It’s the business end of the BT Premiership season and things are beginning to heat up nicely. Saturday will see the resumption of hostilities following an International break which has seen most sides competing in Cup fixtures, friendlies and/or the Border League.
With ten games already played and eight left to go, the battle to land the top four places looks as fierce as the one to avoid relegation. We run the rule over all the league teams (as per current places in the table) and assess their chances of survival or glory.
Five wins from their last six games and some outstanding form from their dangerous backs has Ayr in pole position for a top of the table finish and home advantage in the play-off semi-finals. The only concern will be the manner of their 35-7 loss to Heriots at Goldenacre which was both comprehensive and costly. Three out of their next four fixtures are against teams struggling in the league and they will need to capitalise on these in order to maintain their position at the summit.
Costly is the only way to describe the 20-18 loss away to Hawks in the last round of fixtures. The fact that Hawks seem to be a bogey team for the Nails will not sit comfortably with the Edinburgh club. Nor will a trip to Hawick on Saturday make for an easy route to redeem some form and some league points. Arguably Heriots have been playing some of the best rugby in the Premiership this season but there is a worrying vulnerability that will need to be mitigated before any silverware becomes a reality.
When firing on all cylinders this ‘Rose team look as good as anyone of their peers if not better. However they are a bit too fond of shooting themselves in the foot when it is least expected. Wins against the likes of Gala and Heriots are tempered by losses to Hawick and Ayr. They have the squad and the means to win this league title but do they have the consistency? Saturday’s home game against Stirling has a real cup final look about it and the Greenyards will expect a win to consolidate their league position.
Three losses on the bounce to title rivals Ayr, Heriots and Melrose has been a sobering start to the winter for George Graham and his Gala side. Two tough away fixtures at Currie and Hawks are then followed by a border derby with Hawick at home. With Stirling county hot on their heels, the Maroons need to find some form quickly if they are to convert their early season promise into a successful league placing.
- Stirling County
Like many teams in the table County are frustratingly inconsistent but still very much in the mix to qualify for the play-offs. There are only two points between their current fifth placing and Melrose in third with Gala making up the filling in that qualification sandwich. With only two of those three likely to qualify, Stirling’s games against Melrose (Saturday) and Gala (10th Jan) will be hugely important. Still possible and still very much in their hands.
Extraordinarily Currie have drawn their last two games against Hawick and Hawks respectively and prior to that lost by only a single point to Stirling County. If nothing it shows that Currie have the means to be competitive (or at least on a par with) teams in this league. In Ross Weston they have a true talisman and it is testament to rookie coach Ben Cairns that he has not only steadied a shaky squad but has fought and scraped his team up to sixth place in a very open and unpredictable campaign.
- Glasgow Hawks
Fans of the Old Anniesland side was seen nothing short of a tooth and nail fight from their club to achieve the (relatively) secure mid-table position they currently occupy. Their last four games have seen a draw, two wins by less than a couple of points and a one point loss. Ayr (a), Gala (h) and Melrose (a) await before the new year and points from any of those fixtures will be a big bonus and go a long way to deciding where Hawks finish in the table.
Good wins in the Cup and the Border League have augmented a league win over Boroughmuir and a creditable draw with Currie. Momentum is everything and after topsy-turvy period the Teries will want to kick-on. Unfortunately their next three games are against top four teams in Heriots (a), Ayr (h) and Gala (a) which may prove tough going. There is a resilience about this Hawick side though and you wouldn’t bet against them causing an upset in one of those fixtures.
Troubled times at Meggatland with a five point gap opened above them and Accies finding some form two points behind them. On a horrible run of only one win in their last seven Premiership fixtures the tough games just keep coming. None more so than Saturday’s ‘ten-pointer’ against Accies at home. Lose this one and it will be difficult to recover any form of traction against Melrose (h), Currie (a), Heriots (h) and Ayr (a) thereafter.
10. Edinburgh Accies
After gaining the all-important first win against his old team Hawick in October, Phil Leck and Accies followed it up with an impressive win over Stirling County and a narrow loss at home to Melrose. A huge game against Boroughmuir on Saturday will all but decide whether safety is a realistic option or if perhaps it is too little too late for this season at least.