FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS return to Myreside this weekend with another capital city derby on the menu. This time it is Heriot’s who provide the opposition to Watsonians, and it should be a cracker between two teams who have their sights trained on making the play-offs, with the added spice of The Bill McLaren Shield being up for grabs. The perfect start to an international weekend.
An early [1.30pm] kick-off at Raeburn Place provides the rugby junkies out there with the opportunity to take in a a live club match with ample time for a couple of drinks and a bite to eat before making it to Murrayfield in time to watch Scotland take on South Africa. Hosts Edinburgh Accies are the only winless team in the league and have several key men missing, but having had a last weekend off to regroup they will be highly motivated against a Stirling County outfit who have shown that if you are good enough then you are old enough when on song this season – but have been susceptible to youthful bouts of inconsistency when the pressure has really been on.
Over in the west, the steady progress Glasgow Hawks – another team championing youth – have been making under recently appointed Scotland Club XV assistant coach Fin Gillies, will be put to the test against champions Melrose at Balgray. Rob Chrystie’s side’s injury crisis is easing with Neil Irvine-Hess, Rory Darge and James Head now back fit again, and with first year pros George Taylor and Jason Baggott being released by Edinburgh, a huge challenge awaits for the hosts.
Hawick welcome a Boroughmuir team riding high after an emphatic win over Currie Chieftains in their last outing to Mansfield Park, and will hope that their developing sense of self is not hamstrung by some fairly critical problems in the front-row.
Finally, it will be an emotional day in Balerno where Currie Chieftains will aim to pay their respects to club stalwart Campbell Reynolds, who died suddenly earlier this month, in the way which would have pleased him best – by getting one over league leaders Ayr in front of a big crowd at his beloved Malleny Park.
HOW IT STANDS –
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS –
WATSONIANS v HERIOT’S
(for The Bill McLaren Shield)
VENUE: Myreside @ 7.45pm
Watsonians: J Rowland; A Guthrie, R Hutton, D Innes, L MacPherson; L Millar, N Fowles; G Jackson, R Graham, J Stanley, C McKill, C Borthwick©, J Miller, C Boyle, M Fedo. Subs: F Renwick, F Hobbis, G Nelson, M Scott, P Cunningham.
Heriot’s: C Simpson; J Blain, R Jones, R Kay, C Robertson; D Martin, A Ball; J Scott, A Johnstone, S Cessford, R Leishman, A Sinclair, I Wilson©, J McLean, C Marshall. Subs: M Liness, M Bouab, M Hughes, A Simmers, D Steele.
TEAM NEWS –
Watsonians: Charlie McKill and James Miller return to the pack, Ross Graham switches from flanker to his principle position of hooker, while Harry Fisher and Kieran Watt drop out of the squad. Wingers Rory Steele and Rufus Mclean are unavailable, but Rory Hutton is back and Lomond MacPherson gets his chance after impressing for Edinburgh in last week’s Junior 1872 Cup match. Nathan Fowles is released by Edinburgh to start at scrum-half, which means Murray Scott drops to the bench, alongside another promising youngster in Paul Cunningham.
Heriot’s: Josh Scott, Martin Bouab, Adam Sinclair, Andrew Simmers, Robert Kay and Jack Blain bolster the squad, though there is a slight balancing of the books with Stuart Edwards, Rory McMichael and Jason Hill all missing due to minor injuries. Andrew Simmers is fit again but is on the bench, with Alex Ball retaining the number nine after grabbing his opportunity with both hands.
