AFTER the frost wiped out all but one game in the fixture schedule last weekend, there are eight teams chomping at the bit to get back into action this weekend, and plenty of intriguing contests to whet the appetite.
Marr will be firm favourites at home to GHA but this match-up has produced a few tight contests in recent years, so they won’t be taking anything for granted.
Glasgow Hawks picked up a major confidence boost when they came out on top in Aberdeen in the only game that went ahead last weekend but Jed have the firepower to cause anyone in this league problems, even with Callum Young way on Scotland 7s duty.
Aberdeen will want to put the frustration of last week to be when they host Selkirk at Rubislaw, Edinburgh Accies and Musselburgh are gearing for an east coast tussle at Newfield, and game of the day could well be at Mansfield Park where second in the table Chieftains face a big challenge against a resurgent Hawick side who are getting close to something approximating full strength.
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
MARR v GHA
Venue: Fullarton Park @ 2pm
Marr: R McGee; J Scott, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, R Dalgleish; C Sturgeon, J Preston; B Sweet, O Rossi, W Farquhar, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: A Muir, C Henderson, C Cunningham, A Mill, F Hazel.
GHA: G Mollison; J Edgar, C Lonergan, R McCallum, A Purewal; J MacKinnon, A Gillman; T Brogan, D Ewing, E McLaren, A Barnett, J McCarthy©, A Kerr, M Ryan, L McCutcheon. Subs: K Chernick, M Fox, M Marinkovic, G Baird, A Hughes.
TEAM NEWS –
Marr: Stalwart Rory McGee makes his long awaited return after missing all of last season with a knee injury, taking over from the unavailable Greg Montgomery. Gregor Ness is also missing having sustained a leg injury which should keep him out until after Christmas. Still no Scott Bickerstaff, who is in in Dubai with the Scotland 7s squad.
GHA: Mike Ryan and Adam Barnett return to the pack with Adam Kerr moving to back row. SRU Academy Stage 3 players Euan McLaren and Robbie McCallum are released by Ayrshire Bulls and Boroughmuir Bears, respectively, to make their debuts for the club and start at tighthead and inside-centre respectively.
KEY BATTLE: Conor Bickerstaff versus Robbie McCallum
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“GHA are a team who play some good expansive rugby. We have to be good defensively to stop them. We will also have to match their energy and spirit if we wish to win the game. Hopefully, the weather does not spoil the game as both teams usually provide an exciting game to watch …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)
“Another game in our Premiership journey and they don’t come any harder than table topping Marr at Fullarton. We have worked hard in training over the last couple of weeks, the boys are looking forward to the challenge that is in front of us and testing ourselves against the top team in the country …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)
VERDICT: Trevor Carmichael has called it right – a tough mission for GHA at Fullarton Park. They gave it a fair go and managed to salvage a losing bonus point when the teams met earlier in the season at Braidholm – but they were eventually overpowered by Marr’s stronger set-piece and Colin Sturgeon’s skilful game management.
Marr are firing on all cylinders – and with their crunch game against Currie Chieftains next week there is no way they are going to be taking their foot off the gas.
Comfortable home win.
GLASGOW HAWKS v JED-FOREST
Venue: Balgray @ 2pm
Glasgow Hawks: J Strain;, E Oag, M Stewart, C Harrison, M Priestly; L Brims, H Bullock; G Strain, J Gammell, E Rintoul, A Kirkland, L Archer, S Leckey©, F Christie, R Sweeney. Subs: P Cairncross, P Henderson, J McLean, M Godsman, Y Alagilly.
Jed-Forest: L Young; J Laing, Gregor Young©, R Yourston, R Marshall; G Munro, N Stingl; T Jeffrey, F Scott, P Ferreira, D Tjombie, G Law, B Sexton, Michael Weekley, Garry Young, D Grieve. Subs: G Paxton, A Keeler, F Harkness, E Lauder, J McGough.
