekend have played a competitive game for over a month.
In the 2pm games, eighth placed Musselburgh host Jed-Forest in sixth, ninth placed GHA will look to widen the gap even further at the bottom between them and Grammar when they welcome fourth placed Edinburgh Accies to Braidholm, and second placed Marr have seventh placed Selkirk making the trip to Fullarton Park.
At 2.30pm, leaders Currie Chieftains will look to make it 13 league wins on the spin, but will be wary of Hawks at Malleny Park given that they are travelling on a high for what should be the game of the day.
The Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors Academy players who were available to clubs for a spell before Christmas are now back with the pro clubs/Scotland under-20 squad.
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
MUSSELBURGH V JED-FOREST
VENUE: Stoneyhill @ 2pm
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; S Watt, T Foley, R Watt, G Tait; P Cunningham, D Owenson©; P Brown, C Owenson, C Arthur, w Fleming, C Champion, J Lister, M Crawford, L Hutson. Subs: J Crain, D Hodge, N McNairn, C Pryde, L Kotze.
Jed-Forest: L Young; M Cullen, Gregor Young©, D Buckley, R Marshall; R Nichol, G Munro; T Jeffrey, F Scott, P Ferreira, A Sweenie, G Law, D Wardrop, F Scott, C Cowan. Subs: G Paxton, J Hynd, B McNeill, R Shirra Gibb, N Stingl.
KEY BATTLE: Rory Hindhaugh versus Lewis Young
TEAM NEWS –
Musselburgh: A settled backline which has been similar all season and a fair amount of consistency in the pack as well with Calum Champion and Jordan Lister coming back in at second-row and seven respectively. Neil McNairn features on the bench while Cameron Pryde and Jonny Crain join him after good showings for the second XV last week.
Jed-Forest: Andrew Sweenie starts in the second-row with Finlay Scott coming in at seven. The backs are unchanged. Jamie Hynd comes onto the bench.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“It almost has a feel of a new start to the season this week having been off for over a month and that will be a key element to the game, who adapts and gets back into the flow the earliest. We have played Jed enough over the last few years to know that they offer a number of threats across the pitch and we have spoken briefly about those. However, our main focus is just worrying about ourselves, getting back onto the pitch again and playing to our potential. A high conversion rate of chances into points is key for us …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)
“I was happy with our performance last time out [versus Aberdeen Grammar], we fronted up in the forwards and want to build on that …” – Scott Tomlinson (Jed-Forest)
VERDICT: When the sides met at Riverside Park back in October, Jed came out on top 32-21. They will also have taken confidence from pushing Glasgow Hawks close and then putting 42 points past Aberdeen on December 11th. Musselburgh have not played since December 4th, so they may be a bit rusty, but they pride themselves on their home form.
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GHA V EDINBURGH ACCIES
VENUE: Braidholm @ 2pm
GHA: G Mollison; B Jouary, C Lonergan, M McFarlane, K Dixon; A Goudie, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy©, D Ewing, W Graham, J Bruce. Subs: J Low, R Hay, S Plumridge, S Simpson, T Lonergan.
Edinburgh Accies: V Hart; H Janes, R Kent, N Armstrong, B Appleson; J Loomes, J Troup; C Imrie, C Black©, C Lacour, C Bain, F Simpson, J Sole, M Walker, R Campbell. Subs: F McAslan or F Riddle, A Winnington-Ingram, S Hegarty, B Grainger, M Sinclair.
KEY BATTLE: Archie Falconer versus Callum Black
TEAM NEWS –
GHA: Benoît Jouary and Kyle Dixon on the wings this week, Archie Falconer comes in at hooker for his first start of the season and Erik Cavan returns from injury to start at loosehead prop.
Edinburgh Accies: Captain Callum Black, second-row Cameron Bain and centre Robbie Kent come back into the starting line-up. Mark Sinclair returns to the squad on the bench after a long-term injury absence.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“It’s now been a while since our last game and the boys are looking forward to getting back on the pitch. The last couple of weeks of training have been good and we are looking forward to pushing on to the end of the season to see where we end up. We know what Edinburgh Accies will bring and nothing more than a committed and composed 80 minute performance will do for us this weekend …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)
“Firstly, I would like to thank Currie and Scottish Rugby for allowing us to postpone last week’s game, as well as GHA for all their hard work to make sure this game can go ahead safely. It has been over a month since we last played, but the players have worked hard during this period, and we look forward to getting back out onto the pitch and facing the challenge that GHA at home will bring …” – Ross Young (Edinburgh Accies)
VERDICT: Both sides ended 2021 with away defeats to Marr and Hawick respectively so will be looking to get back to winning ways. GHA will be glad to have Andrew Goudie back at 10 to control things, but with Hawks having closed the gap on them in fourth last week, you feel Accies need to win this game might just be greater.
