Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 19th February

A big match at Fullarton where Hawick plan to put pressure on Marr for a home play-off

Ewan MacDougall leads his Selkirk team to Aberdeen this weekend. Image: Grant Kinghorn
Ewan MacDougall leads his Selkirk team to Aberdeen this weekend. Image: Grant Kinghorn

WITH Aberdeen Grammar’s relegation having been confirmed last weekend, attention turns to the top four and who will join Currie Chieftains in earning a home play-off semi-final.

Second placed Marr look the most likely to be on home soil late in March, but third placed Hawick know they can put the cat amongst the pigeons at Fullarton Park this weekend. If they lose then the Troon men will still have one more game left to redress that situation on March 5th at Jed-Forest, but the Borderers will at least want to give themselves a chance of another game at Mansfield Park.

As well as the game in Troon on Saturday, a 16th league win in a row for Currie at sixth placed Musselburgh would guarantee them top spot in the regular season table.


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Fourth placed Edinburgh Accies, already safely into the play-offs, are on the road to fifth placed Glasgow Hawks, and eighth place Jed host seventh placed GHA at Riverside Park.

Aberdeen, already building for life in Tennent’s National League Division One in 2022-23, welcome ninth placed Selkirk to Rubislaw.

The weather is also likely to be a factor this weekend given the snowfall, wind and rain that large parts of the country are currently experiencing.

HOW IT STANDS –

THE LOWDOWN –

MUSSELBURGH V CURRIE CHIEFTAINS

Venue: Stoneyhill @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; S Watt, R Watt, M Cimprich, G Tait; D Owenson©, L Kotze; C Owenson, J Crain, C Arthur, W Fleming, G Neil, C Pryde, J Litster, C Champion. Subs: B Stott, D Hodge, J Haynes, M Outram, R Smith.

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; R Daley, J McCaig, DJ Innes, C Meagher; J Forbes, P Boyer; G Carson, R Stewart, AP McWilliam, H Ferguson, C Roman, G Nelson, F Scott©, R Davies. Subs: S Fisher, E McCallum, W Nelson, C Lessels, F Sayers.

KEY BATTLE: Danny Owenson versus Paddy Boyer

TEAM NEWS –

Musselburgh: After a very good performance last week against Glasgow Hawks, the coaching staff show faith with an unchanged starting XV except for Calum Champion replacing the unavailable Paddy Brown at No 8. Bob Stott comes onto the bench along with Jack Haynes.

Currie Chieftains: Captain Fergus Scott and Gregor Nelson are back in the pack while Ryan Daley returns to the backline after injury and involvement in the Scotland under-20s wider squad.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“It’s our final home game against the league leaders which we know will be extremely tough as they are a quality side looking to maintain their good form going into the play-offs. The conditions don’t look as though they are going to be great for running rugby, but we will still try and play as much as possible. We have set some targets and goals for this game as we look to finish off this league programme in a positive manner and the guys are ready for the challenge …” Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)

“It’s a big game, with one point required to cement top spot the players are really up for the match. Musselburgh are a totally different proposition at Stoneyhill as can be seen by their home record and it’s going to be a tough test. They keep ball well for phases, and have a good combo of strong ball carriers to get over the gain line and players who can finish if given the opportunity. I have been really pleased with our consistency of performance over the piece this year and we’ll need to be at our best to get the win …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

VERDICT: Musselburgh have a good home record and played well against Glasgow Hawks last time out. They will want a big performance in their last game at Stoneyhill this term, but Currie will want to make it 16 wins on the trot and have two key back-rowers back.

Away win.

ABERDEEN GRAMMAR V SELKIRK

Venue: Rubislaw @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Aberdeen Grammar: S Rutledge; C Shepard, D Russell ©, S Ryan, B Renton, S Knudson, M Running; Y Ahmanache, G Robertson, L Buchan, C Walker, C McCall, P Mulholland, B Inglis, C Buchan. Subs: A Glen, J Burnett, A Robertson, A Fitzgerald, A MacFarlane.

