Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 25th February

Hawick head to Balgray to take on Glasgow Hawks looking for a positive result which will complete an undefeated regular season

Currie Chieftains host Selkirk in the final round of matches in the regular Premiership season. Image: Grant Kinghorn

AS the curtain is brought down on the regular part of the 2022-23 Premiership season, there is only really one question which still needs to be answered: can Hawick manage to go through the campaign unbeaten?

The Greens, who are also the long-time Bill McLaren Shield holders, drew with Selkirk in round one and have won 16 games in a row since. It is a remarkable record and for the table topping Borderers to make it 18 games unbeaten they have to get past seventh placed Glasgow Hawks at Balgray tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon.

Elsewhere, second placed Currie Chieftains take on fifth placed Selkirk and eighth placed Heriot’s Blues host Edinburgh Accies.

How it stands  –

To view The Offside Line’s Premiership Stats Centre click HERE.

UPDATED: France v Scotland: Hamish Watson returns for Paris trip

Mike Blair to step down as Edinburgh head coach at end of season

Lions v Glasgow: Rory Darge returns after long injury lay-off

The Lowdown –

Currie Chieftains v Selkirk

Venue: Malleny Park @ 3pm

Teams –

Currie Chieftains: J McCaig; K McGovern, DJ Innes, G Cannie, I Sim; J Forbes, G Christie; C Anderson, R Stewart, C Ramsay, W Inglis, E Stewart, A McCallum, G Nelson, R Davies©. Subs: J Drummond, J Ramsay, M Vernel, P Boyer, R Daley.

Selkirk: F Wheelans; L Ferguson, R Cottrell, Aaron McColm©, E McVicar; C Jackson, J Hamilton; L Pettie©, J Bett, B Riddell, C Ward, J Head, R Nixon, S McClymont, Andrew McColm. Subs: Z Szwagrzak, C Mackintosh, A Cochrane, C Turnbull, C Easson.

Key battle: Jamie Forbes versus Craig Jackson.

Team news –

Currie Chieftains: A settled starting pack with Ewan Stewart the only change from the Marr game. In the backs, Charlie Brett and Adam Hall are carrying injuries so James McCaig moves to full-back, Iain Sim start on the wing and Greg Cannie comes into the centre.

Selkirk: Finlay Wheelans comes in at full-back, co-captain Aaron McColm moves to centre, and Connor Ward and James Head form the second-row pairing.

What the coaches say –

“I was really pleased with our performance against Marr, which was based on a strong work-ethic in the lead up to the game and then on the pitch. That’s the minimum standard now going into the final games of the season. Despite not having an influence in the final league standings, this is a really important game for us and we have picked our strongest team. There is now strong competition for places and the players are aware of their individual performances and how the contribute to the team as we head into the play-offs …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“We never got going and we didn’t deserve to win last week. We want to put in an improved performance …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)

Verdict: Currie will want to build momentum heading into the play-offs while Selkirk need to get out of the quicksand they seemed to get stuck in last last weekend when their top four hopes evaporated.

Home win.


Glasgow Hawks v Hawick

(for the Bill McLaren Shield)

Venue: Balgray @ 3pm

Teams –

Glasgow Hawks: A McLean; R Flett, J Pinkerton, B McGroarty, R Speers; G Cruikshanks, E McAra; A Al-agilly, P Cairncross©, G Strain, M Crumlish, R Burke, Oscar Baird, T Wright, S Hastings. Subs: R Howie, K Shanahan, A Maitland, C Ferrie, B Salmon.

Hawick: K Ford; C Welsh, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Brunton, Gareth Welsh; S Muir©, F Renwick, R Macleod, C Sutherland, S Fairbairn, S Graham, C Renwick, J Linton. Subs: R Graham, T Hope, H Donaldson, D Lightfoot, G Huggan.

Key battle: Brendan McGroarty versus Ethan Reilly.

