A HUGE game in store at Raeburn Place this weekend with bottom of the table Edinburgh Accies hosting second-bottom Glasgow Hawks with both sides in desperate need of league points to avoid the cutches of relegation.
This was initially scheduled to be the final weekend of the regular season, but postponements mean that Accies have two games in hand on third-bottom Musselburgh and Hawks have one, but given that those matches are against the three top side in the league – Currie Chieftains and Marr for Accies, and Hawick for Hawks – that doesn’t really provide much breathing-room.
A ferocious contest is also on the cards at Riverside Park, where Jed-Forest meet Border rivals Hawick believing they have a score to settle after a 33-0 drubbing at Mansfield Park earlier in the campaign, which left Gavin Kerr’s side nursing a few scores that they will be keen to settle.
Musselburgh’s recent form has edged them to within grasping distance of safety, but they are not completely in the clear yet, so could really do with a shock win at home to Currie Chieftains; GHA are in a similar boat as they had down to Selkirk; while Aberdeen Grammar will be desperate to right a few wrongs when they host top of the table Marr following a mauling at Hawick last weekend.
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
MUSSELBURGH v CURRIE CHIEFTAINS
VENUE: Stoneyhill @ 3pm
Musselburgh: J Ferguson; G Tait, R Watt, P Cunningham, S Watt; F Roddick, D Owenson; C Owenson, R Scott, C Arthur, J Haynes, W Fleming, M Maltman©, L Hutson, P Brown. Subs: J Crain, E Bonthron, C Pryde, M Crawford, R Smith.
Currie Chieftains: F Sayers; S Hamilton, A Hall, R Southern, J McCaig; G Hunter, G Christie; R Patterson, G Carson, C Ramsay, M Vernel, S Edwards, H Ferguson, F Scott, W Nelson. Subs: M Argiro, J O’Brien, J Ramsay, S King, A McLean.
KEY BATTLE: Danny Owenson versus Gregor Christie
TEAM NEWS –
Musselburgh: An unchanged backline from last weekend’s win at GHA. Max Outram is out with a head knock prompting reshuffle in the pack, with Paddy Brown moves back to No 8, Luke Hutson switches to open-side and William Fleming takes over in the second-row. Robert Stott’s performance off the bench last week earns him a start at hooker ahead of Euan Bonthron, and Mathew Crawford features on the 1st XV squad for the first time on the bench.
Currie Chieftains: Gregor Christie returns from injury at scrum-half, so Ryan Southern returns to his preferred inside-centre position, and Adam Hall pushes out to 13. In the forwards, Rhys Davies and Roy Vucago are unavailable, so Fergus Scott starts at open-side and Graeme Carson shifts to hooker with Reece Patterson starting at loose-head.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“Final game of the season and it’s going to be a touch encounter against Chieftains who will be looking to cement a home semi-final spot. We are focussed on gaining valuable points in our survival quest and a fantastic result away against GHA last week has given us a boost,I thought our second half effort, especially, summed up our desire to keep up the pressure on those teams around us. We were well beaten up at Malleny last time out and came away with nothing but we are in a much better position now in terms of our team shape and confidence, so are looking to end the season on a big positive note. Our focus for this week is applying pressure to Currie both in attack and defence and we have definitely improved on this recently. With a strong pack selected in terms of size and experience it should allow us to compete with a strong Currie team and allow the players a bit more opportunity to play expansive rugby than they were able to against Selkirk and GHA due to the weather and pitch conditions …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)
“I was pleased to get the five points last week against a really good Jed side but I was disappointed at conceding four tries. We have worked hard on our defence this week in training and this will be a key area of our game if we are to stop Musselburgh’s strong runners. We know what they will bring to the table and they will be very motivated in front of their home crowd. If we attack with a little more accuracy and take the improvements we have made in our defence onto the pitch, then we will give ourselves a good chance of taking the points back to Malleny …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
VERDICT: Any slip-up could cost Chieftains home advantage in the play-offs, so motivation will not be a problem for them down at Stoneyhill.
