Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 29th January

Aberdeen Grammar head to GHA chasing a win to keep their slim hopes of survival alive, while Marr, Edinburgh Accies and Hawick jostle for a home play-off

Currie Chieftains host Jed-Forest at Malleny Park this weekend. Image: Bill McBurnie
Currie Chieftains host Jed-Forest at Malleny Park this weekend. Image: Bill McBurnie

BOTTOM of the table Aberdeen Grammar know that only a win at eighth placed GHA will do  if they are to keep their dream of ‘a great escape’ alive. On the flipside, GHA know that a win for them will make them completely safe from any bother in what has been a ‘stop-start’ campaign for the Braidholm men.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh Accies and Marr meet at Raeburn Place. Both sides, currently in third and second respectively, have already made sure of their top four play-off places, but Accies still harbour hopes of leapfrogging Marr and earning themselves a home semi-final.

Leaders Currie Chieftains are almost guaranteed a home semi-final and they will be looking to make it 15 league wins on the bounce at Malleny Park against sixth placed Jed-Forest.


Connacht v Glasgow: eight changes for Warriors trip to The Sportsground

Ospreys v Edinburgh: Scotland stars rested for trip to Swansea

The world of Scottish Rugby and beyond according to Mark Dodson


Hawick know a point or more at home to seventh placed Musselburgh will see them safely joining Currie, Marr and Accies in the play-offs.

Fifth placed Glasgow Hawks have to hope that Hawick lose and they defeat ninth placed Selkirk at Philiphaugh with a bonus point – and then have some other miraculous results go their way in the coming weeks – to keep their very slim top four hopes going. It will not be easy against a Selkirk side who, like GHA, want to secure their own safety before the last few weeks of the regular campaign.

HOW IT STANDS –

THE LOWDOWN –

GHA v ABERDEEN GRAMMAR

VENUE: Braidholm @ 2pm

TEAMS –

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

Aberdeen Grammar: C Shepherd; R Cameron, D Russell, M New, B Renton; S Knudson, P Ritchie; L Buchan, S Randall, A Linklater, C Walker, A Robertson, P Mulholland, B Inglis, G Ryan. Subs: B Perrigault, J Burnett, C Robertson, A Ovenstone.

KEY BATTLE: George Baird versus Patrick Ritchie

TEAM NEWS –

GHA: James Edgar and Adam Scott come into the backline on the wing and at full-back respectively with an unchanged pack from last weekend’s game against Glasgow Hawks. Boris Boum and Luca Bardelli come onto the bench.

Aberdeen Grammar:  Orkney Rugby Club have stepped up again this week to loan two front-row players to help Grammar through an injury crisis. Ali Linklater did well last week and starts at tight-head prop with Scott Randall at hooker.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We had a great performance and win against Hawks last week, but that will mean absolutely nothing if we don’t take on this fixture in the same frame of mind. Aberdeen are fighting for their position in the league and will come to Braidholm with all guns blazing. We require a controlled and composed performance individually and collectively for 80 minutes on Saturday to get the victory …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)

“We are pleased to be able to have a strong squad out to take on GHA and will be looking to kick on from here after a tough result last weekend …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)

VERDICT: GHA secured a well-earned win over Glasgow Hawks last week and, after Grammar shipped 85 points to Currie, it would take a brave man or woman to bet against a victory for the Glasgow side.

Home win.

 

Season Appeal 2022

We hope you are enjoying our unrivalled coverage of Scottish Rugby. While mainstream media continues to reduce its interest in the rugby family in Scotland, The Offside Line does its very best to make sure all levels of the domestic game are reported.

Our commitment to the game and sharing its stories means that we do not have a paywall, so we would ask you (only if you can!) to support The Offside Line, either with a one off donation, or with a monthly contribution.

We have been keeping Scottish rugby in the news since 2016 and will have 3 million page views this year, making The Offside Line first for Scottish rugby.

