Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 22nd January

A couple of tasty derbies in Glasgow and the Borders promise to be the highlights of this weekend's schedule

Jed host Hawick at Riverside Park tomorrow afternoon. Image: Bill McBurnie

TWO intriguing derby matches in Glasgow and the Borders lead the way for an exciting-looking Tennent’s Premiership fixture card this Saturday.

With the end of the regular season edging ever closer, Hawick, in fourth, are looking to make sure of their play-off spot while Glasgow Hawks, in fifth, are clinging onto their coat-tails and trying to take advantage of any slip-ups from the Mansfield Park men or third placed Edinburgh Accies.

There are only four games to go, though, so after last week’s loss to Currie Chieftains, Hawks are entering ‘must-win’ territory as they are 10 points off Hawick and 11 off Accies. Andy Hill’s side host host ninth placed GHA at Balgray this afternoon.


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Hawick can make Hawks’ task a whole lot harder if they can go to Border rivals Jed-Forest and win this weekend. Sixth placed Jed have had a tough week after head coach Scott Tomlinson stepped down, but interim head coach Neil Cook will have them fired up and Hawick know they will need to be at their best to come out on top at Riverside Park. It is the late kick-off at 3pm.

Meanwhile, Accies host eighth placed Selkirk, bottom side Aberdeen Grammar – dealing with some major Covid upheaval – take on leaders Currie Chieftains, and second placed Marr are on the road to seventh placed Musselburgh.

HOW IT STANDS –

THE LOWDOWN –

EDINBURGH ACCIES V SELKIRK

VENUE: Raeburn Place @ 2pm

TEAMS –

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

Selkirk: R Cottrell; C McNeill, B Pickles, C Anderson, A Penman; S Clark, J Hamilton; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, T Brown, A McColm, R Cook, S McClymont, E MacDougall©. Subs: M Haldane, J Anderson, A Cochrane, C Young, E McVicker.

KEY BATTLE: Ben Grainger versus Jack Hamilton

TEAM NEWS –

Edinburgh Accies: Only one change to the starting line-up this week with Ben Grainger coming at nine ahead of Jamie Troup. Front-rower Ryan Montgomery returns on the bench.

Selkirk: Ben Pickles, the Scotland under-20 hopeful, returns at centre and James Bett is back from injury at hooker in a fairly settled squad. Andrew Grant-Suttie drops out this week through injury.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“This week we are back at Raeburn Place where we welcome Selkirk who have a more settled squad and are putting in some good performances. We will need to be at our best to get a result and continue to strive for a place in the play-offs …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

“After a really positive game last week against Marr we are really looking forward to this weekend and another tough game for us, especially with Accies going so well …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)

VERDICT: Accies got a crucial win in their bid for the play-offs at GHA last week while Selkirk impressed, albeit in defeat, at Marr. With minimal changes to both sides this should be an entertaining contest with Accies just doing enough to keep their post-regular season aspirations well and truly intact.

Home win.

 

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GLASGOW HAWKS V GHA

VENUE: Balgray @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Glasgow Hawks: Y Ala-gilly; R Joy, B McGroarty, M Stewart, J Pinkerton; J Thompson, F Burgess; G Strain, P Cairncross©, E Rintoul, I Carmichael, J McLean, L Stewart, R Chisholm, L McNamara. Subs: I Totik, K Beattie, S Greig, C Harrison, H Lee.

GHA: G Mollison; B Jouary, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, K Dixon; A Goudie, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy©, S Plumridge, D Ewing, J Bruce. Subs: J Low, R Hay, W Graham, S Simpson, A Stirrat.

KEY BATTLE: Lewis McNamara versus Jack Bruce

TEAM NEWS –

Glasgow Hawks: Ewan Rintoul, Ruairidh Chisholm and Finlay Burgess are brought in after playing for the seconds last week while there is a positional changes for Jamie Thompson who moves to 10 and for Iain Carmichael who moves to the second-row. Yousif Ala-gilly has been promoted from the bench to start at 15 with Lewis Stewart back in the back-row after injury. Veteran Kenny Beattie makes his 1st XV return as a replacement while Istok Totic and Hamu Lee also come onto the bench.

