COLIN RENTON @ Goldenacre
THE WATSONIANS bandwagon continued to gather pace with a six try demolition of their Edinburgh rivals, and in the process the Myreside men moved into the fourth play-off position in the BT Premiership table. It was impressive stuff from the visitors, although the error-strewn performance of the home side played a vital part in the final outcome.
“You don’t mind getting beat if you feel under pressure and that you’ve been outplayed. We have given them six tries. It was six gifts,” lamented Heriot’s coach Phil Smith. “We got off to a flyer and we thought we were in good shape and then we kept gifting them scores.”
Smith is not yet writing off his team’s chances of securing a top four finish. His counterpart Steve Lawrie is also insistent that there is still a lot of rugby to be played.
“The boys showed a lot of heart in the second half. We knew it would be tough. Every game to get into the top four is tough so we just have to focus every week,” he said. “But it doesn’t change our approach. We are not going to get ahead of ourselves. We have a tough week ahead – Hawick are resurgent so that’s a massive match – and anybody can beat anybody in this league.”
Supporters were still taking their seats in the stand as the hosts took the lead when Robbie Mulvena profited from disarray in the Watsonians defence to gather on a loose ball and race over inside the first minute.
The visitors responded with a handling move that earned a penalty 40 metres out when the home defence failed to roll away at the tackle, and Ali Harris banged over the kick.
Heriot’s claimed a second score of the afternoon when, following a scrum on the Watsonians 10 metre line, Tom Wilson kicked intelligently into space and sharp-witted John Rae took advantage, sprinting in at the corner.
It was breathless stuff and the Myreside men grabbed a try after 11 minutes. Rae made a timely tackle on a fleeing Michael Allen but the recycled ball was transferred along the line to Michael Fedo, who crashed through the final tackle. Harris stroked over the conversion and parity was restored.
Ross Jones had failed with both Heriot’s conversions and his kicking woes continued when he was off target with a penalty attempt in 16 minutes.
Watsonians capitalised on that miss when another well-constructed attack stretched the home defence and, after several phases, the ball was swung out to Jason Harries who finished off in the corner. Harris added the conversion via an upright.
Shortly after the half hour mark, the sides were level once more. The hosts earned a penalty that was booted into touch and the ensuing drive was halted illegally, earning Fedo a yellow card. The move worked at the second time of asking, with Jack Turley and Struan Cessford crashing over in unison and Turley credited with applying the final touch. This time Jones found his range with the conversion.
There was still time to add another score before the break. And it went the way of Watsonians when Rory Hutton picked up outside the 22 and ghosted through to hand his side the advantage once more. A successful conversion by Harris concluded the scoring after a remarkable 40 minutes of rugby.
As had happened in the first period, the second half started with an opportunist score. This time a spill by Rory Carmichael allowed the visitors to apply boot to ball and, as it bobbled in the danger zone, Mark Bertram was quickest to react – his unconverted score securing the four try bonus.
Heriot’s had opportunities to claw back points but another missed penalty and another driven lineout that came up just short ensured the score remained unchanged entering the final quarter, with the visitors again a man down after Allen was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle.
The hosts were reduced to 14 men when Michael Liness was shown a red card for an alleged stamp, although personnel from both sides were in agreement that it was a harsh decision.
Harris kept the scoreboard ticking over with another penalty and he added the extra two points after DJ Innes made the game safe when he was alert to another blunder in the home ranks to gather and race over.
The final blow to a demoralised Heriot’s came as they pressed for a bonus point score and Hutton plucked a looping pass out of the air and raced from inside his own half for try number six.
Heriot’s: R Jones; J Rae, R Mulveena, R Kay, C Robertson; R Carmichael, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Hughes, J McLean, J Turley. Subs: A Johnstone, S Mustard, M Maltman, S Edwards, L Steele.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; M Bertram, M Allen, D Innes, J Harries; R Hutton, A Harris; N Borel, R Graham, N Fraser, E Dods, C Borthwick, J Miller, G Nelson, MFedo, Subs: D Miller, F Hobbis, C Watt, W Thomson, R Steele
Heriot’s: Tries; Mulvena, Rae, Turley; Con; Jones.
Watsonians: Tries; Fedo, Harries, Hutton (2), Bertram, Innes, Cons; Harris (5), Pens: Harris (2)
Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 5-0; 5-3; 10-3; 10-8; 10-10; 10-15; 10-17; 15-17; 17-17; 17-22; 17-24 (h-t) 17-29; 17-32; 17-37; 17-39; 17-44; 17-46
Referee: V Praderie
Yellow cards –
Watsonians: Fedo, Allen
Red Cards –
Man-of-the match: Loads of contenders, particularly in the Watsonians ranks but the player who earned the accolade for the way he marshalled his troops, particularly in the second half, was the Myreside men’s impressive skipper Craig Borthwick.
Talking Point: If this is the type of game the run-in to the regular season is going to produce, then neutrals are in for a treat over the coming weeks.