BT Premiership: Heriot’s emerge from the shadows to lead the race for a home play-off

Heriots wing Charlie Simpson manages to get the ball down for his team's first try, despite the close attentions of Bobby Beattie. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson

Heriot’s 31

Glasgow Hawks 22

DAVID BARNES @ Goldenacre

WITH both Ayr and Currie Chieftains having an unscheduled weekend off due to the frost, Heriot’s took advantage by not only moving from third into second in the table, but also opening up a four point lead over the chasing pack. It was a comfortable enough victory in the end, although head coach Phil Smith was slightly frustrated that his side didn’t really put the game to bed when they had the chance.

“Hawks have definitely been a bogey team for us and that’s us now taken ten points off them in the two games – which we haven’t done in the last five or six years. So, for me, that is a massive step forward. I thought our game organisation in general was brilliant, but the only thing is I feel like we let them off the hook,” he said, before discussing the sequence of errors by his team which led to Grant Stewart scoring a late try which brought Hawks back to almost within striking distance.

“A missed [penalty] kick to the corner, penalty, scrum against, line-out, penalty, pressure, try – so you are going from a position of strength to really letting them back into the game. We’ve got to stop that – it has to stop because the phase play stuff was brilliant,” he explained.

“Yes, we had some unforced errors and that bugs me, but I thought we generally put the ball in the right areas and kept it there – apart from the first five minutes and the last ten minutes.”

Bruce Stevenson proudly supports Heriot’s Rugby Club

Hawks coach Fin Gillies seems to be getting slightly more philosophical about the vagaries of life as a rugby coach.

“It is disappointing. Once againwe’ve not fired a shot for 40 to 45 minutes. It is weird because we scored early on but then we got caught playing ten phases inside our 22. Our kicking was poor in the first half and didn’t get much better in the second half,” he shrugged.

“To be fair to Heriot’s, they could have been a lot further ahead by half-time if they had been more clinical. They actually played a lot better rugby than us today – classic Phil Smith wide-wide style – out the back and Stuart Edwards fizzing some passes behind people – and we needed to be a little bit more connected in defence.”

Kick-off was delayed by five minutes – which is as long as could be afforded given the lack of floodlights at Goldenacre – because Hawks had been caught up behind a road accident on the M8. The visitors, however, did not initially seem to have any trouble shaking the bus trip out of their legs, with a couple of powerful early scrums allowing them to build the platform for Jake Eaglesham to barge over on a number eight pick-up with only six minutes played. Ross Thompson slotted the conversion.

That roused Heriot’s, and after a period of sustained pressure, Charlie Simpson squeezed over in the right-hand corner and Ross Jones nailed the conversion from the touchline to level the scores. Seven minutes later, Adam Sinclair crashed over from close range and Jones converted again, to give the hosts a 14-7 lead at the interval.

After those initial scrum problems, the Heriot’s pack – with recent Edinburgh signing Elliot Millar Mills at tight-head prop – really began to get the upper hand. Eaglesham did exceptionally well to pick-up from the base of a back-pedalling set-piece and make 20 yards, generating the momentum which earned the visitors on offside penalty which allowed Thompson to narrow the gap to four points with just three minutes of the second half played.

But Hawks then shot themselves in the foot by failing to deal with the restart, and hands in the ruck as they tried to rescue the situation resulted in a penalty from which Jones was able to re-establish the seven-point cushion, and that was soon extended to ten points when a sweeping attack, which was instigated by Charlie Simpson’s arching run out of defence after collecting a loose clearance, and given real oomph by Martin Hughes and Struan Cessford rampaging up the middle, before Robbie Mulvena threaded his way home.

Heriot’s then demonstrated that they can be just as effective when they stick the ball up their jumper, with the bonus point secured when Jack Turley got the ball down after some powerful driving play.

A rampaging 45-yard run from Hawks’ replacement centre Jack Steele, which left a trail of failed Heriot’s tacklers strewn in his wake, snatched a lifeline for the visitors; and after that series of calamities which infuriated Smith so much, hooker Grant Stewart showed great athleticism to get the ball down as he dived in at the corner with five minutes to go.

That score set up the prospect of one, or maybe even two, bonus points being salvaged by Hawks – or even a draw if Steele could nail the tricky conversion from the touchline and the team could get back up the park and score again.

But Steele’s effort did not make it, and this time Heriot’s managed to keep their opponents pinned back inside their own half to see out the contest.


Taggarts Land Rover are proud to support Glasgow Hawks
Teams –

Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, R Mulvena, R Kay, L Steele; S Edwards, T Wilson; S Cessford, M Liness, E Millar-Mills, J Turley, A Sinclair, M Maltman, S Dewar, M Hughes. Subs used: S Mustard, M Bouab, I Wilson, R Carmichael, J Rae.

Glasgow Hawks: S Peffers; K Rowe, B Beattie, P Kelly, J Couper; R Thompson, P Boyer; S Findlay, G Stewart, G Strain, A Kirkland, F Hastie, S Leckey, C Kerr, J Eaglesham. Subs used: P Cairncross, L Skinner, C Brodie, J Steele, S Yawayawa.

Scorers –

Heriot’s: Tries: Simpson, Sinclair, Mulveena, Turley; Cons: Jones 4; Pen: Jones.

Glasgow Hawks: Try: Eaglesham, Steele, Stewart; Con: Thompson, Pefffers; Pen: Thompson.

Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7 (h-t) 14-10; 17-10; 22-10; 24-10; 29-10; 31-10; 31-15; 31-17; 31-22.

Referee: G Ormiston

Man-of-the-Match: Teenager Martin Hughes has been a real success story for Heriot’s this year, although he has not always managed to command a starting spot in a highly competitive area for the Goldenacre men. He certainly justified his selection on this occasion, getting through a barrel of work at the breakdown and also managing a couple of telling carries.

Talking point: Given that they were champions of Scotland just 18 months ago, it is hard to categorise Heriot’s as dark horses in this league campaign – but while most eyes have been on Ayr and Currie Chieftains as the two teams most likely to topple front-runners Melrose, Phil Smith’s boys have quietly gone about building a decent run of league form. They have a powerful pack, a dangerous back-line, strength in depth and, crucially, it feels like we have not seen the best of them yet.


About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.