EDINBURGH ACCIES will go into a make-or-break rugby clash at Glasgow Hawks tomorrow determined not only to book their place in a ten-team top division next season but keen to reward the dedication of coach Simon Cross.
That’s the view of Sam Atkin, a member of Scotland’s team at last year’s under-20 World Cup, who has returned from Worcester University to help in Accies’ big push for the Group B title.
Says Atkin, who scored three tries from as many matches this season including one in a 22-22 home draw with Hawks before heading south: “If someone had said at the outset that promotion would be in our own hands on the final day of the league season we’d obviously have been delighted.
“That we have reached this stage says a lot about how hard the lads generally have worked, how young players such as Michael Lyness, Chris Murray and Jonny Adams have developed and the effort put in, particularly on our defence, by Simon Cross, who has not gone out looking to bring in players.
“Simon has the same ambition and motivation in coaching as he showed when playing for Edinburgh and is going about things the right way by learning his trade at Accies, who must expect him to move up to the professional ranks again at some stage.
“Travelling back from Worcester where I have a scholarship with the local Warriors enabling me to train to a high standard in a professional environment with Academy and A team players I have been struck by the way Accies are now able to expand their traditional game as opposed to keeping it tight. The mood at training this week has been good and we now just want to go out and test ourselves against a team who have a particularly tricky player in Kerr Gossman.”
Cross says: “This winner-takes-all conclusion is about as exciting as anybody could have asked for.
“We travel with a very settled side and one that knows exactly what is at stake. This young side has the huge responsibility of keeping the club in Premier One, an achievement that would easily surpass last year’s promotion and one that few thought possible.
“Jamie Sole and Sam Atkin help create an exciting back three alongside Jamie Farndale who, along with Calum Reid in the back row, return from helping Scotland under-20s win in Italy.”
Hawks, who have a game in hand, remain in contention along with Hawick (who visit Jed) and Heriot’s, who await Stewart’s-Melville.
But both Edinburgh clubs are masters of their own destiny and, after an outstanding win over Hawks, unsurprisingly Heriot’s keep changes to a minimum. Max Nimmo moves to centre for the unavailable Rory Carmichael with Andy Scott recalled while Alan Dymock is fit to resume on the bench.
Stewart’s-Melville ran Heriot’s close in a Cup tie last season and coach Bruce Macnaughton says: “We are not heading for Goldenacre to roll over and there is obviously a bit of rivalry between the clubs that will spur our players.
“It has been tough in Group B against some bulkier teams who dropped down from the top division but we have seen quality players such as Michael Hannan, Fraser Morrison and Neil Bowie develop and, if we let a 19-3 lead slip in losing to Jed-Forest last week, the challenge is to go out and put that result right by showing what we really are capable of.”
In Group A, Currie face a daunting assignment at Dundee High, who are looking to take advantage of any slip and leapfrog leaders Melrose.
However, Currie need victory in their quest for a British and Irish Cup place – even then it might not be enough after losing at home to Ayr – and will welcome the return of Andy MacMahon , Mike Entwhistle, Finlay Gillies and Fergus Scott.
The Taysiders coach, Ian Rankin, announces a full strength side and warns: “We are determined to defend our home record which now stretches back to February 2011.”
Boroughmuir head for Bridgehaugh hoping to complete a double over Stirling County with Keith Buchan returning at full back and Jordan Webster starting on the wing where Redha Guedroudj is out with an ankle injury. Sam Johnson regains the scrum half jersey and, in the pack, Ali Davidson returns along with Jamie Swanson, fresh from Scotland under-20s duty.
Watsonians’ team for a visit to Hamilton and where defeat must be avoided otherwise they will finish bottom of Group B was unavailable.