TEAM NEWS –
Glasgow Hawks: Kerr Gossman is away playing sevens in Dubai so Erlend Oag moves to the wing with Matthew Stewart will look to transfer his form from the bench into the starting berth. In the pack, Jack Gemmell and captain Stephen Leckey return from head knocks, which compensates for the loss Rory Jackson to Scotland U19’s duty. Murray Godsman and Jack McLean return from injury onto the bench.
Jed-Forest: Michael Weekley comes into the back-row, while the backline is unchanged from the side which was supposed to take on Edinburgh Accies last week. Assistant coach Fraser Harkness is on the bench. Callum Young is away with Scotland 7s squad.
KEY BATTLE: Ryan Sweeney versus Donald Grieve
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We welcome Jed-Forest to Balgray after a close and fiery encounter the last time. Jed have a dangerous backline that gave us all sorts of problems down there. Defensively, we have improved massively since then with the great work put in by Steven Findlay and the players. However, this will be our biggest test since the November break so it will be a great measure to see how far we have come. Our challenge has to be to put together a performance that is worthy of back-to-back victories to keep us moving in the right direction …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Haws)
“It will be an interesting game with these conditions! We are obviously determined to pick up points over the next three games before Christmas. This will be a tough fixture and we’ve looked at their last few games so we know what they will bring. Our focus is on us and our performance. It will be a physical game however we are prepared for that. Going by the weather it’s not going to be top of the ground stuff and therefore we’ve got to be prepared for hard physical encounter …” – Gavin Kerr (Jed-Forest)
VERDICT: It was some game between this pair down at Riverside earlier in the season when Jed’s flair held out to beat Hawks’ pragmatism by the narrowest of margins. Hawks win up in Aberdeen last weekend confirmed their improving form – and their prospects of making the pay-offs. Can Jed win enough ball to enable their exciting young backs to stamp their class on the game? Home advantage and an outstanding back-row might be enough to swing it Hawks way.
ABERDEEN GRAMMAR v SELKIRK
Venue: Rubislaw @ 2pm
Aberdeen Grammar: S Mills; C Shepherd, M Mitchell, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson©, T Morrison; C Reddish, A Cook, R Anderson, J Robertson, R Cessford, N Coe, B Inglis, G Ryan. Subs: T Ryan, C Robertson, D Wallen, J Troup, A Ovenstone.
TEAM NEWS –
Aberdeen Grammar: Grieg Ryan is back from honeymoon to bolster the pack at No 8, and Craig Shepherd replaces mungo Sommerville on the right wing, in a generally settled side.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“I look forward to Selkirk’s visit knowing they are one of our closest rivals in the table. Selkirk are always unpredictable and can hurt you from anywhere in the field so will have to be wary of the attacking threat that they present at all times. A review of last week shows our lapses in concentration cost us dearly and we will be aiming to put that right with a focused and aggressive 80 minute performance. …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)
VERDICT: Aberdeen won well down at Philiphaugh at the start of the season – and will be well aware of the importance of this game in the race for the play-offs. Matthew Schosser and Nathan Brown are still injured – and they would be disappointed with last week’s poor showing against Hawks – but Rubislaw is still a key factor.
HAWICK v CURRIE CHIEFTAINS
Venue: Mansfield Park @ 2pm
Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, W Griebenow, L Gordon-Woolley; A Weir, G Welsh; S Muir©, C Renwick, D Johnstone, A Piotrowski, D Suddon, J Linton, S Graham, B McNeil. Subs: M Carryer, C Bachurzewski, S Fairbiarn, B McNeil, B Donaldson.
Currie Chieftains: F Sayers; C Meager, S Hamilton, J McCaig, A McLean; A Hall, G Christie; G Carson, F Scott, R Patterson, S Edwards, M Vernel, H Ferguson, W Nelson, R Davies. Subs: G Williamson, M Argiro, M Poole, R Vucago, C Hunter.
TEAM NEWS –
Hawick: No changes to the starting XV selected for last week’s postponed match against GHA, while Shuan Fairbairn returns from injury to replace Murray Renwick on the bench, and Matty Carryer’s comes back in to the squad which allows Ryan Toogood to drop down to the Force for some game time.