Selkirk: C Anderson; C McNeill, B Pickles, R Nixon, A Penman; S Clark, E McVicker; L Pettie, J Bett, Z Szwagrzak, A McColm, D Broatch, R Cook, J Turnbull, E MacDougall©. Subs: T Maguire, M Haldane, B Shiell, A McColm, G Nichol.

KEY BATTLE: Doug Russell versus Ben Pickles

TEAM NEWS –

Aberdeen Grammar: Sam Knudson returns at 10 and Sam Ryan comes in at 12.

Selkirk: In the pack Bruce Riddell, Tam Brown Scott McClymont are all out. Jamie Turnbull gets his first start at seven and Blair Shiell could debut off the bench. Kindly been given Tom McGuire as emergency front-row cover from Aberdeen University, he is on the bench while fit again Aaron McColm starts in the second-row. In the backs, Andrew Grant Suttie, Ryan Cotterill, Frazer Anderson and Jack Hamilton all still out. Callum Anderson returns from injury. Gregor Nicol sits on the bench for what could be his first appearance of the season.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We have trained well this week and looking forward to Selkirk. We know they are a tough team and we will need to raise our game to put them under pressure …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)

“It’s been a tough old season and injuries are again an issue this weekend, but we’ve managed to have a good week’s training with the squad we’re taking. We look forward to travelling to Aberdeen …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)

VERDICT: Despite a much-changed matchday 20, Selkirk should have enough strength-in-depth to defeat a Grammar squad whose relegation was confirmed last weekend. They will be no soft touch at Rubislaw, though.

Away win.

 

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JED-FOREST V GHA

Venue: Riverside Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Jed-Forest: L Young; L Elder, G Young©, R Marshall, R Shirra Gibb; R Nichol, N Stingl; T Jeffrey, G Paxton, P Ferreira, C Skeldon, G Law, D Wardrop, B McNeill, F Scott. Subs: S Anderson, J Hynd, A Sweenie, C Douglas, R Hogg.

GHA: A Scott; B Jouary, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, S Derrick; A Goudie, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy©, W Graham, D Ewing, J Bruce. Subs: B Boum, S Callaghan, M Ryan, S Simpson, L Bardelli.

KEY BATTLE: Lewis Young versus Adam Scott

TEAM NEWS –

Jed-Forest: Grant Paxton moves to hooker for the injured Finlay Campbell and is supported by props Thomas Jeffrey and Paulo Ferreira. Ben McNeill comes in at seven. In the backs, Lewis Elder starts on the wing for the injured Mason Cullen, and Ross Nichol returns at 10. Steven Anderson, Jamie Hynd, Andrew Sweenie, Clark Douglas and Robert Hogg make up a strong bench.

GHA: In the backs, Benoit Jouary returns from injury on the wing. Only one change in the pack from the Aberdeen game with Walker Graham coming into the back-row for the unavailable Scott Plumridge. Sean Callaghan comes onto the bench for the first time this season.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We are looking forward to GHA coming down to Riverside for what is usually an entertaining game for the supporters. GHA are playing well so a tough game is expected. We have trained well this week and look to take that momentum into the game …” – David Grieve (Jed-Forest)

“We had a great win the last time out against Aberdeen and our focus right now is to finish the season strong and set a standard for next season. It’s always a tough trip to Riverside and we know exactly what Jed-Forest will bring to this game. This week is about controlling the game from start to finish and building on the last two performances. The boys are up for the challenge and looking forward to this fixture …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)

VERDICT: These sides were due to meet last weekend at Braidholm before the Borderers had Covid concerns. Riverside Park is a tough place to go, but GHA have a settled squad and, playing with freedom, might just take the points back to Glasgow.

Away win.

 

GLASGOW HAWKS V EDINBURGH ACCIES

Venue: Balgray @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Glasgow Hawks: M Stewart; H Hughes, T Glendinning, J Pinkerton, R Joy, L Brims, F Burgess; M Downer, P Cairncross, E Rintoul, S Halafihi, S Leckey©, L Stewart, T Brown, I Carmichael. Subs: A Ala-gilly, M Ogunlaja, L McNamara, S Greig, C Kennedy.

Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; H Janes, R Kent, N Armstrong, M Sinclair; V Hart, J Troup; C Imrie, R Montgomery, C Lacour, S Whittaker, F Simpson, J Sole, S Hegarty, R Campbell©. Subs: F McAslan, A Winnington-Ingram, C Bain, B Grainger, R Mill.

KEY BATTLE: Mike Downer versus Clem Lacour

TEAM NEWS –

Glasgow Hawks: A raft of changes over the last couple of weeks has provided opportunities to players that had been banging on the door all season. The likes of Adam Ala-gilly, Charlie Kennedy and Rory Campbell, who is injured for this one, have really impressed after getting their chance.

Edinburgh Accies: Vincent Hart gets a shot in his favoured position of stand-off while Neil Armstrong returns to centre and takes on the vice-captaincy role. In the forwards, Ryan Montgomery, Struan Whittaker and Sean Hegarty replace the unavailable Callum Black, Jake Mills and Matt Walker, respectively.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“This will be the last time in a Hawks jersey for a lot of players in this squad. Accies away was a game where we felt we didn’t get into top gear and weren’t ruthless enough and we left feeling we ran out of time rather than being beaten. Accies have had an amazing turnaround and are deserving of their play-off spot but our lads are looking to take another top four scalp to help develop our confidence and mindset for next year …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

“We will continue to do what we have done all season and concentrate on our own performance and ignore all the external noise …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

VERDICT: Hawks look to be running out of steam while Accies have players fighting for play-off semi-final matchday slots. Having Neil Armstrong back solidifies Accies defence.

Away win.

 

MARR V HAWICK

Venue: Fullarton Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Marr: D Steele; S Bickerstaff, J Shedden, G Paxton, J Scott; C Sturgeon, S Broad; B Sweet, C McMillan, C Miller, D Andrew, F Grant©, B Jardine, R Brown, B Johnston. Subs: W Farquhar, G Reid, J McLean, N Calder, C Inglis.

Hawick: B Donaldson; M Tait, A Mitchell, Glen Welsh, R McKean; K Ford, Gareth Welsh; S Muir, R Graham, R Macleod, R Smith, S Fairbairn, C Renwick, C Sutherland, S Graham. Subs: M Carryer©, T Hope, C Tait, D Lightfoot, L Gordon-Woolley.

KEY BATTLE: Curran McMillan versus Ross Graham

TEAM NEWS –

Marr: Curran McMillan and Craig Millar will start in the front-row after making an impact from the bench against Edinburgh Accies. Skipper Fraser Grant moves into the second-row, while Blair Jardine is in the back-row alongside Robert Brown who returns from injury. Greg Montgomery is out injured which means that Jack Scott starts on the wing. Gregor Paxton will make his first start of the season in the centre.

Hawick: Brothers Ross and Stuart Graham return to the starting pack after missing last week, but on the whole it is a settled side. Captain Matty Carryer drops to the bench with Corey Tait being added to the bench. Sam Frizzel, Murray Renwick and Reece Hartdegan drop to the force.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“After a good away win at Edinburgh Accies a couple of weeks ago we have a tough home game against Hawick this week. They have been playing well and will be confident of an away win at Fullarton to keep the pressure on us to obtain the home semi-final in the play-offs We expect a physical battle across the park as they have a settled squad and a number of experienced players who can have a huge influence in any game they play in. We are looking forward to the challenge as we have shown good development and improvement over the last few games …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

“Into our last league game of the season and its one we are looking forward to. We know how good a side Marr are and they are second in the league for a reason. We have played some good rugby over the last few games since our slip-up against Hawks but we know how tough a place Marr is to visit and get a win. The players have worked hard and proved many people wrong this season and if we implement the things we have worked on and aim to put in an 80 minute performance then we should be very competitive. Nothing but a win will keep our chances alive for a home semi-final so I’m sure it will be a cracker of a game. We have struggled to win against the top teams in the league away from home this season so that’s the challenge for the squad this week to try and change that…” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

VERDICT: This is the game of the weekend should it survive the storms. Hawick desperately want a home play-off semi-final and beat Marr at Mansfield Park earlier in the season. With home advantage and a good win over Edinburgh Accies a fortnight ago Marr might just nick this one. It won’t be for the faint hearted.

Home win.


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About Gary Heatly 235 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.