Another tremendous performances and a great result for Musselburgh away to GHA last week, which on top of their hard earned home win over Jed, should keep them clear of relegation – but that will not be the way they are looking at it. They are on a roll – and this would be a great steal. Difficult but not impossible.
No way it is going to be the try-fest Chieftains enjoyed at Malleny back in November – but with their first choice half backs restored, the visitors should have enough to comfortably see the home challenge off.
ABERDEEN GRAMMAR v MARR
VENUE: Rubislaw @ 3pm
Aberdeen Grammar: F Snedden; N Brown, D Russell, T Aplin, C Shepherd; S Knudson, T Morrison; J Robertson, A Cook, R Anderson, R Cessford, N Coe, D Wallen, J Spence, G Ryan. Subs: Y Almanache, A Robertson, S Renfrew, M Running, C Ruxton.
Marr: G Montgomery; R Dalgleish, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, T Steven; C Sturgeon, J Preston; W Farquhar, O Rossi, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: J Drummond, B Sweet, J Harvey, G Ness, J Scott.
TEAM NEWS –
Aberdeen Grammar: Several key men who missed last week’s demolition at Mansfield return. Nat Coe starts in the second-row alongside Robin Cessford, and captain Sam Knudson is at stand-off.
Marr: Scott Bickerstaff has been called into Scotland 7s squad so Tom Steven makes is first start on the wing. With Curran McMillan also unavailable, Jamie Drummond and Gregor Ness come onto the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Tom Aplin versus Conor Bickerstaff
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“As we stumble over the finish line of the season we get back to a little closer to full strength for the visit of Marr. Our opponents are a pretty special team and we have struggled against them in recent years. They have threats all over the field and our defence will have to improve on last week’s showing. Returning players are expected to make a big impact and our desire is to finish the season with a strong performance in front of our home supporters …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)
“After a tough game in challenging conditions against Hawks last week, we face another difficult game, this time away to Aberdeen. They will be looking to end the season on a high with a home win against us. We have reviewed our last couple of games and identified areas we need improve upon, and we will need to take our chances if we want to come away with a positive result on Saturday. “ …” – Craig Redpath (Marr
VERDICT: Marr are going up to Aberdeen to do a job – and it would be a major surprise if they did not get it done. Nothing fancy – tight up-front – direct behind – working hard in defence – taking their chances – kicking their goals. The blueprint which has taken them to their rightful place at the top of the table.
Aberdeen were poor at Mansfield last week – and whilst they do look stronger on paper this week – and home advantage will help – they will need to pull a rabbit out of the hat to get any kind of a result.
JED-FOREST v HAWICK
VENUE: Riverside Park @ 3.o0pm
Jed-Forest: L Young; J Laing, G Young, R Yourston, R Marshall; M Mitchell, N Stingl; P Ferreira, G Paxton, H Meadows, B Saxton, G Law, D Grieve, M Weekley, G Young. Subs: F Campbell, F Scott, E Lauder, J McGough, F Harkness.
Hawick: K Ford; R McKean, W Griebenow, A Mitchell, L Gordon-Wooley; A Weir, G Welsh; S Muir©, M Carryer, D Johnstone, M Renwick, J Rowley, C Renwick, J Linton, B McNeil. Subs: R Hartdegen, R Toogood, D Lightfoot, B Donaldson, M Bannerman.
TEAM NEWS –
Jed-Forest: After a good display against Currie last week, the forwards are unchanged. Josh Laing starts on the wing in place of Calum Young, who has been called up by the Scotland 7s squad. Finlay Scott and Fraser Harkness come onto the bench.
Hawick: An unchanged squad after last week’s big win over Aberdeen Grammar.