KEY BATTLE: Nathan Fowles versus Alex Ball
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Having scraped past Stirling County a fortnight ago in a performance full of defensive resolve, we have worked hard in training to develop a couple of areas that we believe are key to improving our overall output. Another Edinburgh derby under the lights at Myreside is an exciting prospect for us and one that we know will require the upmost focus in order to be successful. Heriot’s are currently in a rich vein of form and have shown an ability to score through various means. We hope there is another bumper crowd as ‘Friday Night Lights’ returns to Myreside …” – Stevie Lawrie (Watsonians)
“The fixtures leading up to Christmas are going to be extremely important in deciding where teams end up at the end of the season and starting out against our oldest rivals under lights on an international weekend could not be bigger. I sense that if travelling South African fans, or indeed Scotland fans, are looking for something to do this Friday night then this will be a game full what you would expect from a local derby: full-blooded and packed with drama …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
VERDICT: A big night at Myreside as these oldest of rivals go head to head for The Bill McLaren Shield and vital play-off points. Hopefully the crowd will reflect the importance of the game and the relevance of quality club rugby in Edinburgh. Both clubs have blown hot and cold this season. Watsonians were out-gunned by Melrose and Currie Chieftains – but then pulled off a fantastic away win against Ayr. Heriot’s could not nail down clear chances against Ayr and Chieftains – but they did bag a draw against Melrose.
Watsonians’ set piece struggled against Stirling a fortnight ago – which is perhaps why Ross Graham has been moved back to hooker. Charlie McKill has quickly become a big player for them – and Rory Hutton will make a difference if he is fully fit. Rob Kay should be equally influential for Heriots – who will need to get themselves into the game early – and stay there for the full 80-minutes – with Alex Ball setting the tempo.
Not much to choose between the teams on paper. Heriots won 28-24 at Goldenacre back in September – and home advantage could very well be the deciding factor again this time.
Narrow home win.
WHEN SATURDAY COMES –
EDINBURGH ACCIES v STIRLING COUNTY
VENUE: Raeburn Place @ 1.30pm
Edinburgh Accies: H Paterson; C Gray, R Chalmers, R Wilson, R Kent; R Mill, M Love; C Taylor, C Black, M McGinley, R Lovett, M Badenhorst, J Mann, J Sole©, R Campbell. Subs: R Simpson, D Morrison, S Hegarty, M Sinclair, P Flood.
Stirling County: C Robertson; B Sorbie, E Magarvie, G Hughes, J Brogan; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, R Kennedy©, M Walker, S Yarrow, C Henderson, H Burr, S MacDonald, A Mackie. Subs: K Bryce, G Holborn, R Bundy, G Arnott, L Trotter.
TEAM NEWS –
Edinburgh Accies: Michael Badenhorst returns in the second-row, Cammy Taylor replaces the injured Cole Imrie at tight-head prop and Duncan Morrison comes onto the bench as cover. 17-year-old Harry Paterson gets a chance at full-back. Centre Neil Armstrong is out after injuring himself playing sevens in Malaysia last weekend, so Robert Wilson makes his first appearance of the season at inside centre. South African teenagers George Spencer and Robbie Davis, who were stand-out performers during a difficult start to the season for the club, are both out injured for several weeks, while brothers Lawrie and Ronan Seydak are off playing for Poland against the Netherlands.
Stirling County: Remy Chies, Cammy Henderson and Shaun MacDonald return to the starting line-up after injury, and Bruce Sorbie replaces Ratu Tagive, who is not released by Glasgow Warriors. Gary Holborn and George Arnott drop to a strong bench alongside former Scotland cap Kevin Bryce and Logan Trotter.
KEY BATTLE: Jack Mann versus Hamilton Burr
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“I’m looking forward to welcoming Stirling to Raeburn Place, we feel we left a lot out on the pitch at Bridgehaugh at the start of the season so are hoping to make amends at home. I’m impressed with the amount of energy County have to relentlessly get off the line in defence, and to prevent you from getting quality ball at set-piece or on the floor, so we will have our work cut-out …” – Derek O’Riordan (Edinburgh Accies)
“Accies, under Derek, play positive rugby and have some dangerous runners prepared to attack from all areas of the field. Our injury list has subsided in the last fortnight and we will be looking for a strong bench to add impact as the game progresses. We must maintain concentration and intensity throughout if we want to take away maximum points from what is an extremely dangerous fixture …” – Eddie Pollock (Stirling County)
VERDICT: Scrummaging strength and an impressive bench should be more than enough to see Stirling home – particularly in the continuing absence of Accies’ two talented South Africans youngsters, George Spencer and Robbie Davies.
Comfortable away win.