 

 

EDINBURGH ACCIES v MARR

VENUE: Raeburn Place @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; H Janes, R Kent, V Hart, M Sinclair; W Stephen, J Troup; C Imrie, C Black©, C Lacour, J Mills, F Simpson, J Sole, M Walker, R Campbell. Subs: R Montgomery, A Winnington-Ingram, S Whittaker, B Grainger, M Wallace.

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

KEY BATTLE: Ben Appleson versus Dougie Steele

TEAM NEWS –

Edinburgh Accies: Neil Armstrong and Jamie Loomes drop out of the squad through injury, so Vincent Hart moves to inside centre, Will Stephens starts at stand-off, Ben Appleson moves to full-back and Mark Sinclair starts on the wing. Max Wallace comes onto the bench.

Marr: There are no changes in the backline. Up front, Brandon Sweet, Blair Jardine and Jordan McLean return to the starting pack. Josh Evans comes onto the bench.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“The boys worked incredibly hard last week to get that bonus point win and although it was not our finest performance, we got the job done. Marr have been one of the most consistent performers in the Premiership over the past two to three seasons, so we will need to be at our best and it is now up to us as a group to see if we can put pressure on them and try and get a home semi-final …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

“Another difficult away game this week. Edinburgh Accies are undefeated at home this season and will be determined to maintain this record and the push for a home semi-final in the play-offs. We have focused on our weaknesses from last week and look forward to a tough game on Saturday …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

VERDICT: Can Marr breach ‘Fortress Raeburn’? Accies have been very good at home this season and that, in part, has helped them into the play-offs. They know they really have to win this one to have any chance of a home semi-final, but the loss of key men Jamie Loomes and Neil Armstrong may just tip the balance in Marr’s favour.

Away win.

 

CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v JED-FOREST

VENUE: Malleny Park @ 2.30pm

TEAMS –

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, J Reynolds, DJ Innes, C Meagher; S Leto, P Boyer; G Carson©, R Stewart, AP McWilliam, E Stewart, C Roman, H Ferguson, W Nelson, R Davies. Subs: S Fisher, C Ramsay, A McCallum, F McKay, J Forbes.

Jed-Forest: from A Sweenie, D Wardrop, C Skeldon, G Law, F Scott, F Campbell, T Jeffrey, H Meadows, J Hynd, P Ferreira, G Paxton, G Young©, R Marshall, L Young, N Stingl, M Cullen, R Shirra Gibb, G Munro, R Nichol, AN Other.

KEY BATTLE: Ryan Stewart versus Finlay Campbell

TEAM NEWS –

Currie Chieftains: One change in a settled pack with Cody Roman starting in the second-row and Hamish Ferguson moving to six, replacing Gregor Nelson who is unavailable due to a concussion. In the backs, injuries to Gregor Hunter and Adam Hall give opportunities to Sam Leto at 10 and Fraser McKay from the bench.

Jed-Forest: The starting XV and subs will be named nearer kick-off time. Gregor Law returns to the squad while Craig Cowan and Ben McNeill drop out of the forwards through injury and unavailability. Nice to see the lesser spotted AN Other involved.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“I was really pleased with how the players were able to produce a sustained performance last week when the game was effectively won in the first 30 minutes. We are aware that this week provides us with a much sterner test and we are excited to get back to Malleny and want to put in a performance that reflects how far we have come as a squad …” –  Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

“Despite losing to Hawick last week, the team put in a good performance. We are looking to build on that to get some momentum going into the last few games …” – David Grieve (Jed-Forest)

VERDICT: While Marr may be able to breach ‘Fortress Raeburn’ it will take a lot more for Jed to leave ‘Miserly Malleny’ with any points. Currie score a lot in attack, but their game revolves around their defence and they are hard to break down. A big day for Sam Leto at 10.

Home win.

HAWICK v MUSSELBURGH

VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

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.

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

KEY BATTLE: Shawn Muir versus Colin Arthur

TEAM NEWS –

Hawick: An unchanged squad from the one that won at Jed last week. Teenage winger Elliot Stanger makes a home debut.