GHA: Scott Plumridge replaces Walker Graham at six, with the latter on a bench which has Andy Stirrat added.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Watching last week’s performance back, while the result was disappointing and not much went our way and Currie were on fire, we still played a lot of good rugby. The local derby against GHA is always a feisty affair and they were unlucky not to get a win last week. We have to keep winning to keep the show on the road and are well aware that GHA will be looking for revenge …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

“Last week was a frustrating game for us as we know we have more to offer. We have trained well this week working on ‘build-ons’ and ‘work-ons’ that we took away from the Edinburgh Accies game. Glasgow Hawks will bring physicality and tempo which we will be looking to match, but we also require composure and a full 80 minute performance. This local derby always has an edge and brings the best out in all of the players involved, we are looking froward to the challenge that Glasgow Hawks will set us …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)

VERDICT: Both sides need the points from this one for different reasons, Hawks to just about stay in touch with play-off seedings and GHA to put to bed any slight dwindling relegation worries. Hawks won quite convincingly 36-19 when the sides last met at Braidholm, expect this one to be a lot closer.

Home win.

 

ABERDEEN GRAMMAR V CURRIE CHIEFTAINS

VENUE: Rubislaw @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Aberdeen Grammar: Sam Knudson; C Shepherd, S Ryan, A MacFarlane, B Renton; A Addy, P Ritchie R Walker, L Buchan, T McLoughlin, N Coe©, C Walker, P Mulholland, B Inglis, G Ryan. Subs: G Robertson, A Linklater, S Renfrew, F McNeil.

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J Forbes, R Southern, DJ Innes, A Hall; G Hunter, P Boyer; G Carson©, R Stewart, AP McWilliam, E Stewart, H Ferguson, W Nelson, G Nelson, R Davies. Subs: S Fisher, C Ramsay, C Roman, C Meager, C Lessels.

KEY BATTLE: Greg Ryan versus Rhys Davies.

TEAM NEWS –

Aberdeen Grammar: A combination of experienced and new faces stepping up to the mark this week.

Currie Chieftains: In the forwards, skipper Fergus Scott is unavailable due to a back injury so Gregor Nelson starts at seven and Cody Roman joins the bench. In the backs, Joe Reynolds is unavailable and Cammy Gray is injured, so Ryan Southern moves to 13, Paddy Boyer starts at nine ,and Adam Hall starts at on the wing. Cammy Meager and Cameron Lessels come onto the bench.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Feels like the start of the season for us having not played a game in what feels like about six weeks! For the third week running Covid has impacted our squad significantly meaning opportunities for a number of lads who have been short of minutes this year in the first 15. An emergency prop loan and some creative shuffling of personnel makes for an inexperienced selection for us but we are looking forward to seeing how some of our young guys go against quality opposition …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)

“Last week was without a doubt our best defensive performance of the season, but we are striving to get better with every match. We are at the business end of the season and want to maintain the momentum we have earned to this point. Aberdeen are fighting for their lives and this will bring out the best in them, we are aware of this and look forward to the challenge …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

VERDICT: There only looks like being one outcome from this one. Currie have won their last 13 games in the league while Aberdeen have won just one all season and have not played in 2022 as yet due to Covid concerns.

Away win.

 

MUSSELBURGH V MARR

VENUE: Stoneyhill @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; S Watt, R Watt, P Cunningham, G Tait; D Owenson©, L Kotze; P Brown, C Owenson, C Arthur, W Fleming, C Champion, J Lister, M Crawford, L Hutson. Subs: R Stott, D Hodge, J Haynes, J Crain, R Smith.