GLASGOW HAWKS v MELROSE
VENUE: Balgray @ 2.00pm
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; J McCready, C Symes, M New, R Beattie; L Brims, K Baretto; G Strain©, P Cairncross, L Skinner, A Kirkland, F Hastie, S Dow, G Wilson, G Adams. Subs: A Fraser, P Henderson, C Harrison, P Boyer, R Thompson.
Melrose: F Thomson; B Colvine, G Taylor, G Wood, P Anderson; S Hutchison, M McAndrew; G Shiells, R Anderson, R McLeod, J Head, I Moody©, R Darge, N Irvine-Hess, S Lawson. Subs: F Scott, C Young, G Runciman, J Baggott, I Sim.
TEAM NEWS –
Glasgow Hawks: Kaleem Baretto returns from a stint with Glasgow Warriors to team up with Liam Brims at half-back. Hookers Paul Cairncross and Angus Fraser are both fit again, and Callum Harrison will make his first appearance of the season off the bench having got valuable game time with Greenock through Hawks’ duel registration programme.
Melrose: Both George Taylor and Jason Baggott have been released with the former starting at outside centre and the latter on the bench. Russell Anderson returns from injury at hooker.
KEY BATTLE: Struan Dow versus Rory Darge
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“It was nice to have a down week for everyone at the club to go recharge the batteries and rest any niggles that may have been starting to appear. It is always a big occasion playing against Melrose. In the last few outings we have competed really well for the first 40 minutes, then the tides have turned against us. We know that Melrose are ruthlessly physical, and we cannot afford to give away any easy scoring opportunities. We need to be extremely disciplined so not to allow them field position to get their maul rolling inside our half …” – Fin Gillies (Glasgow Hawks)
“Glasgow Hawks are playing with a freedom that their young players are clearly enjoying. Finn has galvanised his troops and they are clearly playing for one another now. We will have to defend well as they have the ability to score from anywhere on the pitch …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
VERDICT: Finn Gillies has been talking about Hawks tightening up their game and playing much more directly and much more physically. He will, no doubt, have taken succour from Hawick’s relative success employing just such tactics at the Greenyards in Round 10 – but whether Hawks can execute quite as effectively as Hawick did is a moot point – and keeping 15 men on the park in the process might be a problem. Having Kaleem Baretto back will help – but it is a tough mission. Melrose were compromised by Hawick – but they dug in and still won 21 -10. They are a good side – strong on the counter with a powerful driving maul and, if they get onto the front foot, a clinical multi-dimensional attack – even without Craig Jackson.
Comfortable away win.
HAWICK v BOROUGHMUIR
VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 2.00pm
Hawick: A Weir; K Davies, A Mitchell, G Walker, K Ford; L Armstrong, S Kennedy; S Muir©, M Carryer, G Douglas, D Suddon, D Redpath, G Lowrie, D Davison, S Graham. Subs: C Renwick, T Hope, S Fairbairn, D Lightfoot, K Young.
Boroughmuir: C Gossman; G Parker, W Wardlaw, M Hare, J Edmunds; G Cannie, J Hamilton; D Marfo, J Matthews©, D Robertson, W Inglis, S Smith, A Mncube, M Walker, T Drennan. Subs: R Montgomery, R Dunbar, J Steele, M Johnstone, C Keddie.
TEAM NEWS –
Hawick: Nicky Little is unavailable so Hawick’s irrepressible director of rugby Garry Douglas starts at tight-head. Edinburgh’s Sean Kennedy is at scrum-half meaning Deaglan Lightfoot drops to the bench. The influential Bruce McNeil dropped out of the side on Thursday night so Gary Lowrie comes in at flanker and Stuart Graham switches from blindside to number eight.
Boroughmuir: The same back division as started against Currie Chieftains in that excellent victory a fortnight ago. One change in the pack with Matt Walker coming into the back-row for the injured Rory Drummond. Jack Steele and Ryan Montgomery are added to the bench after returning from injury.
