Tennent's Premiership season gets into full-swing
A fleeting Scottish summer appears to be at an end and that can only mean the return to our calendars of club rugby, with a new season starting in earnest this weekend across the country.
A transformational change in Scotland’s club game has seen the creation of a new-look Tennent’s Premiership and subsequent league structure, with the top flight shaping up to be more engrossing than ever before.
The ten team set-up remains, as four of last season’s participants prepare to welcome the six teams that finished highest in National League Division 1, creating a league that promises plenty of intrigue and no less quality over the course of the next eight months.
The opening weekend features five home fixtures for Tennent’s Premiership newcomers Musselburgh, Selkirk, GHA, Aberdeen Grammar and Jed-Forest, who host last term’s National League Division 1 champions Marr, with all games kicking off on Saturday at 3pm.
Musselburgh sneaked into this year’s competition on the final day of last season and got things off to a great start last week with a 27-17 win over Glasgow Hawks in the Preliminary Round of the Scottish Cup. They host 12-time champions Hawick in the first round of fixtures, the borders club buoyed by last weekend’s 19-3 win over Melrose in the same competition.
Musselburgh Head Coach Graeme Paterson is excited about what Premiership rugby might bring to the club and the wider Lothian area saying: “We’re a very focused club and one which I feel acts as a real hub for the surrounding community. Success on the pitch works in tandem with what our committee has done in bringing in a great amount of sponsorship and engaging with the local area.
“We have trained really well in pre-season and although there are no specific targets from a first time in the Premiership, we want to establish ourselves there and remain for as long as we can. “We’ve not recruited heavily, backing the guys that got us here, with a real focus on bringing through some of the talented youngsters at the club. Again, that ties in with the community strands that are being forged here.”
Selkirk mark their return to Scottish club rugby’s top table by welcoming the aforementioned Hawks - three-time national champions - to Philiphaugh, with new Head Coach Scott Wight sure to be of interest as he bids to transfer his undoubted sevens knowledge onto the Borderers’ squad.
Giffnock-based GHA enjoyed a strong end to last season, finishing third in National League Division 1, and they’ll will be hoping to tap into the considerable rugby knowledge of a coaching team headed up by Trevor Carmichael and including former professionals James Eddie and Calum Forrester.
Perennial title challengers Currie Chieftains, who won a tight cup tie with Biggar last weekend, are the visitors to Braidholm this weekend under the tutelage of Mark Cairns and the Edinburgh side should strong title challengers this time around.
The only opening day fixture that pits two teams from last term’s Tennent’s National League Division 1 sees Jed-Forest welcome champions Marr to Riverside Park in what promises to be a cracker.
The visitors tasted Premiership action two seasons ago and Jed flyer Gregor Young reckons the new Tennent’s Premiership will generate plenty of excitement, saying: “It’s going to be very competitive and I think most of the teams will be thinking that they have a chance of doing really well.
“We had a good season last year and have a bit of a winning mentality at the club just now, so we want to keep that going by starting well against some very good teams. One of the things we’ve been working on as a club is sharpening up in defence, which is a part of the game you notice when playing the top teams in cup matches.
“That’s often the main difference at that level so if we can tighten up that area, I think we have the players to score at the other end.”
And finally, Aberdeen Grammar will aim to ride the wave of success borne out of beating Highland in the final of last season’s National League Cup when they play host to Edinburgh Accies. The capital club played some good rugby upon their return to the Tennent’s Premiership last time around and with the construction of a state-of-the-art facility at Raeburn Place well underway, the playing staff will be keen to get the 2019/20 campaign off to the best possible start at Rubislaw.
The women’s edition of the competition is reaching its third week of fixtures. Three teams, Hillhead Jordanhill, Watsonians and Stirling County, have all won both their two opening games of the season.
Cartha Queens Park have two points so far, while Corstorphine and Ayr are still hunting their first points of the season.