Peebles head coach Graeme Paterson feeling confident as rugby’s Scottish National League Division 2 title race goes to wire

Jae Linton in possession during Hawick's 38-7 Border League win away to Peebles at the Gytes on Friday (Photo: Malcolm Grant)Jae Linton in possession during Hawick's 38-7 Border League win away to Peebles at the Gytes on Friday (Photo: Malcolm Grant)
Jae Linton in possession during Hawick's 38-7 Border League win away to Peebles at the Gytes on Friday (Photo: Malcolm Grant)
​Peebles are just two games away from winning promotion to rugby’s Scottish National League Division 1 and head coach Graeme Paterson is confident his table-toppers can go all the way if they carry on applying themselves to that task the way they have been doing up to now.

​Those final two fixtures of this season are both away – at seventh-placed Kirkcaldy this coming Saturday, with kick-off at 3pm, and basement side Aberdeen Grammar on Saturday, March 16, also at 3pm.

Peebles go into that run-in with 67 points from 16 fixtures but second-placed Falkirk are taking their title challenge right to the wire, being only one point behind them, also after 16 matches.

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Both reverse fixtures at the Gytes in November yielded wins for the Pees – by 46-17 against Kirkcaldy and 46-13 versus Aberdeen – and Paterson is hoping for more of the same.

“We’re confident,” he said. “As I’ve said to the players before pretty much every game, if we go out and perform and play well, then we’ll win – it’s as simple as that.

“We’ve got to give ourselves the best possible chance of winning, and if we do that, we’re confident we’ll get the points we need.”

Nothing is at stake for Kirkcaldy but Aberdeen, with three games left to play, might still be in with a chance of avoiding relegation by the time they meet.

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Looking ahead to those away-days, Paterson said: “It’s always dangerous playing against a team with nothing to lose because they often don’t play like they normally would so you can be set up one way then something completely different happens on the park.

“Kirkcaldy and Aberdeen probably present different challenges.

“Kirkcaldy are traditionally stronger up front and were so when we played them down here, but we ground them down by playing a bit faster than them and that paid dividends in the later stages of the game.

“Aberdeen potentially might have something to play for depending on how results go. If they can eke out a win between now and then, they might still be hanging onto Berwick’s coat-tails to stay up.

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“Again it’s difficult to see how they’re going to approach that game if they’ve nothing to play for, and that’s a dangerous one to try to plan for.”

Peebles’ season so far might have exceeded many neutrals’ expectations but Paterson, in charge since the summer, says he always believed his squad had what it takes to challenge for the title.

“The only goal that we set ourselves was that we wanted to be in the hunt for promotion and that was basically it, and we are, so we’ve got that goal achieved and now it’s about following through on that,” he said.

“All teams suffer injuries and losses of players and we’ve had a few of those on the way, giving us the odd wee bump, but our strength as a collective has come through over the season.

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“These are the challenges that you face as you go along, but the leadership from within the playing group has really helped in binding everyone together and it’s got us to this point now.

“We had that goal of being in the hunt and giving ourselves a chance of going up and now we’re there.”

Peebles hosted a Border League fixture against Scottish Premiership table-toppers Hawick on Friday, losing 38-7, and that proved to be a good workout ahead of their run-in to the season’s end, said Paterson.

“It was really good preparation for us and there weren’t any injuries – a couple of wee niggles but nothing major or anything like that – so that was another positive to come out of it as there’s always that risk,” he said.

“To be honest, we wanted to get out there and keep playing, and it was a hard, physical game, but thankfully the boys got through it pretty much unscathed.”