KEY BATTLE: Garry Douglas versus Darryl Marfo
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“I felt we should have got something from the Melrose game, never-the-less that is in the past now and we face a very tough test in the form of Boroughmuir. They will be confident after a very good win against Currie Chieftains. Peter has them playing to their potential this season so we must perform for 80 minutes if we want to get anything from this game …” – George Graham (Hawick)
“Never an easy game down at Mansfield and after their performance against Melrose they will be up for this one. We must try and continue the momentum we got from the Currie Chieftains match…” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)
VERDICT: A gutsy show from Hawick at the Greenyards – but their shortage of front-row resources is a serious problem – which could be badly exposed by Boroughmuir. Did Boroughmuir really finally turn the corner with their sublime second half performance against Currie Chieftains? We shall see.
Fairly comfortable away win.
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v AYR
VENUE:Malleny Park @ 2.30pm
Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson©, S Hamilton; G Hunter, R Frostwick; A McWilliam, F Scott©, M Argiro, V Wright, M Vernel, M Kelly, T Gordon, R Davies. Subs: G Carson, R Patterson, S McGinley, C Shiel, M Hooks.
Ayr: G Anderson; P Dewhirst, O Smith, D McCluskey, K Rowe; F Climo, H Warr; R Sayce, R Smith, S Longwell, D Corbenici, A North, T Spinks, G Henry, B Macpherson©. Subs: A McGuire, C Miller, P McCallum, S Lyle, J Bova.
TEAM NEWS –
Currie Chieftains: A timely return from injury for co-captain Fergus Scott and lock Vince Wright, who both come straight into the starting XV for their first appearances of the season. Scott McGinley moves to the bench, while Wallace Nelson and Campbell Wilson drop out the squad altogether. Fraser Watt also misses out due to the injury he sustained in the warm-up ahead of the Boroughmuir game two weeks ago so Argentinean Matias Argiro starts. In the backline, Roan Frostwick gets a rare start and with Charlie Shiel on the bench.
Ayr: Three changes to the starting line-up with Academy prospect Robbie Smith being made available, plus Gregor Henry and Harry Warr coming into the starting team. Club captain Pete McCallum joins the match day squad after a long injury lay off.
KEY BATTLE: Ben Robbins versus Kyle Rowe
WHAT THE COACHED SAY –
“It has been a difficult couple of weeks with a poor performance versus Boroughmuir followed by the tragic and sudden passing of our scrum coach and Chairman of the Rugby Board, Campbell Reynolds. Big Cam had a massive effect on the club as a whole and in particular on a number of our young players who came through the youth section with Cam as their Colts coach. As Fergus Scott has said, he not only taught them about rugby, he ‘taught young players discipline, respect and hard work’ – values at the core of what Currie Chieftains are all about.
“Whilst the focus at the club hasn’t been completely on rugby over the last couple of weeks we have managed to get in a couple of real quality sessions in the lead up to what is a huge match for both sides. Ayr know how to win games of rugby, they have shown great consistency this season both at home and away with only one blip versus Watsonians a few weeks ago. We know it’s going to be a massive challenge, but one we are looking forward to. The weather looks pretty favourable, Ayr generally bring a good travelling support and with a 2.30pm kick-off, for those not going to Murrayfield, it’s the perfect opportunity to double up with a top-class club game followed by the Scotland international in the club house. Malleny should be buzzing on Saturday and I can think of no better tribute to Big Cam …” – Ben Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
“Travelling to play Currie Chieftains away is always a real challenge, I am sure that they will have been disappointed with their last result, coupled with the tragic news they received last week, which means I am sure there will be an emotional feeling around the club. Saturday provides a great platform for us to raise our performance levels from the last few weeks, and we will need to be at our best …” – Peter Murchie (Ayr)
VERDICT: Losing to Boroughmuir hurt Currie Chieftains – but losing Campbell Reynolds hurt them much more – and no greater encomium could they pay the big man than getting him a result against Ayr in this crunch fixture. At the very top of their game, they are well capable of pulling it off – but they will need to win the battle up-front – and keep Frazieer Climo well and truly in his box – and take their chances. Watsonians punctured Ayr’s aura on invincibility and Accies held them to five points in the second half – but they have big hitters all over the park and are unlikely to be intimidated by the ‘Malleny factor’. The heart says Chieftains – the head says Ayr – but the heart commands the head.
Very narrow home win.