Aberdeen Grammar are facing a massive game to kick-start 2024 as the bottom side in National Two make the long trip to second bottom Berwick tomorrow.
Heading into the year and the last few games of the 2023-24 league campaign, Grammar are in the relegation spot on 15 points after two wins and 11 losses from 13 games.
Their points difference is -199 while Berwick’s points difference of -110 means they are just above Grammar sitting on 15 points with one win and 11 defeats from 12 games.
Given that Berwick have six games left and Grammar just five and that eighth-placed Stirling County are seven points ahead, this weekend’s Scremerston meeting looks like being very important in the grand scheme of things.
Back in October, Grammar were down 12-10 to Berwick before a try from Seamus Gilmartin gave them a precious 15-12 triumph against the same opponents and they could do with more of those fighting qualities on the road this time around.
“With five games left the pressure on all teams at the bottom is ramping up slowly,” Grammar head coach Eric Strachan said.
“It is a big game this weekend for both teams in terms of league position, but nothing will be decided on Saturday.
“We are still nursing a few injuries, but a competent squad will travel looking for at least four points.
“The lads are chomping at the bit to get back to action and the return of Aaron Robertson and Yaseen Ahmanache will bolster the pack. The backs will be looking to set the pace with Scott Byars and Ben Renton looking for work on the wings.”
Lasswade test for GoGos
In the same division, fifth-placed Gordonians are hosting fourth-placed Lasswade.
“We are looking forward to getting back on the pitch after a ‘stop start’ end to 2023,” Gordonians head coach Ryan Morrice said.
“The boys have kept their fitness ticking over, but nothing can replicate the intensity in a game so we shall see how we hold up.
“Lasswade will be a tough side to open 2024 against as last time out they ran leaders Peebles close despite being down to 14 men. They are very powerful up front so we want to avoid getting into an arm wrestle and think about how we can move them about the big pitch at Countesswells.”
Sam Ryan is out for a while after undergoing surgery on an injury he picked up against Falkirk on December 16, but Gordonians welcome back Josh Andrew after he broke a finger earlier in the season.
In National One, Highland will look to build on pushing league champions Ayr close six days ago when they travel to GHK.
GHK are bottom and will be scrapping for everything while Highland are third and have a second-placed finish in their sights.
When the teams met in Inverness in September, Highland won 50-21.
After losing their unbeaten record to Hillhead Jordanhill in mid-December, Orkney resume their title challenge in National Three with a home match against bottom side Hamilton Bulls.
In Caledonia One’s North Conference, leaders Moray are hosting fourth-placed Ellon.
The women’s Caledonia North One title race will come to an exciting conclusion.
Shetland Valkyries are on 30 points and top on points difference and are due to host third-placed Peterhead while Aberdeenshire Quines, in second also on 30 points, are on the road to third-placed Inverness Craig Dunain.
Whoever wins the league will go into a regional play-off series for a shot at the Premiership and Aberdeenshire skipper Amy McGlashan said: “We are so chuffed that we are still in a position to compete for the league title.
“We’ve worked really hard as a squad this year to build on key parts of our game. We set out to have fun this season and we’ve certainly done that.
“It is exciting that the Quines are putting themselves on the map again as a force in north-east rugby.
“Inverness are a strong side and we always enjoy playing them, it should be a competitive fixture.”
Shetland’s points difference is +217 and Aberdeenshire’s is +187.
Garioch’s Nikki Simpson is likely to be in Celtic Challenge action for Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun versus the Irish Wolfhounds.