Three-quarter Max Learmonth has issued a rallying call urging supporters to turn out in force and help Heriot’s overcome Glasgow Hawks at Goldenacre tomorrow to further hopes of maintaining a unique place in Scottish rugby.
Heriot’s stand apart as the only club never to have been out of the top flight since leagues began in 1973 but almost certainly that sequence will be broken if Hawks and Stewart’s Melville aren’t seen off over the next fortnight.
“All the players are aware of what is at stake and that has been reflected in our training this week,” says Learmonth. “It’ll hopefully be a day for anyone with a connection to Heriot’s to get behind the team.”
When the sides met earlier this season, on their way to finishing in the bottom half and a place in Premiership B play-offs from which two will eventually gain promotion, Heriot’s were edged out 19-12 in Glasgow.
But Learmonth insists: “That was one of three games we lost by a single score and since then we have managed to turn things around.
“Also, Fraser Brown and OJ Brown will be back compared with the team that went down to Boroughmuir in the Cup last week and Alan Dymock will hopefully shake off injury.
“So, there is a near full strength feel to our line-up and, having been the first team to end Hawick’s nine-match unbeaten run on our last league appearance, we feel we have set a benchmark.
“It is hard to understate the buzz that came from going to the Borders and overcoming Hawick from 0-6 at half-time and with Hawks playing a very similar style to ourselves there is a mixture of nerves and excitement in our camp.”
Hawks are themselves one of four teams who have suffered a single defeat and a bonus-point win tomorrow could see them leap to the top of the table depending on results elsewhere.
One of those competing teams are Edinburgh Accies who have last year’s Scotland under-20 cap Sam Atkin home from university and on the wing for the home clash with bottom club Hamilton.
Accies also include Edinburgh scrum half Alex Black while Chris Dickie is retained on the wing following last weekend’s convincing win over Jed-Forest in the Borders and Duncan MacLeod is called up at prop.
Coach Simon Cross is wary though, insisting: “We respect the fact that Hamilton will come to Raeburn Place with nothing to lose and desperate for an opening win.”
It is the turn of Stewart’s Melville to encounter Jed this weekend and for the last match of the season at Inverleith back rower Phil Hendry and prop Andy Statham return while Watsonians await Hawick.
Stakes are high in Group A where Currie can cement a top-three place that will guarantee British and Irish Cup rugby next season by beating Ayr at Malleny Park.
Andy MacMahon and Mike Entwhistle join Andrew Binikos, James Johnstone and Alastair Hamilton on the Currie injured list while Fergus Scott and Mark Cairns are on International duty with Scotland under-20s in Italy and sevens (Hong Kong) teams.
Currie coach Ally Donaldson says: “Ayr have strengthened their squad with two recent front row signings and have a further two props released by Glasgow giving them a formidable look.”
Boroughmuir will be aiming to make it five straight wins when they entertain Dundee High.
Will Kay retains his place in the pack with Ali Davidson out injured and Lewis Niven is released by Edinburgh to start at prop.
Andy Watt keeps the scrum half jersey but Malcolm Clapperton is out with a broken hand and is replaced by Stevie Wilson who moves from inside to outside centre with Mark Hare introduced.
Second-place Dundee welcome back Alan Brown, Neil Dymock, Richie Hawkins, Danny Levison and Andy Redmayne with coach Ian Rankin admitting: “Boroughmuir have shown an excellent run of home form recently with a great win against Ayr in their last league game and victory over Heriot’s last weekend in the Cup.”