Door opens for Alex Blair after Accies hit by injury woes
IT IS every coach’s nightmare and invariably plays a central role in the outcome of league championships, and today at Raeburn Place two sides in form are keeping their fingers crossed that their run of victories will continue despite being hampered by injuries.
Almost every coach interviewed at the start of the season talks of how confident he is about his side’s chances, with a big proviso that they can steer clear of serious injury. Last week Edinburgh Accies produced their best performance of the season to date to dump Dundee 40-17 and back up their first victory of the season, a 28-26 success away to Heriot’s.
Those wins have propelled Accies from tenth spot to fifth and they now sit just three points off the top four and a place in next season’s British and Irish Cup. For a club with big ambitions off the field, it is timely.
This afternoon, however, they face arguably their biggest challenge at home, with the visit of Ayr, and head coach Simon Cross is wary of how injuries picked up last week might affect his side’s ability to keep the run going.
“It was an excellent result last week,” he said, “only marred by the lengthy injury list sustained. The strength and depth of our squad will be tested over the coming weeks, but this group of players has shown great character so far this season and I’m confident they will continue to give their all. Ayr will come to Raeburn Place as massive favourites and rightly so, but we will be looking to cause an upset.”
The biggest blow was the loss of winger Jamie Farndale, a talented academy prospect with Edinburgh who made his debut for the pro side at the end of last season and starred for Scotland in the IRB Junior World Championship. He also started this season brightly, but suffered a leg break in only the seventh minute of last week’s match and faces a lengthy recovery.
However, it opens the door for others with Alex Blair, the former Edinburgh stand-off, coming into the side after impressing with the 2nds and in training, alongside Callum Black and Sam Pecqueur. Edinburgh youngsters Lewis Niven, Hamish Watson and Alex Black also return to the fold, as does Josh Pecqueur.
But Ayr come with their own injury woes. They edged a home win over Heriot’s last week 17-13, but their flying winger Kerr Gossman also suffered a nasty break, sustaining a broken arm and dislocated wrist. He will be out of action until December and is replaced this week by Gavin Lowe with Cammy Taylor returning to the bench.
Influential scrum-half Peter Jericevich is away on Scotland 7s duty and is replaced by Sylvain Diez, but Glasgow youngster Nick Campbell has recovered from a leg injury and will start on the bench.
Coach Kenny Murray acknowledged: “It wasn’t our best performance of the season last week and we were disappointed with how we played. Heriot’s played very well and made us work for everything – the game was nip and tuck right until the end and we did well to hold on!
“Although we scored three well-worked tries we squandered several opportunities and that cost us dearly in terms of getting a bonus point. We also let ourselves down in terms of discipline and had to play for ten minutes with 13 players. That was disappointing considering our excellent discipline the week before against Melrose.
“But we now go on the road against Accies and then Currie. Accies had a great win against Dundee and will be full of confidence ahead of our visit. They have a very good defensive record and have proved difficult to beat at home
“So we expect another quick game of rugby and will have to get on the front foot straight from the start if we are to break down their defence. We go in to this game with the best defensive record in the league and will be looking to maintain that.
“With the British and Irish Cup programme starting soon [Ayr are not involved this season] we have targeted the next three games as must-wins as we could get points on the board and stretch our lead during this window.”
Elsewhere today, Gala head to Dundee knowing that they could join or overtake Ayr at the top if they win and Ayr falter for the first time this season, while Stirling County and Currie battle to stay in touch with the leading pack at Bridgehaugh. Heriot’s host Aberdeen Grammar with both sides striving to plot a route upwards and Melrose welcome Boroughmuir looking for a first home win in a month.
lA picture used of new Gala recruit Gerald Sibanda in last week’s preview was not him but a Zimbabwe team-mate. We apologise for the error.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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