Greenock Wanderers v Cambuslang at Fort Matilda
Greenock Wanderers get their 2017/18 BT West Regional League Division 1 campaign up and running tomorrow when they host old rivals Cambuslang at Fort Matilda (kick-off 3pm).
It is the official start of a new era at the local rugby club as they begin their fight to get back into the mainstream national league set-up after being relegated into the regional divisions at the end of last term.
A fresh management and coaching team along with some inspired close season acquisitions has lifted the gloom at Fort Matilda and resulted in a buoyancy and positivity not seen at the west end sports ground in several seasons. There is much confidence that a competitive campaign will see the locals contend at the top end of the division and restore some much needed pride in local rugby.
The script has been written for a resounding home victory tomorrow but visitors Cambuslang will travel with their own lofty ambitions that they can upset the applecart and bag the points as they look to secure back to back promotions.
The visitors and Wanderers have not met in league action for several years but traditionally the fixtures between the clubs have been tight with no quarter asked or given. Home advantage has generally been significant which augurs well for Wanderers tomorrow.
Cambuslang were runners-up in BT West Regional League Division 2 last season with a decent return of 12 wins from 16 matches and those statistics were sufficient to ensure promotion.
The men from Coats Park in Lanarkshire are known to be strong up front and have a swift backline that is capable of scoring tries from long range. They have put in a tough pre-season with plenty of gym work and training matches and look fit and ready for the challenges ahead.
Wanderers are equally focused on success this season and received a boost over the summer months when former players Michael McLaren, Ant Devlin and Leigh Tyley all agreed to return to Fort Matilda. This trio is used to winning in Wanderers colours and their positivity, experience and ability will add much to the locals’ chance of success.
Greenock unfortunately disappointed in their opening game last weekend at Cumnock when the hosts knocked them out of the West Regional Shield in the first round. By way of comparison Cambuslang defeated the South Ayrshire side twice last season in the league, winning at Coats Park 24-15 in September and then again 21-15 at Broomfield in December so the warning signs are clear that a tough encounter is likely tomorrow.
In terms of selection Wanderers have named a large squad for the clash and some late decisions will determine the starting lineup.
Elder statesman and accomplished scrummager Alan Crighton continues to defy the years and looks certain to start in the front row where he will be the bulwark of the Wanderers' pack.
Skipper Dougie McIntyre and young lock forward Lee Oribine will be the key men at the lineout and the local supporters will once more look to them and their colleagues in the front five to produce the possession needed to establish supremacy and starve what by all accounts is a pretty slick Cambuslang back division of the ball and scoring opportunities.
Wanderers though have skill and pace in their own back line and Gavin Cowan appears likely to get the nod at scrum-half and he will look to get width on the ball and bring speedy wingers Scott Galbraith and Scott Bellew into the play. With Tyley hovering at full-back the Wanderers' attack looks potent and capable of punching holes through the visitors defence.
A large crowd is expected to witness for themselves this new look Wanderers side and add vocal support to a team that is hoping to achieve success this season. The usual pre-match hospitality and corporate lunch will add a sense of occasion to the fixture and if the team can produce a big performance and win the tie then it will be an excellent start to the new season and one that the new managerial incumbents can build on.
Elsewhere, Wanderers' Ladies open their BT Women’s National League Division 1 campaign at Garscube on Sunday when they travel to play Glasgow University. A large travelling support is expected to accompany the Greenock girls as they look to get their season off to a flying start.
Match reports on both games will appear in the Telegraph next week.