Snedden looks to take final step to Murrayfield with on-form Currie

MANY wondered if the Scottish Hydro Cup might actually reach the semi-final stage this season after the prolonged winter had some clubs insisting they would rather shelve cup ties.

But there is no hiding the excitement now that the semis are here, with the Greenyards providing the setting this afternoon for a clash of two of the most entertaining teams in the Scottish game. Currie are setting the pace in the Premier One championship and are tantalisingly close to claiming their second ever title, but a 75-7 defeat of Howe of Fife last week has underlined the desire to keep the cup hopes running strongly.

Currie scrum-half Richard Snedden can recall the agony of reaching the cup final in 2006 and losing to Watsonians 31-15. It provided something of a springboard for the club to go on and win their first Division One title the next season, but the cup retains that elusive quality.

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"I also played in a Scottish Schools Cup final at Murrayfield with George Watson's and we lost that to Merchy (Merchiston Castle School] so if we get there it'll be a case of third time lucky for me.

"But, right now, that seems a long way away. This game against Melrose is going to be absolutely huge. They are in great form at the moment and we can't even think about getting to Murrayfield yet.

"The games between us have always been tight matches. We won in the league this year with a try off a charged-down kick and we just held on at the Greenyards."

The form of the two teams does suggest a cracker this afternoon, particularly in their ability to score tries. Willie Moala, Currie's Kiwi winger, has notched 17 tries this season so far, but he is only two ahead of Fraser Thomson, who Melrose signed from Gala last summer. Thomson dropped out of the SRU's academy system to rediscover his love of the game and has duly done so with scintillating finishing to ensure that a return to the professional game is back on the horizon.

But everywhere you look today there are try-scorers. Thomson is closely followed in the Melrose try count by Ben Allen (12) and Callum Anderson (11) while James King, who returns to the side this afternoon, has eight so far and blindside flanker John Dalziel six. Currie's back rows Ross Weston (11) and Mark Cairns (8) have also been in prolific form while their Scotland Under-20 talents, Dougie Fife and Matt Scott, have shared 13 tries.

Craig Chalmers, the Melrose coach, has a good idea of the threat they pose as he has been coaching a handful of the Currie players in the Scots Under-20 squad, and knows they are keen to cement positions in the World Cup tournament in Argentina in June.

Similarly, his opposite number Ally Donaldson knows the strengths, and weaknesses, of many of the home players this afternoon having coached them in the Scotland Club international team.

As well as restoring King and Dalziel to the side, Chalmers has Rob Chrystie back at scrum-half, the veteran Kiwi Richard Higgins at loosehead and Nick Bevan in at tighthead, ensuring an experienced line-up. He said: "This is a massive challenge for us and Currie will be the favourites even though we have home advantage. They have only lost one game this season and are for sure the most consistent team in the country. They have a good mix of talented young players and experienced seasoned campaigners.

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"But, for us, the game is all about our performance, because if we get that right and don't give away soft scores like we did in the last two league encounters, we know we can win. We enjoy the cup and would love to get back to Murrayfield again this season so it should be an excellent cup tie."

For all the season has been a drawn-out affair, Snedden insisted the excitement in the Currie camp could hardly be greater with a league and cup double still in their grasp. But he added: "Nothing matters this weekend other than winning at Melrose – we can't win a league or cup yet.

"It's just about getting to Murrayfield; no more. When it comes to cup ties you don't care how many, or how few tries you score. This is all about finishing ahead of Melrose. We've had some big wins this season and we've had a lot of very tight ones, but it's not about scoring tries, just holding on and getting the win … though you'd have to say it would be a surprise if there weren't tries this weekend."

Melrose: F Thomson; C Anderson, J Murray, J King, B Allen; S Wight, R Chrystie; R Higgins, W Mitchell, N Bevan, G Dodds, G Elder, J Dalziel, G Runciman, R Miller. Subs: L Gibson, K Cooney, S Johnston, S McCormick.

Currie: J Smith; W Moala, J Johnston, A MacMahon, D Fife; M Scott, R Snedden; J Cox, A Walker, A Hamilton, A Adam (capt), R Wilson, M Cairns, J Thomson, R Weston. Subs: N Scobie, J Taggart, S Burton, G White.