MUSSELBURGH’S win over GHA last week means that there are now just 11 points between third and tenth in the table.
Marr and Chieftains appear to be nailed down for two of the four play-off places, but the rest of the Premiership sides will realise that they have everything to play for and everything to lose.
In terms of this weekend –
- GHA on 19 points entertain Selkirk on 20
- Hawick on 18 points entertain Jed on 16
- Glasgow Hawks on 14 points entertain Edinburgh Accies on 17
- Marr and Chieftains will be wary of being pulled back towards the chasing pack
The table could look very different on Saturday night to the way it does now.
Interesting times in the ‘not fit for purpose’ Premiership!
HOW IT STANDS –
THE LOWDOWN –
GLASGOW HAWKS v EDINBURGH ACCIES
Venue: Balgray @ 2pm
Glasgow Hawks: Y Alagilly; K Gossman, E Oag, C Harrison, M Priestly; L Brims, P Boyer; L Archer, J Gemmell, G Strain, R Jackson, S Leckey©, S Dow, F Christie, R Sweeney. Subs: P Henderson, E Rintoul, S Dow, G Brown, M Stewart, N Moffat.
Edinburgh Accies: J Loomes; J Pecqueur, R Wilson, N Armstrong, M Campbell; R Bonner, M Love; D Anderson, S Crombie, C Lacour, A Inwood, C Bain, P O’Sullivan, J Sole©, R Campbell. Subs: R Gregor, C Lamberton, J Bruce, M Sinclair, R Mill.
TEAM NEWS –
Glasgow Hawks: With Sione Halafihi injured and Andrew Kirkland unavailablE, there is a change in the engine room with Rory Jackson set to make his debut and captain Stephen Leckey moving forward from the back-row. Struan Dow is in at six.
Edinburgh Accies: David Anderson comes in at loosehead prop with second-row Cameron Bain and back-row Patrick O’Sullivan also earning starts. On the bench, Richard Mill returns after playing for Scotland 7s in Spain last weekend.
KEY BATTLE: David Anderson v Gary Strain
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“A better performance last week but we have still to play for the full 80 minutes. Accies managed a great win against Selkirk last week and were a point better than us versus Marr. They will be desperate to finish off their away run with a win. We have to focus on our own performance, take the positives from last weekend and take another step forward …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)
“Our penultimate game on the road for this season and we are well aware of the physical challenge that Glasgow Hawks will pose. We have some changes to the pack while our backline has a settled look to it … ” – Iain Berthinussen (Edinburgh Accies)
VERDICT: Both teams finally hit their straps last week. Hawks have struggled all season but having finally managed to introduce some sort of continuity into selection they had a much better shape about them against Marr – and were very unlucky to lose. They have, however, needed to patch up their second-row this week – and that might hurt.
Jamie Sole was on fire for Accies’ high-octane smash and grab down at Philiphaugh last week and they will be looking for more of the same at Balgray, having shown enough confidence in their young backs to start Scotland 7s returnee, Richard Mills, on the bench.
Narrow away win.
MARR v ABERDEEN GRAMMAR
Venue: Fullarton Park @ 2pm
Marr: G Montgomery; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff©, J Scott; C Sturgeon, J Preston; W Farquhar, O Rossi, C Henderson, E Hamilton-Bulger, F Grant, M Pearce, R Brown, B Grant. Subs: A Muir, B Sweet, C Cunningham, J Harvey, K Diffenthal.
Aberdeen Grammar: A Ovenstone; C Ruxton, S Mills, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson©, J Troup; C Reddish, M Schosser, R Anderson, N Coe, A Robertson, D Wallen, J Spence, W Alton. Subs: M Martin, VIfy Ojogwu, C Robertson, P Ritchie, M Somerville.
TEAM NEWS –
Marr: Scott Bickerstaff has returned from Scotland 7s duty and starts on the wing, while Ollie Rossi earns a start at hooker in place of the unavailable Curran McMillan. Andrew Muir and assistant coach Kenny Diffenthal are on the bench.
Aberdeen Grammar: Nathan Brown is carrying a shoulder injury so Calum Ruxton comes in on the wing and Sean Mills moves up from full-back to centre to replace Murray Mitchell. In the pack, German international Mattias Schosser moves to hooker from tighthead prop with Ross Anderson wearing number three. Nigel Coe moves up to the second-row to replace the injured Robin Cessford, with Dominic Wallen and Will Alton handed starts in the back-row.
KEY BATTLE: Scott Bickerstaff v Doug Russell
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“After a couple of defeats, Aberdeen will be seeking to obtain a positive result at Fullarton. We are looking forward to the challenge and our contests against Aberdeen have always been a physical and flowing game. The Glasgow Hawks game demonstrated that we have to play well to win any games in this league …” – Craig Redpath (Marr)
“Marr is always a tough one for us. Our record is not great down there and off the back of two poor performances it doesn’t get any easier. We mix and match in the forwards again, but retain Jonny Spence at openside after a superb defensive performance last week against Hawick. Put simply, our defence must improve on recent performances or points will be difficult to come by this weekend …” – Ali O’Connor (Aberdeen Grammar)
VERDICT: Aberdeen appear to have lost their way over the past fortnight – and Fullarton Park is not the place for lost souls – particularly without Nathan Brown and Robin Cessford.
Another banana skin Marr need to avoid.
GHA v SELKIRK
Venue: Braidholm @ 2pm
GHA: G Mollison; R O’Keefe, C Lonergan, A Hughes, A Scott; J MacKinnon, A Gillman; S Carson, H Clark, E McLaren, A Barnett, J McCarthy©, M Marinkovic, M Ryan, L McCutcheon. Subs: M Fox, T Brogan, E Hardie, G Baird, J Anderson.
