Tennent’s Premiership: Round Eight preview – runners, riders and verdict

The top flight of the Scottish club games returns this weekend, with the ten Premiership clubs embarking on a potentially season-defining block of six games up to Christmas

Currie Chieftains head down to Riverside Park to take on Jed-Forest. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Currie Chieftains head down to Riverside Park to take on Jed-Forest. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE TENNENT’S PREMIERSHIP is back after a three week break, launching a potentially season-defining six week block of matches running through to Christmas.

After a draw last time out against Edinburgh Accies, leaders Marr will be keen to get back to winning ways when they travel to Balgray to take on west coast rivals Glasgow Hawks. The hosts will not make it easy for the men from Troon, however, with Andy Hill’s men taking confidence from their win over Hawick in their last league outing.

Second placed Currie Chieftains, who thumped an under-strength Aberdeen Grammar in last week’s rearranged fixture, also have a tough away assignment. They are at Riverside Park to take on Jed-Forest.

Meanwhile, Grammar will be keen to bounce back against Hawick, Musselburgh welcome GHA to Stoneyhill and Edinburgh Accies are on the road to Philiphaugh.

HOW IS STANDS –

PremiershipPWLDFADTBLBPts
Marr RFC98013731722017041
Currie Chieftains98103531402138040
Selkirk RFC9441246228185124
Aberdeen Grammar9540237319-824024
Hawick RFC8431209147624123
GHA RFC9360236321-856220
Glasgow Hawks RFC9360203257-544319
Edinburgh Accies8341211218-73017
Jed-Forest RFC9270211285-745316
Musselburgh RFC9270206398-1924113

THE LOWDOWN –

MUSSELBURGH v GHA

Venue: Stoneyhill @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Musselburgh: F Roddick; S Watt, R Smith, R Watt, G Tait; D Owenson, A Reddick; C Owenson, J Crain, C Arthur, W Fleming, C Pryde, M Maltman©, M Outram, L Hutson. Subs: E Bonthron, P Brown, G McKinstrey, C Champion, P Cunningham.

GHA: A Gillman; A Purewal, G Mollison, A Hughes, J Craig; J Anderson, G Baird; S Carson, H Clark, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy©, M Ryan, D Ewing, L McCutcheon. Subs: S Fisher, A Barnett, M Marinkovic, J MacKinnon, C Drummond.

TEAM NEWS –

Musselburgh: Couple of key men returning after injuries with captain Michael Maltman and Craig Owenson adding to Musselburgh’s experience up front.

GHA: Aaron Purewal comes back into the backs, along with Mike Ryan and Michael Fox in the forwards. Andrew Hughes will make his first XV debut at inside-centre.

KEY BATTLE: Rory Watt v Andrew Hughes.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“With the return to Stoneyhill and a couple of experienced players back we are looking forward to taking a further step forward following a good performance against Edinburgh Accies in the Cup. Both our games last season against GHA resulted in a number of tries for both sides in high scoring victories for each team. It is vital that we cut down on giving GHA any opportunities to score as they are definitely a threat with the ball …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)

“After a disappointing outing against Heriot’s in the Cup we are looking to bounce back this week against Musselburgh. We have trained well over the last two weeks and have worked on a few of our failings from the Cup game …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)

Verdict: A bad result for Musselburgh at Philiphaugh a fortnight ago – but even at that they played with a lot of spirit after the break – and  actually won the second half 26-22. They are a better side than their league position suggests. Craig Owenson and Michael Maltman will tighten up the pack – and they are not short of runners behind. Whether or not they can get their act together and keep it together for 80 minutes is the critical question.

By all accounts GHA did not turn up at Goldenacre for their cup tie against Heriots – but good players do not become bad players – and they will be looking to get their season firmly back on track in their usual swashbuckling style – though Charlie Lonergan’s continuing absence still appears to be testing the selection process.

Narrow away win.