Marr: D Steele; S Bickerstaff, J Shedden, C Sturgeon, G Montgomery; C Inglis, S Broad; C Miller, C McMillan, W Farquhar, D Andrew, F Grant©, C Steel, R Brown, B Johnston. Subs: S Adair, B Sweet, A Johnston, J Scott, G Paxton.

KEY BATTLE: Paul Cunningham versus Colin Sturgeon

TEAM NEWS –

Musselburgh: An unchanged pack is named while, with Tom Foley out injured, the backline which finished the game last time out starts this one. Robert Stott and Jack Haynes earn places on the bench following good performances last week for the seconds.

Marr: Changes in the backline with Callum Inglis starting at stand-off, Colin Sturgeon moving to centre and Scott Bickerstaff moving to the wing. In the pack, Curran McMillan starts at hooker and David Andrew returns to the second-row. Brothers Ben and Angus Johnston return to the matchday squad along with Gregor Paxton who has recovered from an injury picked up in pre-season training.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We got the win and five points against Jed last week which was a great restart to the season so this week is about backing that up against extremely tough opposition and keeping the momentum going. Marr are a top side and we will need to be ‘on-point’ to get a result, but I have faith in our guys at home to go out there and put in a performance that will get us in a position to get the result we are striving for. We have a fair bit of experience in our side and maybe that will help us manage the game well, which will be key …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)

“We face a tough away game against Musselburgh, they are difficult team to beat at home. Their pack is strong, and they used the driving line-out effectively against Jed-Forest last week. We will have to control possession and maintain our discipline to ensure we don’t allow their half-backs to dictate the play, and to stop them from getting into our 22 …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

VERDICT: Musselburgh at home can give every team in the league a real game on their day. You get the feeling that the manner of the performance against Jed gave everyone at the club a lift and while Marr will still be favourites in many eyes, perhaps this could be a ‘free hit’ for the hosts to give it everything they have got against one of the top two sides.

Home win.

 

JED-FOREST V HAWICK

VENUE: Riverside Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Jed-Forest: L Young; M Cullen, G Young©, G Munro, R Marshall; R Nichol, N Stingl; G Paxton, F Campbell, P Ferreira, A Sweenie, D Wardrop, B McNeill, F Scott, C Cowan. Subs: T Jeffrey, H Meadows, J Hynd, C Skelton, R Shirra Gibb.

Hawick: B Donaldson; E Stanger, 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: C Tait, T Hope, M Renwick, D Lightfoot, M Tait.

KEY BATTLE: Finlay Campbell versus Ross Graham

TEAM NEWS –

Jed-Forest: Dan Wardrop moves into the second-row with Ben McNeill coming in at six. Nik Stingl starts at nine with Gary Munro moving to inside centre. Thomas Jeffrey, Harry Meadows and Clark Skeldon make their respective returns on the bench.

Hawick: Teenager Elliot Stanger, the nephew of Scotland legend Tony, makes his first team bow on the wing after impressing for the Force [the second team]. Brothers Gareth and Glen Welsh also join the backline, the former after injury. In the forwards, an injury to regular skipper Matty Carryer means Ross Graham starts at hooker. Connor Sutherland starts at seven, moving Calum Renwick across to six. Shawn Muir will lead the side.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We were disappointed with our performance against Hawick earlier in the season so looking to turn that around …” – Neil Cook (Jed-Forest)

“We were very disappointed with our performance two weeks ago against Hawks, we are a much better side than we showed on that day. The players have trained well and know that this is a ‘must win’ game and that a reaction is needed to show that the play-offs are still top of the agenda. Jed will be looking to bounce back from their last game and I’m sure it will be a cracker of a Border derby …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick).

VERDICT: What a tasty game this will be. Jed will want to show their home supporters that they are much better than last week at Musselburgh when harsh words were spoken post-match, leading to Scott Tomlinson stepping down from his post the next day. Hawick were going well before Christmas and just did not turn up with their usual physicality in their only game of 2022 to date. This will not be one for the faint hearted!

Away win.


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About Gary Heatly 233 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.