A FASCINATING TUSSLE is in store at Goldenacre this Saturday afternoon with third placed Heriot’s hosting fourth placed Currie Chieftains in a capital derby with all the makings of a classic.
The Chieftains were convincing winners the last time the two sides met, in Scotland’s first indoor competitive rugby match at the Oriam facility on Heriot Watt’s Riccarton campus last March, so revenge will be on the agenda for Phil Smith’s men. But the away team will feel they also have a point to prove against one of the three Edinburgh teams awarded a Super 6 franchise ahead of them. Both sides have shown the potential to be serious contenders for the title in this last ever Premiership season, but consistency has let them down so far – this isa golden opportunity to generate some serious momentum by capturing a significant scalp.
Across the city, Boroughmuir – another Edinburgh side which has flattered to deceive this season – host league leaders Ayr, who have set the benchmark when it comes to consistency with five wins from five outings so far, including a convincing success against champions Melrose last weekend.
Meanwhile, over in the west, Glasgow Hawks need to pick themselves up off the ground, dust themselves down and show Watsonians that last week’s shambolic second half performance against the Chieftains is not going to be allowed to define their season.
Stirling County will travel to Melrose knowing what it feels like to win there, having got a result when the two sides met at the Greenyards in the Charity Shield before this campaign kicked-off, but this time there is league points up for grabs and it is going to be a real test of Eddie Pollock’s young side’s mettle.
Perhaps the game with the most at stake is at Mansfield Park, where the two winless teams in the league clash. It is, quite simply, a must-win match for both Hawick and Edinburgh Accies.
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
GLASGOW HAWKS v WATSONIANS
VENUE: Balgray @ 3.00pm
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; G Faulds, R Beattie, M New, M Godsman; L Brims, K Barreto; G Strain©, P Cairncross, L Skinner, A Kirkland, F Hastie, S Dow, G Wilson, G Adams. Subs: P Henderson, D York, J McLean, S Peffers, R Thompson.
Watsonians: J Rowland; A Guthrie, R Hutton©, D Innes, P Cunningham; L Millar, N Fowles; G Jackson, F Renwick, J Stanley, J Hodgson, J Miller, C Boyle, R Graham, M Fedo. Subs: D Ferguson, G Nelson, A O’Neil, M Scott, E Fox.
TEAM NEWS –
Glasgow Hawks: Paul Cairncross, Gavin Wilson, Kaleem Baretto, Murray Godsman and Glen Faulds all come in to make their first starts of the year, Paul Henderson has also been called back from Glasgow Accies – his duelled club – to provide front-row cover.
Watsonians: In the pack, James Miller and Michael Fedo come in for the injured duo of Craig Borthwick and Finlay Simpson. Behind the scrum, Nathan Fowles is released by Edinburgh and starts at scrum-half, with Murray Scott dropping to the bench. Paul Cunningham returns to the starting side for Darcy Graham.
KEY BATTLE: Kaleem Baretto versus Nathan Fowles
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We have had to do a bit of soul searching this week and had some very honest conversations about our standards and where we want to be by the end of the season. Everybody trained really well on Tuesday night and it looked like the players had a bit more fire in their belly than we had previously seen. I cannot wait to see the reaction that these players give on Saturday, we rolled over in the last 20 minutes last week and we have promised that that will never happen again at this club. Watsonians have had some really good performances this year and will be desperate to get themselves back into that top four. As ever, Stevie will have his boys excellently prepared and we are excited for the challenge …” – Fin Gillies (Glasgow Hawks)
“A good day at Myreside last week with plenty attacking rugby from both teams. Glasgow Hawks represent a massive challenge at Balgray. They were right in the game last week against Currie until an unfortunate yellow card for Gary Strain. We will need to be at our very best to get the performance required …” – Stevie Lawrie (Watsonians)
VERDICT: It’s a long way back for Hawks after last week’s Malleny Park capitulation and without a pro player boost this will be a real test of the morale of this squad. Watsonians are beginning to build up a head of steam and this might be one of those occasions when the performance is more important than the result for the home team.
MELROSE v STIRLING COUNTY
VENUE: The Greenyards @ 3.00pm
Melrose: F Thomson; G Wood, G Taylor, C Jackson, M Muelace-Julyan; J Baggott, M McAndrew; G Shiels, R Anderson, C Young, J Head, A Runciman, P Eccles, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: F Scott, R McLeod, B Colvine, A Jardine, I Sim.
Stirling County: J Hope©; A McLean, E Macgarvie, C Robertson, C Jardine; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, R Kennedy, M Walker, J Pow, C Henderson, R Bundy, S MacDonald, H Burr. Subs: K Bryce, B Dineen, A Grant Suttie, H Henderson, R Swan.