Team news –

Glasgow Hawks: In the pack, regular captain Stephen Leckey and Vilhelm Carlsson are not fit, so Tiaan Wright and Oscar Baird come in for them. Hoooker Paul Cairncross is skipper. In the backs, half backs Gavin Cruickshanks and Euan McAra come in for Liam Brims and Eric Davey, who is travelling reserve for Scotland under-20s. The other change sees Brendan McGroarty come in to start on his last appearance for Hawks, with Callum Ferrie dropping to the bench. On the bench, Alfie Maitland has another weeks training under his belt and replaces Craig Nolan who is on Scotland under-18 duty, while Glasgow Warriors academy player Ben Salmon comes in after returning from injury.

Hawick: Connor Sutherland moves to the second-row with Dalton Redpath missing, and Jae Linton comes in at No 8 in a re-jigged back-row. Brothers Gareth and Charlie Welsh come in at nine and 14 respectively, the former for Hector Patterson who is with the Scotland under-18s. Hughie Joe Donaldson, Deaglan Lightfoot and Grant Huggan are added to the bench.

What the coaches say –

“No more difficult a test than an unbeaten team coming to Balgray to maintain that. There is no pressure on us however and the lads are desperate to give Brendan McGroarty and Gary Strain the send-off they deserve as they move into retirement. This will almost certainly be Brendan’s last game while Gary hopes to play in the Cup game(s) we have left, however that is baby dependent. Both have been unbelievable servants to Hawks and we are forever in their debt. Thanks lads …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

“Hawks are a top side and I’m sure Andy will have them fired up for their last home game of the season. We are focused on this week and getting our performance back to where it needs to be after a battle last weekend against GHA. The big incentive is to finish the league campaign unbeaten which the players have worked extremely hard to achieve. This is a huge game in the context of what’s to come next week. It’s the business end of the season and we are excited to get cracking …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

Verdict: Hawks can play without fear and will want to give Brendan McGroarty and Gary Strain, two real stalwarts of Scottish club rugby, a day to remember, but Hawick will be frustrated with themselves for not hitting their best form versus GHA and will want to get into the next gear ahead of the play-offs.

Away win.


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Heriot’s Blues v Edinburgh Accies

Venue: Goldenacre @ 3pm

Teams –

Heriot’s Blues: C Simpson; M Gray, R Kay©, P Christie, F Stanier; R Carmichael, G Wilson; M Bouab, D Dineen, J Lascelles, S Johnstone, M Keough, I Hill, S Wallace, A Johnston. Subs: A Bogle, D Webb, M Bruce, Ross Thompson, D Martin.

Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; K Gossman, M Wallace, B Brannan, L Wells; J Loomes©, S Broad; C Imrie, F McAslan, C Lacour, J Mills, F Simpson, T Drennan, M Walker, R Campbell. Subs: G Ratcliff, H Campbell, Richard Thompson, M Love, W Stephen.

Key battle: Fraser Stanier versus Kerr Gossman.

Team news –

Heriot’s Blues: A few changes due to “players opting to go to Paris rather than play in a local derby at Goldie … shocking”, said head coach Phil Smith tongue firmly in cheek. Paul Christie is in at centre, Malachy Keough is into the second-row and Innes Hill gets a back-row start.

Edinburgh Accies: Kerr Gossman returns to the wing so Max Wallace moves back to outside centre. Ben Brannan comes in for his first start of the season after impressing with 2nd XV consistently week on week. Sinjin Broad starts at nine, rotating with Max Love who moves to the bench this week. Cole Imrie and Clem Lacour return in the front-row with Jake Mills and Finlay Simpson making up a familiar second-row pairing. Tom Drennan and Matt Walker come back into the back-row and Richard Thompson moves to the bench alongside William Stephen.

What the coaches say –

“With all league standings decided this should be a great advert for open rugby …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)

“This week we head to Goldenacre to play Heriot’s who I must congratulate on winning versus Selkirk last week to secure Premiership rugby for next season. We look forward to more local derbies. I have heard the words dead rubber over the past couple weeks, I am sure both clubs will agree this weekend’s game is no dead rubber. It’s another opportunity for our players to impress before play-offs …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

Verdict: Accies were made to fight hard to win at Jed-Forest last weekend and will be looking to fine tune things here ahead of the play-offs. Heriot’s are a dangerous side when they throw the shackles off, so expect a high scoring and entertaining match here.

Away win.

UPDATED: France v Scotland: Hamish Watson returns for Paris trip

About Gary Heatly 354 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.