High-scoring Preston meet Cougars - chiefs of defence

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Something will have to give when free-scoring Preston Lodge bid to break down a resolute RHC Cougars defence in an East Division One rugby table topper between unbeaten rivals at the Pennypit tomorrow.

Adding to intrigue is the fact the teams posted one win apiece in fixtures against each other last year.

Cougars official Dougie Cross says: “We haven’t scored as many points as PL but over the course of four matches, including a cup tie, we’ve conceded only two tries.

“Although it was a blow to lose our teenage full back Scott Simpson for the season with a knee injury, it is generally a settled side reaping the benefits of coach Stevie Leckie’s development work at grassroots. There is now a structure allowing schoolboy talent at Royal High to step up into the club.

“Over the summer we managed to retain the core of our side which reached a shield final last year and finished third behind promoted Livingston and Preston Lodge.

“Compared to the side which shut out Hawick Linden 39-0 last week Andy Fraser is available again for the back row and he has been outstanding along with the Hicks brothers’ Matt and Andrew.”

Preston Lodge captain Blair Cowan returns after giving way last week to Johnny Skedd, one of several bright prospects.

Says Blair: “Johnny is just 18 years old and weighs 17 stone in a pack where Darren Eales and Peter Johnston form part of a young front row.

“A lot of our youngsters were finding their way last year but they’re now taking on increased responsibility.

“Top scorer is blindside flanker Jason Reilly with four tries after arriving from Murrayfield Wanderers and former Boroughmuir scrum half Dale Gordon, a local lad, was also useful when we excelled by winning 55-9 at Langholm last week.

“It’s acknowledged that Langholm are not the force they once were but it is still a difficult place to go and win – especially by such a margin.

“It really is shaping up to be an important match in the overall context of the season – but at least we already have a win over North Berwick, who I’m sure are going to do a lot of damage in this league.

“The match has been marketed well and a big crowd should add a sense of occasion.”