TEAM NEWS –
Melrose: Jason Baggott and George Taylor have been released by Edinburgh and start at fly-half and outside centre, respectively. Michael Muelace-Julyan and Gavin Wood return on the wings, and exciting young centre Andrew Jardine is set to make his debut for off the bench. Peter Eccles is the only change in the pack for the injured Ruaridh Knott.
Stirling County: Craig Robertson, Craig Jardine and Ross Bundy return to the starting line-up with Grant Hughes, Glasgow Warriors pro Ratu Tagive and George Arnott unavailable this week.
KEY BATTLE: Iain Moody versus Hamilton Burr
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“We welcome Eddie and his young Stirling County squad are playing with passion and at a pace that if not defended well will definitely cause us problems. We have worked hard this week and are looking forward to being at home this weekend for what is sure to be an exciting and entertaining game …” – Rob Chrystie (Melrose)
“We were disappointed not to win at home against a strong Heriots fifteen and we are looking to continue what have been consistently strong performances against the champions, who are strengthened by their returning first year professionals. Rob and his Melrose side will be smarting from their loss at Ayr and will undoubtedly offer us a huge physical challenge …” – Eddie Pollock (Stirling County)
VERDICT: County came out on top at the Greenyards in the Charity Shield at the start of the season, but this is for league points and Melrose need to get back on track after last week’s Ayr defeat. Experience and returning firepower for the home team will be decisive.
HAWICK v EDINBURGH ACADEMICALS
VENUE: Mansfield Park @ 3.00pm
Hawick: K Ford; K Young, A Mitchell, D Buckley, F Robson; L Armstrong, D Lightfoot; S Muir©, M Carryer, R Macleod, D Suddon, D Redpath, S Graham, D Davison, B McNeil. Subs: C Renwick, J Linton, D Lowrie, K Davies, K Brunton.
Edinburgh Accies: T Brown; C Gray, G Spencer, W Stephen, R Chalmers; V Hart, R Davis; C Taylor, C Black©, J Pearse, T Welding, R Lovett, J Sole©, N Hall, R Campbell. Subs: A Wood, C Imrie, L Seydak, R Mill, N Armstrong.
TEAM NEWS –
Hawick: Pietro Ceccarelli is not released by Edinburgh this week so Ruaridh Macleod regains his spot at tight-head in an otherwise unchanged pack. Lee Armstrong moves to stand-off and Kirk Ford comes in at full-back after impressing in recent weeks for the 2nd XV [Force]. Jae Linton and David Lowrie join the bench.
Edinburgh Accies: Tom Brown is once again released by Edinburgh to represent the club where he started his senior career. The return of three key leaders in Jamie Sole, Lawrie Seydak and Richard Mill is a big boost – and the latter two will hope to make a big impact off the bench in what looks likely to be a tense final quarter.
KEY BATTLE: Dalton Redpath versus Robert Lovett
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Anything other than a win this week will be unacceptable. Accies are also chasing their first victory of the season so will be as desperate as us. They got a losing bonus point last week which will give them something to build on. The lads know what I expect on Saturday and I know they can give it to me …” – George Graham (Hawick)
“It is always a challenge to go and get a result at Mansfield and Saturday will be no different. We cannot shy away from the fact that we are both desperate for that first win in what has been a very challenging opening quarter for both sides. Our aim is to improve week on week and keep knitting the parts of our game together, that has been our focus through training and it will be our intention at the weekend …” – Derek O’Riordan (Edinburgh Accies)
VERDICT: “Pressure is for tyres and bouncy castles,” said Derek O’Riordan before round two. We are now entering round six and Accies are still winless – plus, all of a sudden, the spectre of relegation is back on the table (according to last week’s club questionnaire). The Raeburn place men have endured a baptism of fire on their return to the Premiership, coming up exclusively against Super 6 opposition, but only once – against Heriot’s – have they really been played off the park. They should take encouragement from their performance when picking up a losing bonus point at home to Boroughmuir last week – but bad luck stories become a bit boring after a while. Hawick are in a similar boat – but they’ve been here before and are on their own patch, which should give them a decisive edge.
BOROUGHMUIR v AYR
VENUE: Meggetland @ 3.00pm
Boroughmuir: R Arthur; R Kerr, W Wardlaw, G Cannie, J Edmunds; T Weersma, J Hamilton; R Dunbar, J Matthews©, R Montgomery, T Drennan, C Atkinson, A Mncube, C Keddie, R Drummond. Subs: J Steele, D Marfo, S Nayalo, M Johnstone, G Parker.
Ayr: G Anderson; D McCluskey, P Kelly, S McDowall, K Rowe; F Climo, D Armstrong; J Bhatti, R Smith, S Longwell, D Corbenici, M Sykes, T Spinks, G Henry, B Macpherson©. Subs: P MacArthur, E McLaren, A North, O Smith, R Nairn.
