Currie book playoff berth as Musselburgh win BT National 2

The top four of the BT Premiership was decided today, confirming the teams for the two showpiece playoffs that will take place next weekend (Saturday 4 April).

BT National 2 champions Musselburgh

In the capital, Currie overcame Glasgow Hawks to book their semi-final place. They will play league leaders, Heriot’s at Goldenacre next Saturday.

In the Borders, a Bill McLaren Shield match was played between Melrose and Ayr, at The Greenyards. The winner of this match would finish second in the league and ensure their playoff would be played at home.

Ayr were victors, 14-12, and will play Melrose at Millbrae in seven days time. They also took the silverware back along the M8.

In other BT leagues, Musselburgh beat Howe of Fife at Stoneyhill, 32-20, to win BT National League Division 2 and Berwick championed BT East Regional League Division 1.

Run of play

A Ruaridh Smith try with the last play of the match ensured Currie a dramatic 15-10 victory over Glasgow Hawks in a bruising battle at Malleny Park, and a place in the BT Premiership play-offs.

Currie's James Semple

Smith scored his second of the game in freakish fashion after stand-off Mark Semple thumped what should have been the winning penalty goal off the post, Currie regathered and spread wide for the winger to ground.

The teams drew 24-24 in similarly blustery conditions at Old Anniesland in October, and this proved an equally tight affair.

Hawks scored first through ex-Glasgow Warriors hooker-cum-flanker Finlay Gillies, with Currie responding before the break through Graeme Carson, and taking the lead shortly after with Smith’s first. But, Tommy Spinks levelled the scores with a fine solo effort to set-up the grandstand finale.

Currie Head Coach Ben Cairns said: “We managed to build back up for the last twenty and we’ve pulled it out.

The boys kept on going – I would rather he just kicked the penalty, but we probably wouldn’t have got the same celebration!”

Relegation-threatened Hawks, playing with the fierce Malleny gale at their backs in the first half, unsurprisingly dominated territory, if not possession, in the opening 40 minutes.

Glasgow Warriors’ Jack Steele, who moved from full-back to stand-off in place of George Horne – rested after playing every minute of Scotland under-20s’ 6 Nations Championship – sliced an early penalty attempt wide after two Currie forwards flew in off their feet.

With the biting gusts hindering their capacity to build field position, and their kicking from hand rather ordinary, the hosts employed the patient phase-play that has become a feature of their style under Cairns.

Cypriot centre Fidias Efthymiou and full-back Matt McPhillips both made impressive incisions through the meanest defence in the BT Premiership, while blindside Travis Brooke was the game’s best carrier by a distance.

Perhaps guilty of over-playing in their own half, however, Currie, who had not played for three weeks, were dogged at the breakdown by a tenacious Hawks pack, led by Gillies. John Cox was guilty of diving over the top at the ruck, allowing Steele to nudge the visitors into the home 22.

Scotland under-20 second-row Andrew Davidson, a blood replacement for Andrew Kirkland moments earlier, leapt to claim the lineout ball, his pack constructing a formidable maul that rumbled and rolled fifteen metres for Gillies to flop over. 0-5

Tricky conversion

Steele failed with the tricky conversion, and was shortly withdrawn injured, Rob Beattie his replacement, but with 20 minutes played, Hawks held a precious advantage.

Curie reacted strongly, spoiling a Hawks scrum in the visitors’ 22, and stealing possession, but with an overlap and the whitewash beckoning, the final pass to Smith was fumbled.

Paddy Boyer, shifting to stand-off after Steele’s departure in the Hawks backline, spilled a pass he ought to have taken and cleared to safety, allowing Currie to build yet more phases deep in away territory.

This time, the pressure told, Carson burrowing over from close range, levelling the scores as half-time approached after Semple’s missed conversion. 5-5 

Half-time: Currie 5-5 Glasgow Hawks

With the breeze now behind them, Currie maintained the ascendancy established during the closing stages of the first half.

Smith, another of the national under-20s contingent, and a former 100m sprinter showed his pace to latch onto a floated pass from Semple , swerve through the Hawks midfield and outpace the cover defence to ground at the corner. 10-5

His stand-off could not convert from the touchline, and Currie’s persistent indiscipline defending the breakdown allowed Hawks to fight their way back to within five metres of the home line – referee Andrew McMenemy warned that cards would follow any further transgressions.

Hawks opted to scrum, attempting to utilise the set-piece weaponry that has served them so well this season, but rather than claim a pushover try, it was number 8 Spinks, one of the Warriors’ brightest young talents, who broke blind with startling speed to dive over. Boyer failed to add the extras. 10-10

Currie were soon ruing their infringements, though, as McMenemy made good on his promise and showed Robbie Nelson a yellow card on his return from injury for a high tackle.

It did not stall their momentum, as the hosts forced a penalty deep inside Hawks territory from a brilliant Smith kick. The forwards were held up over the line by tireless away defence, though, and the subsequent Currie onslaught ended with a McPhillips knock-on.

Gillies was at the heart of Hawks’ most promising attacks, often appearing at first receiver. His soft handling almost led to a stunning try for Paul Ramsay, but the winger was cut down by the scrambling home defence.

Thunderous tackle

With five minutes to play, the scores locked at ten-apiece, Currie’s season hung in the balance. A draw would not be sufficient to secure an inaugural play-off berth.

Cox produced a thunderous tackle on Gillies, knocking the ball free for Smith to hack through, but it bounced out of play before he could reach it.

The winger would have the final say, however, as after massive pressure in the dying seconds, the hosts won a penalty in the shadow of the Hawks uprights, and though Semple fluffed his lines, Smith pounced. 15-10 

Hawks must beat Stirling County next week to ensure their Premiership status, while Currie travel to Goldenacre for a mouth-watering play-off with table-topping Heriot’s. 

Full-time: Currie 15-10 Glasgow Hawks

BT Premiership playoffs

Currie team: Matt McPhillips; Ruaridh Smith, Fidias Efthymiou, Robbie Nelson, Chris Logan; James Semple, Richard Snedden; John Cox, Matt Goodwin, Graeme Carson, Romain Denonain, Jamie Gray, Travis Brooke, Malcolm Peacock and Ross Weston CAPTAIN.
Replacements: Kevin Bryce (Glasgow Warriors), Reece Patterson, Alistair Hamilton, Paul Mundell and Matthew O’Neill.

Glasgow Hawks team: Jack Steele; Neil Herron, Brendan McGroarty, David Milne, Paul Ramsay; George Horne, Paddy Boyer; Steven Findlay, Jack McFarlane, Brendan Cullinane, Andrew Linton CAPTAIN, Andrew Kirkland, Stephen Leckie, Finlay Gillies and Tommy Spinks.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Gary Strain, Andrew Davidson, Gregor Hunter (Glasgow Warriors) and Robbie Houliston.

Referee: Andrew McMenemy