Rugby: Flawless form thrills Stew-Mel’s coach a year after catalyst

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Stewart’s-MELVILLE are ready to stake the only 100 per cent record in Scottish premiership rugby at Watsonians in Division Two tomorrow – on the first anniversary of a heavy defeat credited with turning their fortunes around.

Back on October 30, 2010, Stewart’s Melville visited Edinburgh Accies and retired on the receiving end of a 69-8 thrashing.

Coach Bruce Macnaughton recalls: “That was a beating which really got us making decisions about bringing in players. On the back of that decision we won six of our seven remaining league fixtures, with the one loss being by a single point at Kelso. Although personnel has now changed, with the likes of Nick McCashin going back to New Zealand, the confidence that run inspired has helped us kick on this season to the point where we head for Watsonians with a record of nine wins from nine starts.”

It is a resurgence all the more remarkable for the fact that Stew-Mel, captained by Scott Brewster, have had to overcome injury woes. For example, stand offs seem plagued, with Hayden Lingard, Seb Trotter and Liam Steele all out at a time when Stuart Ker has just left for a job in London.

Macnaughton said: “We’ve handed the role to young Mike Hanning, who joined from RHC, and he has done well while we’ve also started to get lads like Matt Hanney back from university and he has been scoring tries on the wing.

“Kiwi prop Reece O’Leary has been extremely solid and there could be far-reaching consequences as a result of two Scottish-qualified youngsters from Queensland – Ethan Brown, a prop, and Joe Parvin, a wing/full back – joining.

“Both lads have been in the Queensland Reds Academy and their Scottish qualifications have seen them invited to train with Scotland under-20s. Moves are afoot to try to set up an exchange so that some of our lads might head for Queensland in the off-season.”

Despite the strong start also based on back row Phil Hendry returning to the club and Angus Dixon joining from Aberdeen, Macnaughton approaches tomorrow’s derby with caution.

“Watsonians are going well in an attempt to get in the top four which will ensure premiership rugby next season when restructuring takes place but every team wants to win a derby and the incentive for Stew/Mel is to keep momentum going.” Boroughmuir will go into a Goldenacre derby against Heriot’s with praise ringing in their ears from Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley. Referring to Meggetland prospect Harry Leonard who makes his first start for Edinburgh tonight Bradley revealed a preparatory process had taken place. “Boroughmuir have accommodated us in terms of playing him (Leonard) at outside half for the last two games,” said Bradley.

During that run Boroughmuir lost at Ayr but recorded their biggest victory of the season at home to Hawks last week.

Coach Fergus Pringle, who has Ally Warnock returning to stand off with Sep Visser switching to full-back and Ross Bradford introduced on the wing, says: “The win against Hawks was a confidence boost for the squad after what was a poor performance against Ayr the week before. We know Heriots at Goldenacre will be a totally different proposition as they will be desperate to get back to winning ways. They have a strong set piece and usually keep the opposition back three busy with Graham Wilson’s kicking game.

“We’ll be looking to put their half backs under pressure and contest well at the set piece to get a foothold on the game.”

The only other Boroughmuir change sees Nick Fraser take over at prop from Robin Hislop, who has a back strain. Heriot’s recall Gregor Lawson at full back with Colin Goudie switching to the wing while Struan Cessford starts at tight-head.

Coach Graham Marshall feels his side are not far away in picking out three players for special mention. “Despite an excellent first-half performance and scoring two well crafted tries this proved insufficient against a well-drilled Aberdeen team last week. Once again captain Graham Wilson led by example with mentions also for Fraser Brown and Alan Dymock.”

In looking for a seventh straight win against Stirling at Malleny Park, Currie are without Colin Phillips, Adam Best, Ross Weston and Richard Snedden are all out. However, Andy Adam is back after a couple of reserve matches and Steve Burton and Malcolm Peacock recover from minor knocks.

Also, Chris Leck is released by Edinburgh, so steps in at scrum half. Edinburgh Accies are away to Melrose.