Thursday 30 November 2017

Match Preview NL1 11: Accies v GHA

Saturday 2 December
1st XV v GHA, RP, 14:00

After the fine result against Heriot's (29-25) - which put us into the quarter finals of the BT Cup, where we will play Stirling County at their place on 10 February - and a week's break, we return to League duty this weekend.

Our visitors are GHA, who have been having an up and down season, although they are fourth in the table, winning six from ten, and are on 34 points, 15 behind us.

GHA have hit a reasonable spell of form. They beat Musselburgh (52-31) in the BT National Cup and in their last three League games beat Kelso (50-41) and Gala (41-27) at home, and narrowly lost to Selkirk (34-31) away. They also went down narrowly to Jed (26-25) at Riverside earlier in the season.

Those results demonstrate what we can expect: a team that seems to score lots of points but appears to leak them too. Overall they have scored 364 points (58 less than us) but conceded 259 points (nearly twice the number we have).

We expect to see Jamie McCarthy in the GHA squad this week. Jamie, who played for us for a number of years, moved West at the beginning of this season due to work. We hope you enjoy you brief return to Raeburn Place Jamie, but not too much!

With first playing fourth and Selkirk (third) playing Jed (second) this week, there is lots going on towards deciding the pecking order of the top teams in National 1. We have prepared well. We can only play what is in front of us on the pitch and we are sure the squad will perform at the level they and the coaches have pushed themselves towards to come away 11 out of 11.

Coach's Comments

"We are two weeks on from one of our biggest successes as a squad in three seasons, beating Heriot's in the BT Cup. The squad have been buoyed and energised by the performance in that game and it has carried into training. That being said, GHA come to RP at the weekend with an attacking mindset that our league counterparts have found hard to contain – scoring tries for fun, with an ambition to run the ball. So the difference between us will be in the defence, and the discipline applied by each player within our system to back it and buy in. This is a huge element of our DNA and defence excites us as much as attack. This is a great opportunity to start this difficult run of three games against a tricky side who could trouble us in more ways than one.

"Our Director of Rugby, Bob Easson, talks about a league campaign being a test of two things: your depth and your coaching. Some may think the former is being tested this week, but I do not see it that way. We used in excess of 55 players in season 16/17. We have built our depth so this week is not a test of it, it is a reflection of it.

"Ali Wood comes onto the bench to take a place in the 1st XV for the first time this season, while Angus Inwood returns to the starting line up on the back of some great performances off the bench. The unavailability of Sam Johnson, Robbie Chalmers and Matt Coupar means we field an unfamiliar backline but not one you could say has been de-powered in anyway. Conor Hirini returns to the starting line up, accompanied by Josh Pecqueur, with James Murray and Jack Forrester taking up the bench spots."

Our senior team for this week:

2nd XV v Stirling County 2nd XV, RP, 14:00

The 2nds play Stirling 2nds on the 2nd XV pitch and are in desperate need of a win. They started the season well, but have struggled against some strong 2nd XVs over the last few games. We are currently second bottom of the League, eight points behind Stirling, who have won one more game than us, but only one point behind Currie A - so there is an opportunity to move up a place if we can repeat our 19-11 win when we played at Stirling in September.

3rd XV v Currie B, Inverleith Park, 14:00

The Thirds - the self proclaimed Entertainers - entertain Currie B in Inverleith Park in the Reserve League East 1. We have struggled all season to get games played in this League. All clubs seem to find it difficult to get teams out, so many games are given as a 28-0 ’no show’ win. Letters from Murrayfield, threatening points deductions and expulsion from the League, flood the in-boxes of most clubs. Those who are best at ‘bluffing’ on calling off are probably gaining most from this trying system.

Over 90 players have played for the Club this season! Why we find it so hard to get three teams out of that I cannot understand - a 1st and 2nd squad of 20 each is 40 players, plus 15 for the 3rds, making 55 - which should mean 35 ‘spares’. If we cannot field a 3rd team it means 50 - yes 50 - players are unavailable for one reason or another.

We know how much effort the coaching team and team managers, especially Dougie and Niki, put into getting a 3rds out. Their easy weeks are when we get a team, their hard weeks when they are chasing players till Friday and fail to get a team. And all Murrayfield do in that circumstance is send another threatening letter. What a reward for hard working individuals.

Over the last few weeks all sorts of levels of teams have failed to take the field, from 1st XVs in the BT Cup first round, to 3rd XVs. There is something wrong with our League structures, which should be addressed quickly.

Let us hope we cross the line with 15 - or even 13 or 14 - 3rd XV players on Saturday. It is all that the Club expects and, what is more, it is what Dougie and Niki deserve for all their efforts.

Onwards and upwards!


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