As this year’s RBS Premiership draws to a dramatic finale, it really is all to play for as the four teams who are still in the title race are the only sides exempt from the possibility of relegation.
This not only makes every league point that bit more precious, but adds to the excitement in the final weeks of the season.
Gala, Melrose, Heriot’s and Ayr are the sides all still in the hunt for the coveted Premiership trophy. However, an away bonus point win for Gala, the current league leaders, against Stirling County at Bridgehaugh this Saturday (3pm), could potentially see them win the championship a game short of fully-completing their campaign. Gala and Stirling last met only two weeks ago (15 February) at Netherdale in the RBS Cup, a match in which the home-side recorded an emphatic 35-3 victory.
If the Border side are to win on Saturday, Ayr will automatically drop out of the title race. However, if Gala manage to secure a bonus point on their way to victory at Stirling, Heriot’s case for winning the Premiership title will also become redundant.
Gala centre Chris Auld, said: “We’re treating this match as we would any other. Obviously the title-race is in the back of our minds, but first thing’s first and that’s winning at Stirling.
“Both teams will be desperate for the league points on offer, as a lot rests on this match for all involved, whether it be to keep the push for the title going or to avoid the possibility of relegation.
“We know if we’re to beat Stirling, we need to stay focussed and play our own brand of rugby which has got us to where we are at the moment.”
Melrose, who play away to Aberdeen Grammar on Saturday (3pm), stand the best chance of overtaking their Border rivals Gala, on the way to winning the Premiership title. They currently sit three points behind the Netherdale side, both having played 16 of their 18 league games.
Regardless of whether Gala win or lose this weekend, if Melrose also record a victory, the Premiership will boil down to the final weekend on Saturday 22 March . Even if Melrose are to lose this weekend, they would still stand a chance of winning the Premiership if they are able to salvage two losing bonus points, yet only as long as Gala did not achieve a bonus point win.
Currie, who currently sit in ninth place and face a spot in the relegation play-off fixture, welcome Hawick to Malleny Park (3pm). Hawick only possess three more league points than their hosts going into this fixture, both teams battling at the foot of the Premiership.
In other fixtures, Edinburgh Accies travel west to meet Ayr at Millbrae, as Glasgow Hawks come the opposite way along the M8 to play Heriot’s at Goldenacre. All games kick-off at 3pm.
The Premiership is not the only league that is going down to the wire and providing a nail-biting finish for all sides involved. Both Championship A and B can be won this weekend by Cartha Queens Park and Jed-Forest respectively. Although, also like the Premiership, a series of results would have to play into the hands of the two table-toppers to secure them the title.
Stirling County v Gala, Bridgehaugh, 3pm
Stirling County: Brian Archibald; Ben Addison, Danny Gilmour, Fraser Lyle, Matt Lamb; Stuart Edwards, AJ Macfarlane; Jamie Bhatti, Alex Moffat, Garry Mountford, Matt Larsen, Craig Deacons, Struan Robertson, Will Bordill and Benji Barsanti.
Replacements: John Graham, Billy Dineen, Sean McDonald, Graham Lindsay and Euan Dewar.
Gala: Andy McLean; Gerald Sibanda, Chris Auld, Alan Emond, Grant Somerville; David O’Hagan, George Graham (captain); Rory Sutherland, Callum Macintosh, Ewan McQuillin, Craig Borthwick, Chris Weir, Gary Graham, Stevie Cairns and Ewan Dods.
Replacements: Lewis Bertram, David Marshall, Scott Chapman, Gregor Mein and Graeme Speirs.
Referee: Graeme Wells
Aberdeen Grammar v Melrose, Rubislaw, 3pm
Aberdeen Grammar: Stevie Aitken; Erlend Oag, Harry Duthie, Greig Ryan (captain), Byron McGuigan; Rob Aloe, Morgan Ward; Matt Dixon, Sam Bingham, Struan Cessford, Stuart Smith, Jamie Metcalfe, Ally Mackie, Tony McGinness and Tom Preece.
Replacements: Sean O’Connor, Matt Schosser, Calum Harvey, Will Wardlaw and Jamie Lauder.
Melrose: Austin Lockington; Callum Anderson, Alan Dodds, Joe Helps, Mark Robertson; Richard Mill, Bruce Colvine; Nicky Little, Todd Pearce (captain), Nick Beavon, Lewis Carmichael, James Head, Peter Eccles, Grant Runciman and Andrew Nagel.
Replacements: Richard Ferguson, Gary Holborn, Graham Dodds, Struan Dewar and Andrew Skeen.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy
Heriot’s v Glasgow Hawks, Goldenacre, 3pm
Heriot’s: Colin Goudie; Max Nimmo, Keith Buchan, Rory Carmichael, Harry Bouisseau; OJ Brown, Graham Wilson; Nathan Borel, Kevin Bryce, Gavin Cameron, Russell Nimmo, Jack Turley, Michael Maltman, Chris Mulligan and Jason Hill.
Replacements: Stewart Mustard, Murray Douglas, Ben Tullis, Cameron Fergusson and Liam Steele.
Glasgow Hawks: Gavin Lowe; Tom Steven, Ally MacLay, Neil Herron, Haddon McPherson; Scott Wight, Paddy Boyer; Steven Findlay, Finn Gillies, Brendan Cullinane, Andy Linton (captain), Angus Hamilton, Andy Redmayne, Stephen Leckie and Craig Brodie.
Replacements: Jack McFarlane, John Lohoar, Kenneth Beattie, Dan Smart and Jack Steele.
Referee: Cammy Rudkin
Ayr v Edinburgh Accies, Millbrae, 3pm
Ayr: Grant Anderson (captain); Craig Gossman, Robbie Fergusson, Dean Kelbrick, Kerr Gossman; Ross Curle, Peter Jericevich; Denford Mutamangira, Fergus Scott, Stuart Fenwick, Callum Templeton, Scott Sutherland, Graham Fisken, Andrew Dunlop and Peter McCallum.
Replacements: David Young, Nick Cox, Craig Brown, Murray McConnell and Danny McCluskey.
Edinburgh Accies: Jamie Sole; Nyle Godsmark, Ewen Campbell, Iain Berthinussen, Chris Dean; Alex Blair, Alex Black; Alex Allan, Michael Liness, Shaun Strudwick, Jamie McCarthy, Greg Campbell (captain), Robin Snape, Hamish Watson and Callum Reid.
Replacements: Duncan Morrison, Phil Cringle, Ronan Seydak, Ruairidh Bonner and Ruaridh Young.
Referee: Sam Grove-White
Currie v Hawick, Malleny Park, 3pm
Currie: George Horne; Ruaridh Smith, Joe Reynolds, Ethan Pollock, Harvey Elms; James Semple, Richard Snedden; John Cox, David Cherry, Alastair Hamilton, Sean Cox, Petre Nertascu, Mike Vernal, Mark Cairns and Ross Weston.
Replacements: Graeme Carson, Fraser Watts, Gary Temple, Charlie MacLean and Joaquin Dominquez.
Hawick: Neil Renwick; Scott McLeod, James Johnstone, Gary Johnstone, Nikki Walker; Rory Hutton, Greg Cottrell (captain); Shawn Muir, Lindsey Gibson, Wullie Blacklock, Rob McAlpine, Bruce McNeil, Stuart Graham, Rory Scott and Keith Davies.
Replacements: Matt Landels, Liam Launders, Kieran Willison, Lee Armstrong and Ali Weir.
Referee: Peter Allan