Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 28th January

Musselburgh face must-win match at home to Jed-Forest in their quest to avoid relegation

Musselburgh got the better of Jed-Forest. Image: John Durham
Musselburgh got the better of Jed-Forest when the two sides met at Stoneyhill last season. Image: John Durham

MATCHES between Heriot’s and Hawick have always been focal points on the fixture lists for both of these clubs dating back many years, and this weekend’s clash at Goldenacre is certainly a big one for the home team, who are hoping to turn around a 31-point deficit from their trip to Mansfield in order to pick up some valuable league points in their struggle to escape the dark spectre of relegation. And, of course, the Bill McLaren Shiel is up for grabs too.

The Blues of Heriot’s may be ninth in the Premiership table and Hawick top, but the Greens have not found it easy at Goldenacre in recent times and this will be a big test of their mettle.

While the hosts still need points to be sure of avoiding the drop, Hawick will be keen to regain the momentum they had before last week’s game at Glasgow Hawks was postponed.


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Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Accies versus Selkirk and Marr versus Glasgow Hawks matches will be important ones in terms of the play-offs.

Can Musselburgh keep alive their hopes of a great escape? The bottom side are at home to Jed-Forest while GHA, just above the drop zone, are also on home turf versus Currie Chieftains.

With the regular season now due to finish on February 25th, the play-off semi-finals are pencilled in for March 4th and the final on March 11th, the day before Scotland play Ireland in the Six Nations.

How it stands –

 

The Lowdown –

Edinburgh Accies v Selkirk

Venue: Raeburn Place @ 2pm

Teams –

Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; K Gossman, M Wallace, N Armstrong, L Wells; J Loomes©, S Broad; C Imrie, F McAslan, C Lacour, J Mills, R Thompson, T Drennan, J Sole, R Campbell. Subs: C Taylor, G Ratcliff, C Bain, M Love, V Hart.

Selkirk: C Anderson; L Ferguson, R Cottrell, C Jackson, J Welsh; Aaron McColm©, E McVicar; K Thomson, J Bett, B Riddell, A Cochrane, C Turnbull, R Nixon, S McClymont, Andrew McColm. Subs: C Mackintosh, Szwagrzak, C Ward, J Hamilton, C Easson.

Key battle: Neil Armstrong versus Craig Jackson.

Team news –

Edinburgh Accies: The backs remain unchanged with Max Love returning to the bench. Up front, Fraser McAslan replaces Callum Black at hooker and Cameron Taylor returns to the match-day squad alongside Cameron Bain on the bench.

Selkirk: In terms of the forwards, Luke Pettie and James Head have not managed to shake off niggles in time, but Andrew McColm, Ross Nixon and Zen Szwagrzak are all back and fit. Ethan McVicar gets his first start of the season at nine.

What the coaches say –

“This week we welcome fifth placed Selkirk to Raeburn Place for what is sure to be a cracking game and will go a long way to deciding final league positions for both clubs. We need to concentrate on our game and continue imposing ourselves on the opposition to outwork a strong Borders side …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

“Games don’t come any more important than this and we know the task at hand if we want to finish in the top four having not managed to beat Marr last time out. We know it won’t be easy as Accies have been very consistent through the season …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)

Verdict: This is a big game for both sides. Accies have been in good form, but Selkirk need more and that may by key to them battling their way to a triumph here.

Away win.

 

GHA v Currie Chieftains

Venue: Braidholm @ 2pm

Teams –

GHA: C King; L Bardelli, J Ventisei, A Stirrat, K Dixon; C Townsend, F Johnston; T Brogan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, A Barnett, M Ryan, D Ewing©, L McCutcheon. Subs: L Barron, D Sutton, S Callaghan, G Baird, G Drummond.

Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; J McCaig, DJ Innes, A Hall, K McGovern; G Hunter, G Christie; C Anderson, R Stewart, C Ramsay, W Inglis, E Stewart, A McCallum, K Steel, R Davies©. Subs: J Drummond, J Ramsay, J O’Brien, P Boyer, C Brett.

