Heriot’s coach Phil Smith is predicting fireworks when the holders travel to face Melrose In tomorrow’s BT Cup quarter final at the Greenyards.
With the league also approaching the play-off phase, there is no margin for error over the remainder of the campaign, and Smith, whose squad underwent a radical reshaping at the start of the season, is hoping the new faces will come of age tomorrow.
“As we enter the knockout rugby part of the season our new look squad are building in confidence, and maybe we can still make something out of the season with a couple of strong performances, starting this weekend,” he said relishing a repeat of last year’s final.
The Goldenacre side lifted the silverware for the fourth time when they emerged victorious at BT Murrayfield on that occasion. Matches between the two sides are traditionally hard fought and often high scoring affairs and there is no reason to doubt another close encounter tomorrow.
“The Greenyards will test this belief to the full as we play the in-form team of the season, at pretty much full strength,” he added. “It’s a cup cracker in the making.”
Melrose, who sit second in the BT Premiership table with a game in hand, go into the game with an eye on a possible league and cup double – a feat that also remains possible for Heriot’s.
Smith has Struan Cessford, Alex Hagart and John Rae available again, having missed the league encounter with the same opponents last month. Melrose took the honours in that meeting – a match that was spoiled as a spectacle by difficult conditions and a blunder by officials which led to Heriot’s finishing with 14 men after a red card that was later rescinded.
Despite that reverse, Smith’s men will not be daunted by the challenge they face tomorrow having posted a rare defeat at home for the Borderers earlier in the league campaign.
The hosts go into tomorrow’s match having had the benefit of a competitive encounter last weekend when they met Jedforest on Border League duty, and are bolstered by the release of Edinburgh lock Lewis Carmichael.
However, adding to the incentive for Heriot’s is the possibility that defeat could signal the end of the season, with Currie still having the opportunity to edge out the Goldenacre outfit in the race for the final BT Premiership play-off spot when they play Boroughmuir next week.
Before preparing for that encounter, Muir are focused on a securing a cup semi-final. Winners in 2015, the Meggetland men are on the road to meet Stirling County at Bridgehaugh. The prize for the winners will be a trip to face either Melrose or Heriot’s later this month.
The sides had one win apiece on league duty, with the winning margin on each occasion just seven points. That augurs well for a competitive affair tomorrow. However, despite being away from home, Muir go into the game in better fettle than their opponents having chalked up a bonus point win at Gala last time out – a result that guaranteed their top flight status for next season – while Stirling were on the receiving end of a defeat at home by Heriot’s. With the club’s league future now resolved, Muir coach Peter Wright is urging his men to savour the occasion.
“It’s a tough away match in the cup but with a semi-final place at stake there is everything to play for,” said Wright. “There is no league pressure, so hopefully the players can relax and have an enjoyable afternoon.”
Wright lists Rab Cairns in place of Grant McConnell, while Alex Cox starts at centre for Ronan Kerr, who is on the bench. There is a first start for flanker Dan Coulter, enabling Matt Tweddle to move into the second row, and Wright names prop Dan Winning on the bench after an absence through injury and Scotland Under-20 commitments.