MARR V SELKIRK
VENUE: Fullarton Park @ 2pm
Marr: D Steele; G Montgomery, J Shedden, S Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon, S Broad; C Miller, B Jardine, W Farquhar, J McLean, K Kirk, J Evans, R Brown, F Grant©. Subs: B Nichol, S Adair, B Sweet, C Inglis, N Calder.
Selkirk: R Cottrell; C McNeill, C Anderson, A Grant-Suttie, A Penman; S Clark, J Hamilton; L Pettie, B Riddell, J Anderson, T Brown, A McColm, R Cook, S McClymont, E MacDougall©. Subs: A Cochrane, M Haldane, R McFadzen, C Young, L Davidson.
KEY BATTLE: Craig Miller versus Joe Anderson
TEAM NEWS –
Marr: A few changes from the last game against GHA five weeks ago with Matt O’Sullivan, Gordon Reid, Curran McMillan, Mackenzie Pearce and Ben Johnston all unavailable or injured. Scott Bickerstaff moves to inside centre and Jack Scott returns from injury on the wing. In the pack, Craig Miller gets his first start of the season at loosehead prop along with Kris Kirk in the second-row and Josh Evans at six.
Selkirk: A re-jigged backline from their last outing on December 11th, while Bruce Riddell shifts to hooker with Joe Anderson coming in at tight-head prop. Second-row Andrew McColm and back-row Robert Cook also join the starting pack.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“After a good win up over GHA last time out at Fullarton, we face a tough home game against Selkirk. They will have a few players back from injury since we last played them at Philiphaugh and will be determined to travel back to Selkirk with a win. Covid has disrupted preparations for both teams during the last couple of weeks so the team that manages to get the basics right and maintain possession after the extended break will be the winners …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)
“We didn’t start playing until we were three tries down [last time out versus Currie], but I feel that we competed pretty well in the second half and want to build from there …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)
VERDICT: Selkirk pushed Marr pretty close when the two sides met at Philiphaugh back in October and they will be holding on to that positivity ahead of this one. However, it is hard to see anything but a home win for a Marr side who are always very good at Fullarton against a much-changed Selkirk outfit.
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS V GLASGOW HAWKS
VENUE: Malleny Park @ 2.30pm
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; C Gray, J Reynolds, DJ Innes, J Forbes; G Hunter, R Southern; G Carson, R Stewart, AP McWilliam, E Stewart, H Ferguson, W Nelson, F Scott©, R Davies. Subs: S Fisher, C Ramsay, G Nelson, P Boyer, A Hall.
Glasgow Hawks: J Thompson; R Joy, B McGroarty, M Stewart, J Pinkerton; L Brims, M Donaldson; M Downer, P Cairncross©, G Strain, S Halafihi, J McLean, A Syme, I Carmichael, L McNamara. Subs: A Rogers, J Porter, S Greig, C Harrison, Y Ala-gilly.
KEY BATTLE: Gregor Hunter versus Liam Brims
TEAM NEWS –
Currie Chieftains: Cammy Gray starts on the wing and Adam Hall is on a strong bench alongside Paddy Boyer, with Ryan Southern getting the nod at nine. In the forwards, Ewan Stewart and Rhys Davies come back into the starting team at second-row and No.8 respectively.
Glasgow Hawks: The only change in the pack sees Andrew Syme come in at six for the injured Lewis Stewart. In the backs, injuries to Fraser Gosse and Ryan Flett sees Ronan Joy and Jamie Thompson come into the starting team with Matthew Stewart shifting to inside-centre. Callum Harrison and Yousif Ala-gilly and come onto the bench after returning from injuries while Sandy Greig and Jake Porter are given another opportunity to impress from there.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We were fortunate to win away to Hawks at the start of the season and they will be on a high after their win against Hawick last weekend. It was great to get a friendly fixture against Biggar last week after our Accies game was cancelled and the guys have trained well this week with competition for places extremely high. It’s great to be playing again and the guys are really excited to get back out at Malleny in a competitive fixture …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
“It was great to play last week and have no Covid cases which hopefully has given other teams confidence to play this weekend. Currie are a class outfit and are deservedly top of the table, and credit has to go to Mark for the job he has done. They are stacked full of talent which will be a great measure for some of our boys to see where they are at. I fully believe we are capable of winning but it will require the boys to do so as well while putting together an 80 minute performance to keep the pressure on Accies and Hawick …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)
VERDICT: The game of the day without a doubt. Currie have been the standard bearers in the league ever since their opening day defeat at Hawick and are especially fluid at Malleny Park when they click into gear. Hawks big win over Hawick showed they are focused heading into 2022, they will give it a good go, but Currie should have too much.
Home win after a cracker.