TEAM NEWS –
GHA: Jamie MacKinnon gets his first start at 10 this week with the return of Charlie Lonergan at 13. Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 3 player Euan McLaren of the Ayrshire Bulls is at tighthead prop to help with his recovery from injury.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS –
“The last couple of games have been disappointing for us as we the coaches and players know we have a lot more to give. we really need to get back on track this week with a win and look to kick on in this league. Selkirk are a good side who will bring a huge challenge for us, anyone can beat anyone in the league as you have seen so far this season. Training has been good this week, work rate and a more controlled game over 80 minutes is what we are looking for …” – Trevor Carmichael (GHA)
VERDICT: Despite their set-back at Musselburgh last week, GHA are a much better side than Trevor Carmichael cares to admit (publicly) – and Charlie Lonergan’s return from injury should be a big fillip. With home advantage they have to be favourites.
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HAWICK v JED-FOREST
Venue: Mansfield Park @ 3pm
Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, W Griebenow, A Mitchell, L Gordon-Woolley; A Weir©, G Welsh; R Toogood, M Carryer, D Johnstone, D Suddon, A Piotrowski, J Linton, S Graham, S Fairbairn. Subs: C Renwick, C Greer-Bachurzewski, M Renwick, B McNeil, M Bannerman.
Jed-Forest: L Young; C Young, Gregor Young©, R Marshall, G Munro; R Yourston, J McGough; G Paxton, F Scott, T Jeffrey, B Saxton, G Law, D Tjombie, M Weekley, Garry Young. Subs: F Campbell, A Keeler, AN Other, D Grieve, N Stingl.
TEAM NEWS –
Hawick: The starting XV is unchanged. On the bench, Bruce McNeil returns after a family wedding last week, along with Craig Greer-Bachurzewski following international duty with Poland, to make up a very strong set of ‘finishers’.
Jed-Forest: Tom Jeffrey earns a start at tighthead prop while Callum Young is back from Scotland 7s duty in Spain and is on the wing. Adam Keeler joins the replacements bench.
KEY BATTLE: Gareth Welsh v Jye McGough.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“I could not have asked for a better performance last week from 1 to 20. The lads got into a rhythm and enjoyed the game. This week brings a totally different challenge with Jed who have struggled to get consistency just like us. They have excellent backs and have got their pack back to near full strength so I am under no illusions that this will be a very tough game. Hopefully we can put on a show for the Mansfield faithful who haven’t had much to cheer about lately.” – George Graham (Hawick)
“I was pleased with the way we controlled the game against Currie for most of the first half. We had the ascendancy up until we got a yellow card and we have to build from that.” – Gavin Kerr (Jed-Forest)
VERDICT: A good old fashioned Border derby. Great stuff from Hawick last week – but was it the real deal – or a flash in the pan?
With a half reasonable share of the ball Jed can beat anybody – but can they keep their discipline for eighty minutes?
Narrow home win.
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS v MUSSELBURGH
Venue: Malleny Park @ 3pm
Currie Chieftains: F Sayers; C Meager, S Hamilton, A Hall, A MacLean; G Hunter, G Christie; G Carson, F Scott©, M Sonzogni Argiro, M Poole, M Vernel, H Ferguson, W Nelson, R Vucango. Subs: R Patterson, C Ramsay, S Edwards, R Davies, S King.
Musselburgh: F Roddick; S Watt, R Smith, R Watt, G Tait; D Owenson, A Reddick; C Owenson, B Stott, C Arthur, W Fleming, P Brown, M Maltman©, C Pryde, L Hutson. Subs: J Crain, J Haynes, C Champion, M Outram, P Cunningham.
TEAM NEWS –
Currie Chieftains: The pack is strengthened by the return of front-rows Matais Sonzogni Argiro and Fergus Scott, with last week’s man-of-the-match Roy Vucango moving from hooker to No 8. In the backs, Fraser Sayers starts at 15 due to Charlie Brett being unavailable after picking up an injury last week against Jed.
Musselburgh: Bob Stott comes into the starting front-row following good performance for the second XV last week and Euan Bonthron drops out on rotation of subs. Two good performances off the bench earn Paddy Brown a start at second-row.
KEY BATTLE: Roy Vucango v Luke Hutson
WHAT THE COACHES SAY –
“Jed put us under real pressure in the first half last week and I was really pleased with how the boys adapted and found a way to win the match. This week we expect a tough game at home to Musselburgh who in recent weeks have performed well, beating GHA away and loosing narrowly to Accies in the Cup. They have a physical pack and a backline who are dangerous on the front foot …” – Mark Cairns (Currie Chieftains)
“A great win last week against GHA and having a couple of experienced forwards in Craig Owenson and Michael Maltman back in the side obviously helped, but it will not count for anything unless we continue to back that up, and improvement in some areas will be required if we are to repeat the result against Currie who are one of the league’s top sides. That said, I believe that we can go to Malleny and get a result if we apply ourselves to the task for 80 minutes. Last week has given us a great deal of confidence and knowing we will be written off by most before a ball is kicked will motivate us to show what we can do …” – Graeme Paterson (Musselburgh)
VERDICT: Musselburgh made a big statement last week against GHA – but Chieftains at Malleny is different proposition altogether.
They need to hang in there – and take what they can out of the game – but, most importantly, ensure that they come out of it with their shape, structures and confidence intact.