DAVID BARNES @ Myreside
A TETCHY, TENSE ENCOUNTER which fizzed like a firecracker with a faulty fuse, meaning that it never quite got round to going pop, ended with Heriots’ greater experience giving them a crucial edge during the final quarter.
“I was frustrated at half-time because we must have had 70 per cent of the ball in reality but we didn’t do much with it, but the breeze we were playing into was stronger than I had appreciated and Watsonians’ defence and low error count was phenomenal,” said Heriot’s head coach Phil Smith.
“In the second half it was about turning a bit of territory into something, which we did. It was kind of a punch bag scenario – you don’t go out and win the game in the first 40-minutes – we’re tryng to wear teams down and in the second half I felt we stressed them a lot.”
The game was still in the balance with five minutes to go when Watsonians were seven points down but well positioned inside Heriot’s territory, only to let their opponents off the hook through a number of penalties conceded and errors made – which ultimately cost the home team a losing bonus point when visiting scrum-half Tom Wilson latched onto an overthrown line-out to score a try in the last play of the match.
Frustration for Watsonians then. They may well be a work in progress under Stevie Lawrie, but the head coach doesn’t want that to become a crutch which hinders his team’s development.
“I didn’t really feel like we were under pressure in the first half, when we had a good bit of the game; but we struggled after the break when they kicked well with the wind and we kicked poorly into it,” he said.
“We have gone from 10-0 up to 10-17 down, and then given am intercept when we’re trying to apply pressure, which ultimately lead to us losing 10-22. We are learning but we just need to learn a bit quicker,” he added.
“There was learnings from the last three or four weeks which we’ve done again, so the penny needs to drop now.”
Watsonians took the lead when, off quick line-out ball, Euan Dods made a big dent in the middle of the park then fed Rory Hutton, who gracefully stepped back inside the drift-defence to open up an acre of space, before working a simple two-on-one to send Michael Fedo under the posts.
A few moments later, home stand-off Andrew Chalmers slotted a penalty awarded against a Heriot’s offside, to go with his earlier successful conversion.
Heriot’s threatened the Watsonians line for the first time as the game entered the second quarter, but when the ball was knocked on in contact 15 yards from the try-line, Watsonians reacted sharply, with Hutton and Dods once again instrumental as the ball was transported 80 yards to the other end of the park.
Heriot’s were, however, growing into the game, and the visitors pulled the deficit back to just three points with two minutes to go in the half, when a penalty try was awarded and Willie Thomson was shown a yellow card for taking out Robbie Mulveena as he chased a kick ahead into the in-goal area.
The tension of the occasion was evident when Heriot’s second-row Adam Sinclair got involved in a shoving match with several Watsonians players as they made their way down the tunnel at the interval.
Heriot’s were the faster out the blocks when the action resumed but didn’t really threaten to trouble the scorer again until just after the hour mark, when a penalty kicked into the corner precipitated prolonged assault on the Watsonians line, which finally came to a head when Jack Turley stretch over after around 20 phases.
Stuart Edwards stretched Heriot’s to a converted try ahead when he scooped a loose pass off his toes and sent home a wonderful drop-goal from around 40 yards. Smith admitted after the game that he had been about to take Edwards off just before that moment of magic because he was frustrated that the stand-off was not controlling the game, but a smart kick into the corner a few minutes earlier had earned the player a reprieve.
“And from then on he just seemed to have a better feel for what he was trying to do. He was more comfortable in himself, so it was a bit of a turning point because the game was drifting along at that point,” explained Smith.
Scott McLeod ignited a brief Watsonians rally when collecting a high kick and scooting past a handful of pedestrian Heriot’s defenders on the left wing, but there was a knock-on when the ball was transferred to the opposite touchline and then the visitors squeezed a penalty out of the resultant scrum.
Heriot’s kicked to touch and Watsonians conceded another penalty for pulling the jumper down at the line-out, and any chance Lawrie’s men had of snatching a draw evaporated.
And they did not even walkaway with the comfort of a losing bonus point after Wilson latched onto that overthrown line-out and scooted in unchallenged.
Watsonians: J Harrison; M Bertram, R Hutton, D Innes, S McLeod; A Chalmers, W Thomson; N Fraser, D Miller, K Whyte, J Hodgson, C Borthwick, M Fedo, J Miller, E Dods. Subs: A Johnston, N Borel, R Drummond, E McKirdy, A Davidson.
Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, R Mulveena, R Carmichael, C Robertson; S Edwards, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Hughes, J McLean, J Turley. Subs: S Mustard, J Ward, C Smith.
Watsonians: Try: Fedo; Con: Chalmers; Pen: Chalmers.
Heriot’s: Try: Penalty Try, Turley, Wilson; Con: Jones; DG: Edwards.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 5-0; 7-0; 10-0; 10-7 (h-t) 10-12; 10-14; 10-17; 10-22
Yellow cards –
Watsonians: Thomson (38 mins)
Referee: G Wells
Man-of-the-Match: Heriot’s scrum-half Tom Wilson was dangerous from the base when he got to the breakdown quickly enough, and stand-off Stuart Edwards scored that great drop-goal and took control when it really mattered, but blindside flanker Martin Hughes put in a massive shift which included a magnificent cover tackle on Rory Drummond.
Talking point: A cold wind and deluge of rain just before kick-off mitigated against this being a free-flowing classic, but there was a decent crowd at Myreside and enough tension in the match to make sure that this was a cracking way to kick-off the weekend. Friday night rugby doesn’t need to be the preserve of the pro game.