Reasons to be cheerful and fearful in play-off

Edinburgh Accies look the most likely play-off opponents for Hawick
Edinburgh Accies look the most likely play-off opponents for Hawick
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‘To be honest, it doesn’t really matter who we play on the day” said club captain Bruce McNeil when Hawick discovered their relegation play-off fate was sealed back in February.

Hawick’s potential play-off opponents have become much clearer with under a month to go after Jed-Forest fell from contention following Edinburgh Accies’ bonus-point win over Falkirk last weekend.

It leaves Hawick with the prospect of either Marr or Edinburgh Accies, the latter the more likely with GHA needing to defeat Marr and Accies needing a bonus-point victory over Aberdeen Grammar to alter the table, as play-off opponents.

“The teams who are going for promotion in that league are used to winning and will all be tough prospects to play,” continued McNeil.

“They have been winning week-in, week-out, while for us it’s been a tough old season.

“So whoever it is we play, it’ll be hard, but I firmly believe that if we turn-up with our heads in the right place and we play to the level I know we can reach then it doesn’t really matter who we are playing, we will win.”

Greens fly-half Ali Weir echoed his captain’s comments, adding: “We aren’t really focusing on any particular opponent.

“Either team are a tough prospect, even with them being in National One.

“I think we all know it’s probably going to be [Edinburgh] Accies, but at the same time it doesn’t really matter.

“If we can put in a performance like those we had against Glasgow Hawks and Ayr at home this season then we should be in a good position to come away with the win.”

Confidence appears to be Mansfield Park is high ahead of the play-off and so it should be.

The odds on the Greens retaining their Premiership status are in their favour. Only one team from the lower divisions since the relegation play-off was introduced in 2011 has managed to defeat their higher-ranked Premiership opponents, and it was the Robbie Dyes in a 38-39 nail-biter over Dundee HSFP.

With the opponents now nearly set. Who are the two potential rivals? What are the signs of hope? And where lies the potential dread?

Marr

National One league leaders. Won 20 Lost 1

Reasons to be cheerful: Nikki Walker’s side have beaten Marr twice in the past three years, both in the BT Cup, most recently in a January 31-6 thrashing at Mansfield Park.

Marr’s young squad, while full of that devil-may-care-attitude, possess little experience against Premiership opposition, losing their last five outing against top tier sides.

Reasons to be fearful: The Ayrshire outfit have a clear pedigree of winning, reaching the play-off’s last season – where they were bested by Gala – and have lost just once in the league (an opening weekend 26-20 loss to Edinburgh Accies) and twice all season (BT Cup 31-6 defeat by Hawick). Led by Colin Sturgeon, Grant Baird Craig Kolarik and Ben Johnson Marr have the most prolific offense in all of Scottish club rugby, punishing opposing sides to the tune of 861 points, averaging 41.2 points per game.

Edinburgh Accies

Second in National One. Won 18 Lost 3

Reason to be cheerful: Injuries. Accies might have been the ones heading to the premiership automatically had it not been for costly injuries throughout the season, which was made worse last Saturday when the Edinburgh outfit lost prop James Pearce in their 17-33 victory over Falkirk.

The Raeburn Place side have shown signs of defensive vulnerabilities and fatigue in recent showings against Dundee HSFP, Hamilton and Selkirk who have all managed to score 24.6 points, and lack enough forward depth to maintain their aggressive approach to play for a full 80-minute contest.

Reasons to be fearful: Potential to crush opponents is always there with what many considered the most talent laden side in National One.

Scotland Under-19 standouts Jack Paterson, Shuan Gunn, Dean Roger, Finley Richardson are joined by Alex Glashan, Tom Drennan, Clement Lacour, Paul Loudon to create a formidable attack minded side. Youthful and full of threats from 1-15.