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GLASGOW HAWKS v MARR

Venue: Balgray @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Glasgow Hawks: Y Alagilly; K Gossman, E Oag, C Harrison, M Priestly; L Brims, P Boyer; L Archer, J Gemmell, G Strain, S Halafihi, A Kirkland, S Leckey©, F Christie, R Sweeney. Subs: E Rintoul, S Dow, J Strain, M Stewart, M Godsman.

Marr: G Montgomery; R Dalgleish, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, J Scott; C Sturgeon, J Preston; W Farquhar, C McMillan, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: J Drummond, B Sweet, J Harvey, B Johnston, G Ness.

TEAM NEWS – 

Glasgow Hawks: Lyall Archer reverts back to prop with Sione Halafihi returning to the second-row. In the backs Yousif Alagilly moves to full-back from the wing so that Max Priestly can wear the No 11 jersey after impressing in training.

Marr: Scott Bickerstaff is with the Scottish 7s squad and Ollie Rossi is unavailable this weekend, Jack Scott and Curran McMillan come in. Ben Johnston could make his 100th appearance from the club from the bench.

KEY BATTLE: Ryan Sweeney v Benedict Grant.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We are looking forward to the game against Marr at the weekend after a couple of Saturdays off. Marr are unbeaten and will be on a high after Scott Bickerstaff’s selection in the Scotland 7s squad. Well done and well deserved from all at Hawks and it shows players can still transition into professional rugby from the Premiership. We need to put together an 80 minute performance that will test a formidable team. I am really looking forward to the challenge and how our boys front up …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

“After a week off, we have returned to training and prepared well for a tough physical challenge against Glasgow Hawks. After a tough start to the season they had a great away win at Hawick last time out so we will have to be at our best to get a win as they will hoping build momentum and move up the table …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)

Verdict: Hawks won last time out – against Hawick at Mansfield– but it was poor stuff – and they will need to play a deal more rugby if they are to seriously challenge Marr.

Marr have fought their way to the top of the league – but now comes the hard bit – staying there. Craig Redpath described their draw against Accies as a ‘wake-up’ call. Anything short of a convincing win against Hawks would really set the alarm bells ringing.

Comfortable away win.

The Thornwood
The Thornwood bar is delighted to support Glasgow Hawks

ABERCEEN GRAMMAR v HAWICK

Venue: Rubislaw @ 2pm

TEAMS –

Aberdeen Grammar: S Mills; N Brown, M Mitchell, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson©, J Troup; C Reddish, A Cook, M Schosser, A Robertson, R Cessford, B Inglis, J Spence, N Coe. Subs: D Walden, R Anderson, W Alton, P Ritchie, M Somerville.

Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, W Griebenow, A Mitchell, L Gordon-Woolley; A Weir©, Gareth Welsh; D Johnstone, M Carryer, C Greer-Bachurzewski, D Suddon, A Piotrowski, J Linton, S Graham, S Fairbairn. Subs: C Renwick, R Toogood, M Renwick, Glen Welsh, M Bannerman.

TEAM NEWS – 

Aberdeen Grammar: A number of players who missed the walloping at Currie last time out have returned to shake up the selection process this week. Andrew Cook starts at hooker with Aaron Robertson in the second-row while Ben Inglis, Jonny Spence and Nigel Coe make up the back-row.

Hawick: South African centre Wiaan Griebenow makes his return to Hawick colours after three years away. Jae Linton starts at blindside and Shaun Fairbairn moves to No.8 while Polish international duo Craig Greer-Bachurzewski and Adam Piotrowski start.