KEY BATTLE: Gregor Young versus Wiaan Griebenow
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“A Border derby against local rivals Hawick gives us a tough challenge in our final league game of the season. Training has gone well this week giving players confidence going into the game …” – Gavin Kerr (Jed-Forest)
“A few boys are still nursing injuries, but we feel the way that some of the younger lads stepped up last week was fantastic and makes for a very bright future for the club. Callum Renwick has been a revelation at no 6, and Murray Renwick showed that he has what it takes to play in the Premiership. It’s a massive game this week and we are in no way underestimating Jed as we know what they are capable of. Form goes out the window when it comes to Border derbies. Jed have had some decent results of late picking up vital points to push themselves away from relegation, but I am sure they would like nothing better than to turn us over on their home patch …” – George Graham (Hawick)
VERDICT: There will be skin and hair flying at Riverside come 3pm on Saturday.
Nine wins on the trot and Hawick are beginning to believe this could be their year – home advantage or not in the play-offs. It is going to be tough up front – and well though young Murray Renwick played against Aberdeen, they would have liked to have had Daniel Suddon back on board.
After a slow start, Jed played very well in spells against Chieftains last week – but yet again poor discipline let them down.
Intriguing clash of styles behind the scrum – but Hawick’s power up front should be enough to win the day.
EDINBURGH ACADEMICALS v GLASGOW HAWKS
VENUE: Raeburn Place @ 3pm
Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; M Cairnes, R Campbell, R Mill, C Ramm; W Stephen, M Love; C Imrie, C Black, C Lacour, A Inwood, C Bain, D Dinnen, J Sole©, J Bruce. Subs: S Crombie, D Anderson, R McConnell, M Sinclair, R Wilson.
Glasgow Hawks: L Brims; K Gossman, M Stewart, C Harrison, M Priestly; J Strain, P Boyer; G Strain, P Cairncross, E Rintoul, S Halafihi, A Kirkland, S Leckey©, F Christie, R Sweeney. Subs: P Henderson, L Archer, C Holborn, M Godsman, Y Alagilly.
TEAM NEWS –
Edinburgh Accies: Ben Appleson returns at full-back so Monty Cairnes switches back to the wing, and Will Stephen comes in at stand-off. In the pack, Cameron Bain comes into the second-row with Declan Dinnen switching to blindside flanker.
Glasgow Hawks: Paul Cairncross and Matthew Stewart start in place of Erlend Oag and Jack Gemmell, who are unavailable due to work. Paul Henderson and Murray Godsman come onto the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Max Love versus Paddy Boyer
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“We have a big game at Raeburn Place this weekend. The challenge is well and truly set …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)
“Not much needing said. Both teams are desperate for a win and will be throwing everything at it this weekend to get the result they need …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)
VERDICT: A huge game for both clubs – which could go either way. Hawks fought hard to pick up a losing bonus point down at Marr last week. Accies were bullied out of it by Selkirk at Raeburn Place – but will presumably have learned from the experience.
SELKIRK v GHA
VENUE: Philiphaugh @ 3pm
GHA: R O’Keefe; J Craig, G Mollison, C King, A Purewal; J MacKinnon, S Simpson; E Cavan, H Clark, M Fox, A Barnett, J McCarthy©, M Ryan, D Ewing, L McCutcheon. Subs: S Fisher, S Callaghan, P Harkins, G Baird, J Reilly.
TEAM NEWS –
GHA: Jordan Craig comes onto the wing for the unavailable James Edgar, and Scott Simpson gets his first start of the season at scrum-half. George Baird, Paul Harkins and Jack Reilly are on the bench.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“A disappointing outcome last week against Musselburgh. The boys were hurting after that, but we have trained well this week and are looking forward to the challenge that Selkirk will bring. We are looking for a more complete, disciplined and controlled performance this week to finish our season on a high …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)
VERDICT: GHA have flattered to deceive all season. They are a much better side than they showed against Musselburgh last week, but they need to tighten up their scrum.
They were very unlucky to lose the reciprocal fixture at Braidholm — and anything they can take away from Philiphaugh could be priceless in the relegation dog-fight – but they would need to be very much at the top of their game.