Stirling and Aberdeen look to gain edge

Stirling County have struggled to find direction this season and hope to end a nine'match losing sequence today.  Picture: Joey Kelly
Stirling County have struggled to find direction this season and hope to end a nine'match losing sequence today. Picture: Joey Kelly
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Another five big matches take place in the RBS Premiership this afternoon with perhaps the encounter with the most nerves surrounding it at Bridgehaugh, where strugglers Stirling County and Aberdeen Grammar meet.

Last season, County finished third and Grammar fifth, but this term they have found themselves nearer the bottom of the top-flight table.

County have lost their last nine matches in league and the British & Irish Cup, with their last victory coming against Glasgow Hawks back in September.

They are in the relegation play-off spot in ninth, while Grammar are eighth after losing seven of their last eight in the league.

Last weekend, County lost 31-30 to Edinburgh Accies and are only a point ahead of resurgent bottom side Currie.

For today’s game, County head coach Graeme Young restores Jamie Swanson to the 
No 8 spot.

Young said: “Despite the disappointment of last week, the team are continuing to work hard and improve. Another tough encounter awaits us today.”

Grammar travel without a few injured players and, as a result, captain Greig Ryan starts in the centre – he is normally a back-row. Head coach Kevin Wyness said: “This game is crucial to both Stirling and ourselves and it promises to be a cracker.”

Last term, when these two sides met at the same ground, they played out a classic 42-42 draw, with 11 tries being scored, but you get the feeling this one might be a tighter affair.

As mentioned, Currie have been in good form, winning four in a row in league and cup, and today they travel across the Capital to Edinburgh Accies.

For Currie, Kiwi James Semple starts his first league game at full-back, while captain Mark Cairns is hopeful to be fit.

Accies will be looking to build on their win over County and head coach Jonny Else said: “Currie are very dangerous opponents. We needed a last-minute score to win at Malleny Park earlier in the season and this game is likely to be as close.

“Ally Donaldson will have his squad ready to battle up front, allowing them to unleash their exciting backline. We must ensure that we are ready for this challenge and ensure that we play our game with ambition, while making sure that we are switched on defensively.”

At the top of the table, leaders Gala have had a few injuries to contend with as they await a visit from Glasgow Hawks.

Their squad still looks strong, though, and their head coach George Graham said: “Hawks are a well drilled side and play a very attractive style of rugby. If the game is anywhere near as entertaining as the last encounter [which ended 38-38] then we should be in for an exciting one.”

Fourth-placed Heriot’s take on Ayr, in third, at Millbrae, with the jovial pre-match build-up having been focused around the fact that head coaches Peter Laverie and Phil Smith will be sharing a car journey to the encounter from Glasgow.

Melrose are second and host Hawick in a Borders derby. The last time the sides met was just three weeks ago in the RBS Borders Regional Cup. Melrose won that one and try scorer that day, teenager Ruairidh Knott, is on the bench for this one.