Musselburgh: Paul Cunningham picked up an ankle injury against Marr so Sandy Watt moves to the centre and Rory Smith is promoted from the bench to start on the wing. William Fleming returns in the second-row after illness last week with Calum Champion moving back onto the flank. Martin Cimprich returns to the squad on the bench after being away with Boroughmuir Bears in Super6.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We are very much looking forward to the challenge of Musselburgh this weekend after their very strong performance against Marr last week and they will be looking for a strong finish to the season. We are back at home for the first time since before Christmas and we are still looking to make it a tough place for teams to come. The players know the level of performance that is needed with a win securing a play-off spot …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

“The performance last week against Marr was excellent from our lads and we certainly did not get the rewards that we should have from the game so the message this week is: ‘continue to produce that and the results will come’. We did fail to convert a couple of good chances against Marr so our main aim this week against Hawick will be to make sure that when we enter the scoring zone we bring back some points. We are looking forward to a good battle down at Hawick and we’re sure they will be gunning for another win to keep their momentum going into the play-offs. It will be another tough day, but that’s part and parcel of being in the Premiership …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)

VERDICT: Hawick have been very good at home this season and will be defending the Bill McLaren Shield for the first time in this one. An unchanged squad is a rarity in rugby these days and while Musselburgh gave Marr a fright last time out, the Greens have their sights trained on a play-off spot.

Home win.

 

Season Appeal 2022

We hope you are enjoying our unrivalled coverage of Scottish Rugby. While mainstream media continues to reduce its interest in the rugby family in Scotland, The Offside Line does its very best to make sure all levels of the domestic game are reported.

Our commitment to the game and sharing its stories means that we do not have a paywall, so we would ask you (only if you can!) to support The Offside Line, either with a one off donation, or with a monthly contribution.

We have been keeping Scottish rugby in the news since 2016 and will have 3 million page views this year, making The Offside Line first for Scottish rugby.

 

 

SELKRK V GLASGOW HAWKS

VENUE: Philiphaugh @ 3pm

TEAMS –

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

Glasgow Hawks: M Stewart; H Hughes, J Pinkerton, B McGroarty, R Joy; C Harrison, S Greig; G Strain, P Cairncross©, E Rintoul, R Campbell, S Leckey©, L Stewart, I Carmichael, L McNamara. Subs: I Totik, A Ala-gilly, C Sreenan, F Burgess, J Thompson.

KEY BATTLE: Ross Nixon versus Brendan McGroarty

TEAM NEWS –

Selkirk: Regular captain Ewan McDougall is unavailable this week so Andrew Cochrane starts at No 8. Bruce Riddell moves to hooker and Zen Szwagrzak starts at tight-head prop. Centre Ross Nixon will lead the team and Scott Clark comes in at 10.

Glasgow Hawks: Rory Campbell comes into the starting XV to make his debut. It is a welcome return to action for captain Stephen Leckey, who has been unfortunate with injury all season, joining Campbell in the second-row, A bit of a reshuffle in the backs sees Sandy Greig and Callum Harrison come in from the bench to start at nine and 10. Adam Ala-gilly and Calum Sreenan will be looking to make their first XV debuts off the bench.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“After being on the road for the first two weeks of the year we look forward to heading back to Philiphaugh and welcoming Hawks. We’ve had a good week at training and know we have to play well to win. I know Andy will have put Hawks through their paces after a disappointing result for them last week so we don’t expect it to be easy …” – Scott Wight (Selkirk)

“Buzzing to see Stephen Leckey back in the starting line-up. He is the heartbeat of the club and a role model to any club player, he is a great captain and better bloke who I know has been frustrated with his lack of involvement this season. He has led the troops well in what has been a difficult week and we are looking forward to getting back out onto the field. There has been a lot of honest conversations this week, but the boys have worked hard and trained well together and are looking to play with ambition at the weekend …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

VERDICT: Selkirk have slipped to ninth and they know they need a win in this one back at home after a fortnight on the road. Hawks know their play-off chances are all but gone, but have a few wrongs from last week that need to be put right. Wholesale changes in the visiting ranks may have the desired effect, but Selkirk are due a big performance.

Home win.


Ospreys v Edinburgh: Scotland stars rested for trip to Swansea

About Gary Heatly 272 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.