TEAM NEWS –
Boroughmuir: Rory Arthur switches from centre to full-back with Gavin Parker dropping to the bench. Ronan Kerr comes on to the wing for the injured Kerr Gossman, and Jack Hamilton replaces the injured Tom Wilson at scrum-half. Robin Weersma gets a start at 10 with Greg Cannie moving to 12. In the forwards, Ross Dunbar, Callum Atkinson and Rory Drummond come back in to the starting fifteen, with Edinburgh pro Darryl Marfo dropping to the bench. Jack Steele also returns to the squad on the bench.
Ayr: Same forwards as last week, and one change in the backs with Danny McCluskey coming in for Glasgow pro Rory Hughes. Two changes on the bench from last week, with academy prospects Euan McLaren and Ollie Smith coming in after excellent performances last week for the second team.
KEY BATTLE: Johnny Matthews versus Robbie Smith
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Even though we won last week we were hugely disappointed in the performance and we know if we play like that against Ayr we will be swept away …” – Peter Wright (Boroughmuir)
“The match last week was a good result and a step forward for us; however, we need to be more ruthless and not let teams back into the game. We are looking forward to playing another top six team this weekend. Boroughmuir have a number of threats across their line-up, and are playing an expansive brand of rugby. We will need to be at our best both physically and mentally to get a result this weekend …” – Peter Murchie (Ayr)
VERDICT: “If you play crap and win, I suppose that is better than playing crap and losing,” said Peter Wright, after scraping past Edinburgh Accies at Raebrun Place. Which is all well and good against one of the league’s strugglers, but if you play crap against a team in as rampant form and with as much class right across the park as Ayr are at the moment, then you are going to be in big trouble. Even if Boroughmuir’s performance as a whole starts to add up to something approaching the sum of its parts, it is still hard to see the league leaders dropping points here.
HERIOT’S v CURRIE CHIEFTAINS
VENUE: Goldenacre @ 3.00pm
Heriot’s: J Blain; R McMichael, R Jones©, R Kay, C Robertson; S Edwards, A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Bell, C Marshall, M Hughes, J McLean, R Leishman. Subs: A Johnstone, J Scott, S Johnstone, A Ball, C Simpson.
Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson©, S Hamilton; G Hunter, C Shiel; A McWilliam, G Carson, F Watt, R Davies, M Vernel, L Crosbie, T Gordon, S McGinley. Subs: C Wilson, M Agiro, M Kelly, R Frostwick, A Hall.
TEAM NEWS –
Heriot’s: Robert Kay’s return sees Stuart Edwards move to 10 and Dougie Steele drop out. In the forwards, Michael Liness returns to the starting line-up, with Ali Johnstone dropping to the bench. Adam Sinclair and captain Iain Wilson are unavailable, which means Callum Bell gets his second start, linking up with fit again Callum Marshall in the second-row, while Ruaridh Leishman reverts to number eight. Sean Johnstone will get a chance to make his debut from the bench.
Currie Chieftains: Greg Peterson and Tevita Tameilau are back with the Warriors this week so Rhys Davies and Scott McGinley return to the starting team. Argentinean tight-head prop Matias Sonzogni Argiro, signed from FC Auch Gersin France during the summer, will make his first appearance of the season off the bench. Marc Kelly, Roan Frostwick and Adam Hall also come onto the bench.
KEY BATTLE: Martin Hughes versus Luke Crosbie
WHAT THE COACHED SAY –
“A tight win last weekend has meant the players have continued to work hard, recognising there is not an easy fixture in this league and sometimes hard work wins games. Our opponents this weekend, Currie Chieftains, will present a similar challenge to Stirling, in that they are excellent at keeping the ball and putting you under pressure. We will be looking to do the simple things well and apply our own pressure at the right time in the right areas …” – Phil Smith (Heriot’s)
“Another good performance last week at Malleny. The challenge now is to take that form away from home, something we have not managed so far this season. The boys are starting to understand the work that goes in during the week to produce consistency in performance at the weekend and we feel we are starting to turn a corner in this regard. Heriots have been in good form so far this season with a strong pack and a good blend of youth and experience. There have been some terrific matches between the two sides in recent seasons, normally going down to the last play. This weekend’s match will likely be the same with the ability to convert chances into points probably key…” – Ben Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
VERDICT: This is about much more than third versus fourth for the Chieftains – they have a point to prove. They got the better of Boroughmuir at home in round one, but since then they have played two more Super 6 teams on the road and come up short on both occasions, so they will be determined to avoid a hat-trick of losses against the chosen few – especially against one of the Edinburgh triumvirate. The key will be whether their scrum can stack up (and prime Argentinean beef coming off the bench could be helpful on that front) – if it does then they have enough firepower across the park to get the job done.