GARY HEATLY @ Goldenacre
A dominant performance by the pack and an assured showing by young scrum-half Andrew Simmers set Heriot’s up for this much needed win against Gala. Going into this match the defending champions had lost back-to-back encounters to Glasgow Hawks and Currie and head coach Phil Smith was looking for a response from his charges. And while this was not vintage Heriot’s, they secured the bonus point in the 55th minute and got things back on track.
Nineteen-year-old Simmers scored 23 points thanks to two tries, three penalties and two conversions and looked confident behind a strong forward unit.
“That was more like it, we got on the front foot early on and played some good rugby. The boys’ confidence was a bit low after the last couple of weeks, but fair play to them they came together and showed what they can do. With Alex Hagart, our usual kicker, out with a head knock I asked Andrew to take on those duties and for a young guy I thought he did really well,” said Smith afterwards.
For Gala this was a step backwards after their win against Watsonians last week and the inquest between the coaching staff and the senior coaching group that went on for 20 minutes in the dugout after full-time tells its own story. They never got into the match up front and it is hard to win 80 minutes of rugby from that position.
After two minutes Gala skipper Graham Speirs put a neat kick into the Heriot’s ‘22’, but from the resultant lineout it was the hosts who got on the front foot. A driving maul by the forwards got them up to halfway and then hooker Michael Liness broke away and ran 20 metres into open space before the chance was lost.
At this early juncture it was obvious that Heriot’s were going to try and use the maul on a regular basis to break down their rivals from the Borders. Their pack was dominating after the first 10 minutes and they won the first kickable penalty soon after. Simmers lotted that one and a second four minutes later to make things 6-0.
Gala then got their hands on the ball and showed the tempo that they like to play the game at. Some good breaks from, amongst others, debutante number eight Harry Borthwick, saw them into the Heriot’s ‘22’ and, with a penalty coming, captain Gregor Hunter put a nice kick into the corner and when Heriot’s winger Charlie Simpson fumbled visiting lock Rob Louw was ready to pounce. Hunter converted and it was 7-6 to the visitors.
Heriot’s then scored two tries in six minutes. The first came at the end of the first quarter when Simpson set-up number eight Struan Dewar to go over and then the Irishman himself went in under the posts. The latter try was converted by Simmers and another penalty meant they were 18-7 to the good.
When Gala did have the ball players such as centre Paul Hendry and winger Alex Northam, of Edinburgh Rugby, looked dangerous, but the team had to gain parity up front first.
They did that fleetingly just before the break and when the ball was spun wide, Spemade a great break off his wing and flipped a pass to full-back Rory Scholes, another Edinburgh starlet, who went over. Hunter converted meaning the Maroons were still in it at the break at 21-14 down.
Heriot’s came out flying after the interval and they scored a well-worked team try in the 43rd minute. A good break by winger Harry Boisseau set-up full-back Gavin Parker and then he cleverly passed back inside to Simmers who went over for the score.
In the 50th minute, Gala’s impressive back-row Gary Adams broke through a hole and galloped into the Heriot’s ‘22’.He was hauled down and the ball was shipped wide, but Northam’s inside pass to Scholes was deemed forward and the move broke down.
Five minutes later Heriot’s were back on the attack and they bagged their fourth try and the bonus point.Centre John Semple chipped a nice kick into the corner and with Scholes dallying Simpson used his pace and dived on the ball to grab his second try of the afternoon.
With 14 minutes remaining Heriot’s gave the seemingly ageless Stewart Mustard a run out in the front-row and their pack continued to dominate. From a five metre scrum with eight minutes remaining the forwards crept their way over the Gala try line and Simmers dived over for his second try of the day.
He missed the conversion, but the Scotland under-19 cap should be happy with his performance. He was given a rousing round of applause when he was replaced soon after by debutante Alex Ball.
In the closing minutes replacement Ross Combe showed his pace to go over in the corner for Gala, but it was too little, too late and it finished 38-19 to Heriot’s.
Heriot’s: Tries: Dewar, Simpson 2, Simmers 2. Pens: Simmers 3. Cons: Simmers 2.
Gala: Try: Louw, Scholes, Combe. Cons: Hunter 2.
Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 3-0, 6-0, 6-5, 6-7, 11-7, 16-7, 18-7, 21-7, 21-12, 21-14, 26-14, 28-14, 33-14, 38-14, 38-19.
Heriot’s: G Parker; C Simpson, J Laird, J Semple, H Boisseau; R Carmichael (C), A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, C Smith, M Maltman, J McLean, S Dewar. Subs: S Mustard, R Mitchell, E Jackson, A Ball, J Rae.
Gala: R Scholes; A Northam, L Berg, P Hendry, G Speirs (C); G Hunter, C Adams; M Carryer, D Brooker, C Keen, C Weir, R Louw, G Adams, S Cairns, H Borthwick. Subs: C Reynolds, R Todd, A Emond, R Combe, C Robertson.
Referee: Neil Muir.
Man-of-the-match: Heriot’s scrum-half Andrew Simmers. Looked assured behind a dominant pack and bagged two tries.
Talking point: Have Heriot’s rediscovered their mojo? Could this five try win see the reigning champions go on a run… only time will tell.
Image courtesy: Scottish Rugby/SNS Group