Currie Chieftains 14
COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park
HAVING lost against the top two sides over the previous two weekends, Heriot’s bounced back against the team that started the day in third spot. These two have traditionally served up close encounters and here was another, although it took a late score for Chieftains to garner the losing bonus point.
The hosts were without Harvey Elms, who was on Scotland Sevens duty, and Charlie Shiel, who has been involved with Edinburgh over recent weeks. However, those absences were offset by useful performances from David Hall and Matt O’Neil. In the away camp, there was a welcome 60 minute contribution from Iain Wilson after being out through injury for almost 18 months.
Wilson’s effort was one of the positive aspects for Heriot’s coach Phil Smith, who said, “The weather dictated a wee bit although it wasn’t quite a game of two halves.
“We were disappointed to lose a try at the end as that gave them the bonus point. I didn’t think it was a one-point game to be honest,” he added. “Our defence was outstanding. But, our line-out basically failed so we will go away and try to work on that and that will put us in a better position for Stirling away next week.”
Smith believes his squad is capable of dealing with the tougher conditions that will come into play over the next few weeks, saying: “I think we have the pack to cope with that and our backs are beginning to come more into it.”.
With the wind at their backs, Chieftains spent the opening 10 minutes camped in the Heriot’s half, patiently building a series of attacks. Two penalty awards were despatched into touch but failed to yield points and a solid defensive effort, epitomised by solid tackles from Michael Maltman and Jack Turley, kept the hosts at bay.
A penalty for Heriot’s eventually relieved the pressure and allowed the visitors to enjoy a spell in the ascendancy. That, too, came to nothing and the clock ticked past the 20 minute mark with the score line still blank.
The opening points came with 26 minutes played when Heriot’s inched closer to the home line and when Robert Kay ran straight he was held just short. However, the ball was flung out right and swept along the line to Callum Marshall, who dotted down in the corner.
The lead grew to eight points after Marshall took a clean catch at a line-out just inside the home half and the Heriot’s pack edged towards the whitewash. The home defence was shunted inexorably backwards and eventually pulled down the maul inside the 22. Ross Jones collected the three points and Mike Vernel was shown a yellow card.
The home side shrugged off the numerical inferiority and almost immediately struck back. A clever kick ahead by O’Neil on half way, turned the Heriot’s defence and Cammy Gray took full advantage, winning the race to the ball and running in under the posts to ease the conversion for Jamie Forbes, who slotted the kick to leave the half time deficit at a single point.
Heriot’s introduced Edinburgh pro Duhan van der Merve on the left wing at half time and he went on to offer a couple of glimpses of his pace. However, the first action of note in the second period was down the other flank where Charlie Simpson attempted to sprint onto a kick ahead but was foiled as the ball ran over the dead ball line.
Van der Merwe’s first involvement saw him tackled five metres short of the line, but the recycled ball was shipped inside and then flipped into the path of the onrushing Jack Turley who crashed over for the try. Jones added the conversion.
That left Chieftains facing the prospect of taking nothing from the game. And they set about addressing that with a strong finale. Their efforts proved fruitless until the third minute of injury time when they finally found a way through a Heriot’s defence that had appeared impenetrable. Forbes added the extras but another error in the one remaining play meant that was as close as they would get.
“We were just not good enough first half, simple as that. I thought we actually played alright for the first ten minutes. We had a lot of pressure on their line. A few decisions probably went against us then we let them off the hook. Then for the rest of the half we were off it in terms of our urgency, energy, mentality – just not good enough”, said Chieftains coach Ben Cairns.
“We didn’t play well enough with the wind. In terms of how we played into the wind 7-7 is pretty good for the second half, but the issue was our first half performance,” he added.
Currie Chieftains: B Robbins; R Smith, R Nelson, D Hall, C Gray; J Forbes, M O’Neil; J Cox, C Mackintosh, A McWilliam, V Wright, M Vernel, S Ainslie, T Gordon, R Davies. Subs: G Carson, D Ferguson, S McGinley, C Smith, G Faulds.
Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, R Mulveena, R Kay, C Robertson; R Carmichael©, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, J Turley, M Maltman, I Wilson, M Hughes. Subs: S Mustard, G Cameron, S Dewar, A Ball, D Van Der Merwe.
Currie: Tries; Gray, Rhys Davies, Cons; Forbes (2)
Heriot’s: Tries; Marshall, Turley, Con; Jones, Pen; Jones
Yellow cards –
Currie Chieftains: Vernel
Scoring Sequence (Chieftains first): 0-5, 0-8, 5-8,7-8 (h-t) 7-13, 7-15, 12-15, 14-15
Referee: A Wookey (RFU)
Man-of-the-Match: Tom Wilson was a big contributor for the victors, snapping at the heels of his pack and cajoling them throughout, but it was a member of that eight, Michael Maltman, whose powerful running caught the eye.
Talking Point: Two sides known for playing an open game found it tough to produce their best rugby in the difficult conditions and, with the weather set to deteriorate over the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how these teams adapt.