Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 21st January

Only two games – Marr versus Jed-Forest and GHA versus Musselburgh – are still on at the moment

Musselburgh are hoping to make some progress in chasing down GHA at Braidholm this weekend. Image: Colin Robinson
Bottom of the table Musselburgh are hoping to make some progress in chasing down fellow strugglers GHA at Braidholm this weekend. Image: Colin Robinson

JACK FROST has claimed three scalps, but Marr versus Jed Forest (after an early morning pitch inspection at Fullarton) and GHA versus Musselburgh are set to go ahead this Saturday afternoon.

The Currie Chieftains versus Selkirk, Glasgow Hawks versus Hawick and Heriot’s Blues versus Edinburgh Accies clashes have all fallen by the wayside.

With just three regular season rounds of fixtures left in 2022-23, things are starting to take shape. Hawick and Currie Chieftains are striding towards the play-offs with Edinburgh Accies just behind them, but there is a real battle for the fourth play-off spot developing between Selkirk and Marr.


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At the bottom, Musselburgh simply have to beat GHA  to keep their top flight status alive for another week at least.

Meanwhile, Scott Bickerstaff will make his 250th appearance for play-off chasing Marr against Jed.

This week Scottish Rugby announced that the Inter-District Championship for club players is to come back this spring.

In the revived format, four men’s teams from across the country – Caledonia, Edinburgh, Glasgow and West & the South – will compete in fixtures later this year, thought to be May.

Subject to eligibility criteria, players will be selected from across the Premiership and National Leagues and that means that players in the top flight will have extra incentive to play well in the coming weeks.

Players love having another level to aim for and, with no Scotland Club XV matches being played just now, it’ll be great to see the best from this division and below coming together for their regions and showing a wider audience just how much talent there is in the club game.

How it stands –

 

The Lowdown –

GHA v Musselburgh

Venue: Braidholm @ 2pm

Teams –

GHA: C Hyde; L Bardelli, C Lonergan, K Dixon, G Mollison; C Drummond, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, A Barnett, M Ryan, D Ewing©, L McCutcheon. Subs: L Barron, J Low, S Callaghan, F Johnston, C King.

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

Key battle: Dario Ewing versus Max Outram.

Team news –

GHA: There are two changes to the starting line-up with the experienced Mike Ryan coming in at blind-side in place of the injured Walker Graham, and Gregor Drummond returning to the squad at stand-off.

Musselburgh: Robert Stott comes in at hooker with Matthew Crawford being added to the bench having come through an injury sustained before Christmas. In the backs, Rory Smith comes in at 12, Calum Marshall is at 14, and Paul Cunningham moves to full-back.  Henry Thomas is set to make his 1st XV debut having moved up from Loretto and impressing for the 2nd XV last week.

What the coaches say –

“It is a huge game for both sides this weekend. Musselburgh pose threats across the park, so we will need to be at our defensive best on Saturday. The squad has trained well this week and look forward to the challenge ahead …” – Calum Forrester (GHA)

“It’s all or nothing at GHA. We have shown this season that we can go at teams in and around the top four, but we have struggled to manage the pressure of playing teams in similar positions to ourselves. Saturday, then, is a massive opportunity for us to overcome that block and put ourselves in a position to survive against a team that could seal our fate …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

Verdict: Musselburgh are now eight points behind GHA in second bottom and a loss here could be curtains for them. Like Marr last week at Selkirk, the East Lothian men are desperate for a result and they might just get it here to keep things ‘live’ if their key men show up, but it will be a real scrap.

Away win.

 

Marr v Jed-Forest

Venue: Fullarton Park @ 2pm

Teams –

Marr: C Inglis; A Ramage, S Bickerstaff, S McDonald, J Scott; C Sturgeon©, G Baird; G Reid, S Clelland, C Miller, D Andrew, C Folan, C Young, B Jardine, F Grant. Subs: C McMillan, A Acton, R Brown, L Morrison, G Beckwith.

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

Key battle: Fraser Grant versus Ben Fotheringham.

Team news –

Marr: Conor Bickerstaff, Jake Jacobson, Nairn Calder and Archie Smeaton are all unavailable this week. Scott McDonald, Andrew Ramage and Cameron Young all come into the starting XV. Robert Brown and Liam Morrison come onto the bench. Scott Bickerstaff is making his 250th appearance for the club.

Jed-Forest: Andrew Sweenie starts at loose-head and Grant Paxton moves to the bench, while Harry Meadows starts at tight-head after an impressive performance from the bench last week. Elliot Lauder starts at blind-side in place of the injured Ben McNeil. The continuity in the backline continues with Australian Lewis Walker added to the bench.

What the coaches say –

“After a good away win at Selkirk last week we face an in-form Jed-Forest side who will be determined to continue their winning run on Saturday. Their backline is the most dangerous in the league if you give them time and space. If we wish to keep our hopes of a top four finish alive, we will need to defend well and take our opportunities when in the opposition half …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

“We’re looking forward to our trip to the west coast and the ferocious onslaught that will be thrown at us. They are very good team and are pushing hard to make the play-offs. We’re fortunate now not to have relegation pressure upon us so we can loosen the shackles and enjoy ourselves …” – Andrew Brown (Jed-Forest)

Verdict: This should be a cracker with Marr having breathed life into their play-off bid last week and Jed on a great run of form. As Andrew Brown says, mid-table Jed can play without fear, but Marr’s desire to make the semi-finals should see them home here after a tight affair.

Home win.


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About Gary Heatly 318 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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