Currie Chieftains: No changes in the pack while Roy Vucago retunrs from injury to take a slot on he bench. There are a few positional changes in the backlines due to the unavailability of Gregor Hunter this week, with Adam Hall taking over at 10, James McCaig taking his inside centre slot and Fraser Sayers comes back into the squad and at 15. Calum Hunter is set to make his 1st XV from the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Stuart Graham versus Wallace Nelson
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We are under no illusion that we go into this game as major underdogs, especially after our poor display at Malleny last time we met. This will be a gauge to see if we really have improved. Mark Cairns has got his side well drilled and will not be wanting any slip ups in their pursuit of leaders Marr …” – George Graham (Hawick)
“Mansfield is a very difficult place to get a win and Hawick are in excellent form, having won four games on the bounce. This is going to be a big test for our boys and one I know they are looking forward to. We will be challenged up front by a physical pack and a backline who are dangerous when on the front foot. We will need to accurate in our attack and disciplined defensively if we are to get the win …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
VERDICT: Hawick did not get off the bus at Malleny in September – and their season went into free-fall – but they have now got the show back on the road and have a real chance of making the play-offs. Wiann Griebnow has made a difference – whilst Shawn Muir’s return is a big plus – and they have a pretty powerful looking bench.
There is no way Chieftains will want to drop their intensity or lose impetus with Marr coming up next week – but Gregor Hunter is hugely influential and will be badly missed.
Mansfield is not an easy place to play when Hawick are on song – and they are getting close to being in tune – but Chieftains maybe still have enough in terms of structure and shape to see them trough.
Narrow away win.
EDINBURGH ACADEMICALS v MUSSELBURGH
Venue: Newfield @ 2pm
Edinburgh Accies: R Wilson; J Paterson, R Campbell, N Armstrong, M Campbell; R Mill, M Sinclair; C Imrie, S Crombie, D Anderson, D Dinnen, C Bain, C Thomson, J Sole©, J Bruce. Subs: K Jenkins, C Lacour, T Jones, M Love, R Bonner.
Musselburgh: J Doig; S Watt, R Watt, P Cunningham, G Tait; F Roddick, D Owenson©; C Owenson, J Crain, C Arthur, W Fleming, J Haynes, C Pryde, M Outram, M Maltman. Subs: S Grahamslaw, N McNairn, G McKinstry, L Hutson, J Ferguson.
TEAM NEWS –
Edinburgh Academicals: Patrick O’Sullivan is away in Dubai, so Declan Dinnen comes back into the second-row with Ted Jones taking his place on the bench. Robbie Simpson and Cole Lamberton are in the Scotland U19 squad for the game against Wales this Sunday, so Cole Imrie starts, with Kevin Jenkins and Clement Lacour coming onto the bench.
Musselburgh: Michael Maltman is ruled out with a knee injury so Jack Haynes starts in second-row with Cameron Pryde moving into the back-row alongside Max Outram and Paddy Brown. SRU Stage 3 prop Sam Grahamslaw, who missed the start of the season through injury, is released by Watsonians Super6 and is named on an experienced bench.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“We are excited for our home game against Musselburgh this weekend, with both teams looking for a win after last weekend’s rest due to Jack Frost …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)
“After our week off due to the weather last week the guys are keen to get back out there and progress after our decent showing against Hawick. The side has a particularly experienced look about it and that will be key coming into these games where we need to notch up wins as the league campaign gets beyond the second half. I think we have a good balance about the side and confident that we can go to Newfield and get a result as we ran Accies close in the cup game in October, which shows what we are capable of that with key a good start to the game and a strong finish …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)
VERDICT: An absolutely critical match in terms of the automatic relegation slot. It was a try-fest for Accies against Musselburgh down at Stoneyhill – but Musselburgh are a much harder street-wise side now – though they will miss Michael Maltman. ‘Home’ advantage is not going to mean much to Accies – but they will be looking to be sharper around the park – and they might have an edge at the set piece.
Narrow home win.