Look ahead – Pirates vs Wolves
April 6th, 2017
Matthew Davies previews Sunday’s season opening game against Premier Division new kids on the block the Edinburgh Wolves.
Season openers are always interesting games. So much can change in the seven months since a game was played, with retirements, transfers, injuries and coaching staff changes all adding up to give you a matchup between two teams who will look very different from the last time they set foot on the field.
The home side are coming off the back of a 6-4 season which was their worst record since 2008 and saw the Pirates missing a playoff spot for the first time since the same year, however there was more to that record than met the eye. Firstly, all four losses were to the teams who finished in the two playoff spots (Tamworth Phoenix and Merseyside Nighthawks). Secondly, and crucially, the team performed significantly better in the second outings against these two teams than in the first (from a 48 point deficit to a 2 point loss against Tamworth and from a 33 down to 16 against Merseyside) showing that the team matured and developed as the season progressed. That’s important, because it’s no secret that a large number of players, who were key figures for the team over the last decade, retired before the 2016 season and the impact of this was undeniable.
The Wolves, on the other hand, are coming off the best season in their history, going undefeated throughout the year before falling in a close-fought Division 1 final to the Bury Saints. This success won them their first ever berth in the Premier Division, where they will come face to face with some of the best sides in the UK. They have made huge strides over the past three years, winning 31 out of the 37 games across the 2014-216 seasons and this record will give them confidence and momentum coming into the fixture.
The Pirates have been the top team in Scotland since 1996, when the collapse of the Glasgow Lions saw a significant influx of talent to the Pirates. Their last loss to Scottish opposition was on August 11 1996 and interestingly the opposition was the now defunct Fife 49ers, who featured current Wolves Head Coach Don Edmonston among their squad. Throughout this significant time period, the Pirates have typically been at least one division removed from all other Scottish teams, so they’ve only played 23 games against Scottish opposition in almost 21 years. Such has been the change of the football landscape in this country, that there is no team still in existence north of Hadrians wall who has ever beaten the Pirates in a senior game and the Wolves will be travelling to Hamilton Rugby Club looking to change that.
Looking across the two organisations, the Pirates stack up well – the Wolves are the better of the two teams in Women’s football (having recorded two wins from three meetings against our Pirates ladies in their first two seasons), however at the under 19 age group, the Pirates hold the edge. At Junior (u19) level, the Pirates beat the Wolves in the final match of 2015 before the Wolves team folded and the Pirates went on to compete in the British final in 2016. At Youth (u17) the Pirates have beaten the Wolves comfortably over the last few seasons and went on to lift their first ever British title in September, and the Buccaneers (our second Youth team) have also had the better of the Wolves in recent meetings. It is these Youth and Junior players who are expected to have a key role in future Pirates success, learning their craft as they come through the ranks towards the senior team, and this year we have added six Junior graduates to the squad who we expect to be able to make a strong contribution in 2017.
Lots of questions hang in the air ahead of this season opener. How have the two teams improved or regressed since last summer? How will the Wolves fare in their first taste of Premier competition? Will the Pirates experience at this level be enough to get the job done and maintain their unbeaten streak in Scotland or will the Wolves momentum be too much for the home side? Whatever happens, it’s set to be a cracker!
Kick off is 2.30pm on Sunday at Hamilton Rugby Club. Entry £3 (under 16s go free).
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