Heriot’s set to throw everything at leaders Melrose

ON A MISSION: Max Learmonth is determined to rectify last week's defeat by Hawick. Picture: Toby Williams
ON A MISSION: Max Learmonth is determined to rectify last week's defeat by Hawick. Picture: Toby Williams
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Heriot’s entertain Melrose tomorrow in what is being described as a “make-or-break” Premiership rugby clash for the Capital outfit.

Defeat by Hawick last week has left Heriot’s seven points behind the league leaders and three-quarter Max Learmonth insists preparations have been made for an “all-or-nothing” effort.

Says Learmonth: “We have to be ready to throw the kitchen sink at Melrose. It really is make or break.

“Last week was very frustrating; for various reasons we weren’t at the races.

“Afterwards, we sat down and and went through why there was such a high error count and why we gave away so many penalties, allowing for the fact Hawick played well.

“I don’t think there was any complacency on our part – based on having squeezed out tight wins previously, especially knowing the rivalry that exists between ourselves and Hawick.

“Rather it was just one of those days which we have spent time trying to rectify, including a Sunday training session to ease frustrations.”

Learmonth missed the previous clash with Melrose through injury and might be seen as something of a secret weapon tomorrow.

Also, Heriot’s are able to field flanker Mike Maltman on release from the Scottish sevens squad with Edinburgh scrum-half and A internationalist Sean Kennedy likely to debut from off the bench.

“Mike’s ball carrying is always exciting in getting us going forward and it helps also that our captain, Jack Turley, is fit to play alongside him in the back row after calling off injured last week,” adds Learmonth.

“Jack is inspirational and we’ll need him to be against a side for whom Damien Hoyland seems to score tries for fun these days.”

In fact, Scotland under-20 wing Hoyland has seven touchdowns already this season and the threat doesn’t end there.

Notably, Richard Mill is a former Heriot’s player lurking in the ’Rose back-line.

Heriot’s coach Phil Smith, who has recalled Rory Carmichael at stand-off, says: “We have dusted ourselves down and are ready for the top of the division clash, which promises to be a cracker.

“We have been playing well and simply dropped off.

“We will strive to open the game up and make it a real test of attack versus attack which should suit both teams and make it a spectacle.”

Melrose welcome back captain Fraser Thomson on the wing and have sevens cap Mark Robertson on the bench.

Currie coach Ally Donaldson is refusing to press the panic button ahead of a home clash with Gala for the basement outfit.

In the only Currie change, Calum Kerr replaces Alex Penman on the wing and Donaldson says: “ This is a formidable task against a quality team like Gala.”

The Borderers suffered a record defeat (8-86) in the British & Irish Cup tie at Leeds but Donaldson insists: “Gala will be battle hardened and smarting.

“They also have pro players (Grayson Hart and James Hilterbrand) available to bring Super 15 experience and, added to Opeta Palepoi, Euan McQuillan and the Graham brothers, that will make a formidable challenge.”

Also returning from B & I Cup duty are Edinburgh Accies who visit Glasgow Hawks. Coach Jonny Else says: “Jamie Sole has picked up an ankle injury and Alex Blair has recovered from his knock to replace him at full-back.

“John Houston is free from Sevens duty and we welcome him to the bench alongside the impressive Lee Jones.

“After playing well, in patches, in our last two B&I cup games, it is important that we perform consistently this week.”

Hawks will have a debutant winger in Gavin Lowe.

Meanwhile, in the National League, Stewart’s/Melville have Struan Allan back at centre as they bid to stretch their winning run to six matches at home to GHA.

Unbeaten Boroughmuir, with Greig Scott back from running the Amsterdam marathon, are at Hillhead/Jordanhill while Watsonians head for Peebles.