KEY BATTLE: Murray Mitchell v Wiaan Griebenow

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“Last week we know was a disjointed performance, but nevertheless one that we were very disappointed with. That gives us a real chance this week to put it right. We know Hawick are a class act and have some real big ball carriers in the team. We will need to front up defensively in a way that we didn’t manage to do last week in order to be competitive in this one. Hopefully home advantage and the long journey from the Borders works in our favour, but we know we are in for a really tough game …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)    

“We haven’t had the best form of late but we have had a good week’s training and the lads are up for bucking the trend. We will travel up as underdogs, but we will be looking to produce a good performance …” – George Graham (Hawick)

Verdict: A make shift team – a horrendous traffic jam – three hours on the bus – atrocious weather condition – an on-form Currie. Last Saturday was not a great day for Aberdeen Grammar. They are, however, now, more-or-less back to full strength – they are home at Rubislaw – and they will be looking to purge their demons.

It is a long haul from Hawick to Aberdeen – but the Hawick pack has a much better feel to it than it has for the past month or so – and Wiaan Griebenow will steady the young backs.  As George Graham suggests – it is a big ask – but not an impossible one.

Home Win

Savills

JED-FOREST v CURRIE CHIEFTAINS

Venue: Riverside Park @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Jed-Forest: L Young; S Paxton, Gregor Young©, R Marshall, G Munro; R Yourston, J McGough; G Paxton, F Scott, P Ferreira, B Saxton, G Law, D Tjombie, M Weekley, Garry Young. Subs: F Campbell, T Jeffrey, D Grieve, F Harkness, M Chisholm.

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; C Meager, S Hamilton, A Hall, A MacLean; G Hunter, G Christie; M Sonzogni Argiro G Carson, C Ramsay, M Poole, M Vernel©, R Vucango, H Ferguson, W Nelson. Subs: E Blair, J O’Brien, S Edwards, C Lessels, F Sayers.

TEAM NEWS – 

Jed-Forest: Finlay Scott, Brad Saxton and Diamondo Tjombie come into the Jed pack while on the bench Fraser Harkness, the former Scotland Sevens man, has dusted off his boots.

Currie Chieftains: Mike Vernel comes back into the team after being unavailable for selection last week and he captains the side in the absence of Fergus Scott (head knock). Josh O’Brien moves onto the bench and Hamish Ferguson starts in the backrow. Cairn Ramsey starts at hooker with Cammy Meager on the wing.

KEY BATTLE: Garry Young v Wallace Nelson.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“We’re being hit by quite a few injuries which is not making things easier for our set piece and for setting up a platform to play off, but the team are looking forward to playing at home …” – Gavin Kerr (Jed-Forest)

“Last week was our most complete performance of this season. The challenge now is to consistently perform at that level and central to this was the way we looked after the ball in tricky conditions. We know that anything less that our best will not be good enough to beat a Jed team who’s last defeat at home was back in the second week of the season …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)

VERDICT: Jed’s injury problems appear never ending – and, in truth, even with home advantage, it is very difficult to see them getting any change out of a Currie Cheftains side who looked very impressive against Aberdeen last week in atrocious weather conditions.

Away win

Apartments in Leith

SELKIRK v EDINBURGH ACCIES

Venue: Philiphaugh @ 3pm

TEAMS –

Edinburgh Accies: J Loomes; J Pecqueur, R Wilson, N Armstrong, M Campbell; R Bonner, M Love; C Imrie, S Crombie, C Lacour, A Inwood, D Dineen, C Thomson, J Sole©, R Campbell. Subs: K Jenkins, C Lamberton, P O’Sullivan, J Bruce, B Grainger.

TEAM NEWS – 

Edinburgh Accies: Jamie Loomes moves to full-back with Matt Campbell in on the win. Ruaridh Bonner is at stand-off while Chris Thomson returns to the back-row.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS –

“Back to action after a break and the boys are excited about the challenge Philiphaugh will bring …” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)

VERDICT:  A fighting draw away to Marr last time out – Philiphaugh will hold no fears for Edinburgh Accies – particularly if Jamie Sole can play to the form he showed at Fullarton – and Ruairidh Bonner can slip back into the old routine.

Narrow away win.


National One preview: upbeat Sangster looks forward to Dundee’s long trip north

National Two preview: Falkirk and Glasgow Accies aim to ease away from danger

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1552 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

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