GHA will face their toughest test of the season so far as they face RBS Premiership league leaders Ayr at Millbrae in the West Regional Cup on Saturday.

The Braidholm side will be looking to build on their 43-15 victory against Ardrossan last week but know it will be a difficult assignment against the best team in Scotland this season. Ayr have lost just once in the league this season and will be looking to make it two wins from two in the Cup after defeating Hillhead/Jordanhill last weekend.

Team News:

GHA will be without Sean Fisher and Dominic Kellock who are unavailable this week and they are sweating over the health of scrum half Andrew Gillman who has been struck down with a bug which may keep him out of tomorrow’s team. The full line up is:

  1. Stephen Spowart
  2. James Malcolm
  3. Matt Kidd
  4. Robbie Glen
  5. Jamie Auld
  6. Paul Harkins
  7. Donald Malcolm
  8. Grant MacDonald
  9. Andrew Gillman
  10. Dominic Dunn
  11. Gordon Adams
  12. Andrew Henderson (c)
  13. John Brogan
  14. Rangi Jericevich
  15. Hefin O’Hare

Scott Gallagher, Scott Carson, Ryan Jenkins, Chris Binnie, Scott Lang

In the event that Gillman fails to recover, Dominic Dunn will play scrum half, Gordon Adams will start at fly half and Chris Binnie will come on to the left wing.

Former GHA and Hutchie Back Row Calum Forrester will captain Ayr against his former club this Saturday.

Old Rivalry Resumed:

This Saturday’s RBS Cup tie between GHA and Ayr at Millbrae will take place almost 5 years to the day since the two sides last met and where GHA earned a hard fought draw against an Ayr side who, like they are at present, were heading the Premiership table. That result was built on a solid GHA defensive effort which was eulogised in the Ayrshire Post at the time:

“The feisty visitors pack, with Andy Boag and Jon Paine particular nuisances, took Ayr on up front and with Alan Bulloch marshalling the midfield defence masterfully, the home side had nowhere to go. The biggest threat came from a couple of forays by nippy GHA wing Ross McClymont which had the home defence scrambling…”

“…The Ayr pack rumbled, spent 20 minutes inside the GHA 22, 12 of those camped on the visitors’ line and in the end came away with only a Diffenthal penalty. Few sides can withstand the close range power of the Ayr pack and to hold them out the GHA defence had to be nothing short of heroic.”

Full article available here.

GHA were of course in the same league as Ayr at the time but it will take a similar effort if they are to have any chance against the Millbrae men this Saturday.

Bill McLaren Shield:

As if this Saturday’s away trip to Ayr in the RBS Cup wasn’t tough enough for GHA, the tie will carry extra significance for the RBS Premiership leaders as they look to defend the Bill McLaren Shield for the 4th consecutive time, a feat which would mean they become the first side to have their name engraved on the impressive piece of silverware.

The Shield which was introduced by the SRU as a tribute to the great commentator Bill McLaren, was first played for on September 3rd 2011 and to date, no team that has been in possession of the Shield has achieved the 4 consecutive home wins required to have their name engraved upon it. Only GHA stand in the way of Ayr achieving this honour.

The rules and format for the Bill McLaren Shield are:

  • All home RBS league & RBS Cup matches by the holder shall be challenge matches.
  • Should the holder win or draw the challenge match they retain the Shield.
  • Should the holder be defeated in the challenge they lose the Shield and the winner becomes the new holder of the Shield. The former holder presents the Shield to the new holder to defend.
  • The next challenge match will then be the next home game played in the RBS League or RBS Cup by the new holder.
  • Should the holder retain the Shield for four consecutive challenge matches their name will be engraved on the Shield.
  • After the holder has had their name engraved on the Shield they must take the Shield ‘on the road’ with all games played in RBS league and Cup competitions becoming challenge matches.
Thoughts from the Touchline:

GHA Head Coach Gordon MacPherson believes that Saturday’s encounter will provide a good indication at where the club is at. He said:

“It will be an interesting gauge. I think the guys are really looking forward to it and test themselves against the best club team in Scotland. It will be interesting to see how we will cope with the step up in intensity and really every part of the game. The match against Ayr will be a good gauge at where the club is at as a whole.”

The Cup is set to be a good chance for some fringe and younger players at the club to get the
chance to impress and show what they can do. And Gordon MacPherson believes the match against Ayr is a good opportunity for the younger players who want to play at a higher level the chance to test themselves against the best. He said:

“We have got a few young guys within the club and it will be good for them to get that experience of playing at Premiership level. Some of them will have aspirations of playing Premiership rugby and if we can’t give them that within the next couple of years some will probably try and play for other clubs, so it will be interesting to compare their level of performance to a Premiership side.”

GHA will face Ayr and Hillhead/Jordanhill in the Cup before the league campaign resumes.

Head Coach Gordon MacPherson believes that it is important to maintain a winning mentality ahead of the league campaign resumption. He said:

“It is easy to relax when there is nothing at stake in terms of the league. So that is why we wanted to play as hard as we can and keep the winning momentum going. When you start losing you start doubting yourself and lose confidence which is something we didn’t want to do in between the league games, so it is pleasing that we put that sort of performance against Ardrossan last weekend.”

Kick Off at Millbrae on Saturday is 12:30pm.

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