Key battle: Johnny Ventisei versus DJ Innes.

Team news –

GHA: There are a number of changes in the backline this week, Fergus Johnston starts at 9 where he will be partnered by Glasgow Warriors Academy player Christian Townsend at 10. Andy Stirrat, another Warriors Academy player, is back to GHA where he will start in the midfield alongside St Aloysius’ first XV captain Johnny Ventisei. In the back three, Kyle Dixon moves onto the wing and Cameron King returns at full-back. The only change in the pack sees club stalwart Tony Brogan start in the front-row following injury to Erik Cavan last week.

Currie Chieftains: Chris Anderson starts in the forwards alongside Kyle Steel, the latter replacing the injured Gregor Nelson at number seven. In the backs, DJ Innes is back after an injury lay-off and Charlie Brett comes into the squad after injury.

What the coaches say –

“The result last week was hugely disappointing, but the squad showed great character to come back and put ourselves in a position to win against Musselburgh. That spirit has continued in training this week and we will need to be at our best for the full 80 minutes for this weekend’s fixture against Currie …” – Calum Forrester (GHA)

“Our last outing against Hawick was embarrassing. That’s not taking anything away from Hawick who are a very good team, but we know we can be so much better. It’s been back to basics over the past couple of weeks, knowing that we need to win the gain-line battle on both sides of the ball to give ourselves an opportunity to win at Braidholm. This is a must win game for both teams, so we expect a very tough contest and all 20 players need to step up …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

Verdict: Both sides go into this one off the back of losses, GHA last week to Musselburgh and Currie a fortnight ago at Hawick. GHA are in desperate need of points and having Andy Stirrat available is a boost, but Currie’s quality – with the word “embarrassing” ringing in their ears should see them through.

Away win.

 

Heriot’s Blues v Hawick

(for the Bill McLaren Shield)

Venue: Goldenacre @ 2pm

Teams –

Heriot’s Blues: C Simpson; R McKnight, R Kay©, G Morison, C Robertson; D Martin, G Wilson; M Bouab, M Toward, J Lascelles, C Jupp, M Keough, S Wallace, I Hill, A Johnston. Subs: D Dineen, A Munro, A Woolfson, I Kay, P Christie.

Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Brunton, H Patterson; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Redpath, S Fairbairn, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: R Graham R Macleod, H Donaldson, G Welsh, G Huggan.

Key battle: Ali Johnston versus Stuart Graham.

Team news –

Heriot’s Blues: George Morison comes in to make his 1st XV debut at 12 while the league’s top try scorer Craig Robertson returns on the wing.

Hawick: Shaun Fairbairn returns after a slight injury in the second-row for the unavailable Daniel Suddon, while Ruaridh Macleod and Hughie Joe Donaldson earn bench spots.

What the coaches say –

“The big games keep coming and there is no bigger game than playing the league leaders. We are looking forward to the challenge knowing picking up any points at the moment are important …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s Blues)

“We are looking forward to a trip to Goldenacre on Saturday. We haven’t won there for around 10 years, so we know the challenge at hand. We have put in three good performances on the bounce and it’s about how we back those up and how we manage the game. It will be a firm pitch and Heriot’s will be looking to put us under real pressure. If we win on Saturday we will book a home semi-final so there’s a lot to play for and it’s key we keep the momentum going …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

Verdict: Heriot’s Blues will have been buoyed by their crucial win at Musselburgh a fortnight ago and this should be a good contest, but Hawick will be too strong in the end.

Away win.

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Marr v Glasgow Hawks

Venue: Fullarton Park @ 2pm

Teams –

Marr: C Inglis; J Jacobsen, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon©, G Baird; G Reid, S Clelland, C Miller, D Andrew, C Folan, C Young, B Jardine, B Johnston. Subs: C McMillan, A Acton, C Steele, G Beckwith, A Ramage.

