It’s been a rare old season in the BT Premiership. Incredibly close matches, high scoring draws and a new play-off process to decide the eventual winners. After winning the regular league season by ten points, justice was served as Heriots also won narrowly the Playoff final and Edinburgh Accies were relegated, to be replaced next season by an impressive looking Selkirk RFC.
This is the bit where I now go through each teams season and compare their eventual finishing place to the ones I predicted back in August.
The narrow Playoff Final win against Melrose, in which Heriots dug out a win through some excellent phase play deep into injury time, was just reward for what has been a truly wonderful season at Goldenacre. They finished the league 10 points clear and without much bombast or the use of expensive signings this squad was consistently the best in the premiership this year by far. Even when they lost, it was usually only by a handful of points and those bonus points can, and did, make a big difference. Congratulations to all at Heriots, worthy champions.
Original SRB Prediction: 3rd – Another solid season for The Nails.
Generally a good season at Millbrae but they’ll be disappointed with some unexpected losses. Hawick (home and away) and Boroughmuir at home are the stand-out surprises but these are somewhat tempered by impressive wins over Melrose and Heriots. Losing the Playoff Semi –Final by two points at home to Melrose will be a bitter pill to swallow but in many respects is indicative of how their year went. Close but not quite good enough.
Original SRB Prediction: 2nd – Still strong enough for a shot at the title.
Sitting in the Borders General Hospital in Mid-August next to a broken armed Joe Helps, I wondered how long the influential winger would be out for and how this would affect Melrose’s’ season. The Greenyards didn’t see Helps again until the New Year and by that time early losses to Boroughmuir, Hawick and Stirling had made defending the title an uphill struggle. Melrose have a strong squad but competing in the BT Premiership, BT Cup, Booker Border League and an extensive Sevens programme takes its toll. That said, they had, overall, a good season, ending up only 2 points short of winning an unlikely Premiership crown.
Original SRB Prediction: 1st – Champions
Very much the clichéd season of two halves. In trouble with only a three wins and (bizarrely) two draws before Christmas they pulled things around to finish the league season with four wins on the bounce and a narrow loss to Heriots in the Semi-Finals. Replacing Donaldson and Hogg was always going to be an upheaval but Ben Cairns and Ferg Pringle proved, towards the end of the season, that their formula was proving successful. An excellent achievement.
Original SRB Prediction: 10th – Young coaching team have big boots to fill and have lost some key personnel on and off the field.
Something of a mixed season for George Graham and his Gala men. At times they looked capable of winning silverware whereas there were also games in which they looked very pedestrian too. Missing McQuillin (Melrose), Sutherland (Edinburgh) and their talisman Opie Palepoi (near retirement) they were often a bullied up front and lacked some leadership on the field. A transition season. Expect them to come roaring back next term.
Original SRB Prediction: 5th – Some rebuilding required but still a force.
It’s easy to forget how difficult things were looking for the Robbie Dye’s come late November last year. Three wins from their opening ten games had them floundering at the wrong end of the table. Slowly things began to turn and results were ground out, Hawick style. Considering the outcomes that could have happened had their form not improved, finishing comfortably mid-table should be a satisfactory conclusion for rookie coach Nikki Walker.
Original SRB Prediction: 6th – Mansfield Park will be a (more) difficult place to visit this season.
Glasgow Hawks RFC
Losing head coach Jamie Dempsey in November to the new West of Scotland Academy undoubtedly affected Hawks this season. With patchy form already, the Old Anniesland men continued their pattern of win, one lose one throughout the season without ever hitting any consistent form. Luckily it was enough (just) to see them finish level on points with Boroughmuir and only two points ahead of Stirling. A new coach, a good preseason and Hawks should rebuild next time out.
Original SRB Prediction: 4th – This years surprise package.
A magnificent start, winning away at Melrose, was then followed by a bruising few months in which the club tail-spinned to second bottom. Arguably, Muir made the best use of their drafted Pro Players with Berghan, McNally, Cochrane and Bezuidenhout featuring regularly and dynamically for them. However, it took a late run of form (including winning the BT Cup) to drag them out of danger. A tough acclimatisation to life in the top league.
Original SRB Prediction: 8th – Will be lucky to avoid the relegation dogfight but should have enough.
Stirling County RFC
A difficult year for the Bridgehaugh club ending in a (comfortable) play-off win against GHA to maintain their top league status. Would have potentially been in more trouble had their losing bonus points not been higher than any other in the league (11). 2014/15 will be chalked down as a transitional season and County will want to progress out of their current predicament next time around.
Original SRB Prediction: 9th – Overhaul may take time to work.
Edinburgh Academical FC
Phil Leck has had something of a baptism of fire in his first year at Accies. Relegated due to some dismal form and housing some of the worst facilities in the top-end of Scottisgh rugby (due to the development of Raeburn Place, this was a memeorable season for all the wrong reasons. Plus points will be Leck beating his old club Hawick at Mansfield Park and a home win to Ayr but ultimately his side just couldn’t score enough points to stay in the division.
SRB Prediction: 7th – Good enough to avoid relegation, not strong enough to make a real impact.