Edinburgh Accies coach Derek O’Riordan has called for clarity over the proposed structure of next season’s Tennent’s Championship.
With clubs operating under the assumption that there would be no relegation at the end of the current campaign, the Irishman had set out his plan to broaden the depth of his inexperienced squad. His objective was to build a side capable of becoming the first winners of the new competition.
However, over recent weeks, uncertainty over the actual terms of the new Super Six structure and its implications for clubs has grown, with suggestions circulating that there may yet be demotion next spring from the Premiership.
Saturday’s 40-15 defeat against Currie Chieftains as the Tennent’s Premiership reached the mid-way point has left Accies rooted to the bottom of the table and potentially heading for the second tier if relegation is implemented. That, says O’Riordan, will have a significant impact on how he approaches the second half of the league programme.
“We have had an indication that relegation is back on the cards,” said a concerned O’Riordan who now sees it as essential for Accies to win at least four matches in the second half of campaign. “The reality is that what we are playing for at the moment is trying to avoid going straight down.”
With a signing deadline of December 31, he may now need to abandon his player development plan and target survival, and he underlined the need for information from the SRU, adding: “Nobody has said anything, but the ambiguity is enough. We are losing bodies (to injuries) so do you go to agents to try and buy players in to save your season or do you stick with the guys you have? I want an answer.”
The progress his squad has made was evident in 20 minute-spells at the start and finish of Saturday’s encounter, with Accies establishing an early 10-0 lead through a try from Robbie Davis, converted by Richard Mill, who also booted a penalty.
However, the quality in the Chieftains ranks shone through and by half-time they had bagged tries from Robbie Nelson, debutant James McCaig and Ben Robbins, while Joe Reynolds kicked two conversions to give them a 19-10 lead.
A yellow card for Davis shortly after the restart coincided with Chieftains hitting their stride and, in his absence, Mike Vernel, Scott McGinley and Charlie Shiel grabbed converted scores. Accies mounted a strong finish and claimed a consolation touchdown through Robbie Chalmers, although they never looked like taking anything from the game.
Chieftains coach Ben Cairns was generally satisfied with his side’s showing, saying: “I would say a frustrating first 20 and a frustrating end 20, pretty good in the middle.
“Once we got on top of it, the middle 40 was pretty good from us. The last 20 we could use the excuse of all the subs we made. That probably is part of the issue but ultimately we want to be better than that.“
Elsewhere, Watsonians blew the race for top spot wide open when they inflicted a first defeat of the season on Ayr at Millbrae. The Capital side led 25-10 at the interval through tries from Charlie McKill, Josh Rowlands and Rufus Mclean plus a ten points from the boot of Lee Millar. And, although the hosts had the better of the second period, Steve Lawrie’s men held on for an impressive victory.
The win leaves Sonians fifth in the table, four points behind Heriot’s who beat Hawick at Goldenacre. The hosts led by only five points at the break but stepped up the pace in the second half to post a 50-15 win that featured seven tries – three for Alex Ball, two for Craig Robertson and one each for Jack Mclean and Ross Jones, who also landed six conversions and a penalty.
A Boroughmuir side missing a host of key personnel through injuries and professional call-ups took a bonus point from their 45-29 defeat at Melrose. Dale Robertson, Matt Walker, Gavin Parker, Tom Drennan and Will Wardlaw all dotted down for ‘Muir, with Robin Weersma kicking the other points.