Glasgow Hawks: H Lapslie; C Kennedy, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, R Darroch; C Harrison, E McAra; G Strain, P Cairncross, E Cairns, M Crumlish, R Burke, A Syme, S Leckey©, Oscar Baird. Subs: I Totic, K Shanahan, V Carlsson, E Davey, R Flett.

Key battle: Grant Baird versus Euan McAra.

Team news –

Marr: Conor Bickerstaff, Jake Jacobson, Callum Steele and Ben Johnston all return to the squad. Fraser Grant and Robert Brown are unavailable this week. Scott McDonald and Liam Morrison will pay for the second XV.

Glasgow Hawks: Mike Downer is unavailable and Eben Cairns is released from the under-20s to get game time and will make his first start for the first XV at tight-head, while Paul Cairncross comes in at hooker. In the backs, half-backs Euan McAra and Callum Harrison have earned a start after impressing in training. Sam Graham is injured so Charlie Kennedy comes in on the wing to make his first appearance of the season after a hellish time with injury, while Henry Lapslie is given a start at full-back.

What the coaches say –

“After a good win against Jed-Forest last week we face another tough game against Glasgow Hawks on Saturday. Hawks are always prepared well by Andy Hill and we are expecting a physical and close encounter. Earlier in the season they dominated the game and won the physical battle, so we have to match this challenge if we wish to win …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

“Marr are riding high after their recent results and have put themselves in the hunt for a play-off spot. We are looking to get back to winning ways, but we are well aware we will need to be at our best to win at Fullarton. It’s a great opportunity for us to come and throw the kitchen sink at them with nothing to lose …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

Verdict: Marr are building nicely and have kept their play-off hopes alive. Hawks are in mid-table and this is a ‘free-hit’. They may well throw everything at Marr, but the hosts should be too strong with momentum behind them.

Home win.

 

Musselburgh v Jed-Forest

Venue: Stoneyhill @ 2pm

Teams –

Musselburgh: P Cunningham; T Foley, R Watt, R Smith, S Watt; M McMillan, D Owenson©; C Owenson, R Stott, N McNairn, J Campbell, M Badenhorst, P Bogie, M Outram, L Hutson. Subs: R Hanning, C Arthur, J Haynes, M Crawford, R Young.

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

Key battle: Rory Watt versus Gregor Young.

Team news –

Musselburgh: Two changes to the starting XV from last week sees Edinburgh Rugby Academy player Jamie Campbell and Tom Foley replace the injured William Fleming and Calum Marshall in the pack and on the wing respectively.  Colin Arthur and Ruaridh Young are the next cabs off the rank in terms of coming back from injury and take their place on the bench in place of the now injured Finn Duraj and the unavailable Henry Thomas.

Jed-Forest: Ben McNeil, Dan Wardrop and Matthew Atkinson are all back in the squad. Harry Meadows starts at tight-head after impressing in his last two outings.

What the coaches say –

“Although we almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last week we did enough to buy ourselves more time in our quest for survival. We know we need to stay alive to the potent threats that Jed possess across the field and apply the lessons we have taken in recent weeks in terms of managing momentum swings in games. Equally, it’s a privilege to play in meaningful games this deep into the season and whilst we acknowledge the pressure that comes with that, we are incredibly motivated to meet the challenge head on …” – Derek O’Riordan (Musselburgh)

“It’s going to be tough contest. They will fight for every little scrap. They need points and it’s their last home game of the league season. We’re looking to consolidate our position in the league and finish the season strongly …” – Andrew Brown (Jed-Forest)

Verdict: This is a hard one to call because Musselburgh are scrapping for their lives while Jed are safe and were on a good run until they lost last week at Marr. They scored 33 points in defeat, though, and their in-form attack could just get them across the line here

Away win.


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About Gary Heatly 463 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.