Colin Renton @ Old Anniesland

HERIOT’S progressed to a BT Cup showdown with Melrose at BT Murrayfield on 16 April by virtue of being the away side after a tense encounter at Old Anniesland.

There was nothing between the sides after 80 minutes and extra time failed to produce a winner. That meant a painful exit for Hawks who had failed to take advantage of the opportunities that had come their way throughout 100 engrossing minutes of hugely competitive rugby.

The sides have both established a decent cup pedigree over the past couple of seasons. Heriot’s emerged with the silverware when the teams clashed in the 2014 final at Braidwood Stadium and the pair exited at the semi final stage last year. Hawks bowed out to eventual winners Boroughmuir and Heriot’s lost 6-3 against Hawick in a match that had their coach Phil Smith fuming over a refereeing blunder that cost his side their place in the showdown for the silverware.

However, that is now history and since then Smith has led his men to the BT Premiership title and the pre-season Charity Shield. He has also just enjoyed a triumphant spell at the helm of the Scotland Clubs XV that posted wins over English and Irish counterparts.

There was an intriguing sub-plot to this tie with Hawks skipper Brendan McGroarty and scrum half Paddy Boyer having operated under Smith on international duty in Cork eight days earlier. And the Edinburgh outfit included five men who had been involved on the Emerald Isle – Jack Turley in the starting line up and four others on the bench.

In the lead up to the match, Smith had said that he was anticipating a ‘war’ and, the early skirmishes suggested that it was indeed going to be a bruising battle. The gusting wind was creating havoc with any attempt to play a handling game although the fleeting moments of handling rugby came from the hosts.
Hawks enjoyed the territorial advantage in the opening 12 minutes without threatening the Heriot’s line and the first scoring opportunity came in the form of a penalty for a scrum offence. However, Jack Steele steered his kick wide of the target.

Heriot’s had their first scoring opportunity four minutes later but John Semple’s penalty attempt crashed back off a post.

Seeking to counter the sterile nature of the game, Smith shuffled his pack with the introduction of Under 20 prop Murray McCallum after half an hour. The powerful youngster’s first contribution led to the deadlock being broken. Heriot’s won a lineout just outside the home 22 and surged towards the whitewash. Hawks lock thwarted the move illegally and was subsequently yellow carded for pulling down the maul. However, as he did so, Ian Wilson was alert to the opportunity and plunged over for the score. Semple’s conversion suffered the same fate as his earlier kick, rattling back off the post.

The visitors appeared to have double their tally when another drive shunted the home pack backwards. Russell Nimmo dived over but the referee judged that he had been held up.

Another offence as Hawks attempted to halt a drive from the ensuing scrum saw the referee brandish another yellow, this time for David Milne but the hosts survived to half time without conceding further points.

Despite still operating one man short, the hosts squared matters within a couple of minutes of the restart. A clever flip by Steele found Robert Beattie in space and powered down the right, rounding two defenders before touching down. Steele was awry with the conversion attempt and also failed with a penalty attempt with half an hour left to play.

The game appeared to be opening up and Heriot’s winger Charlie Simpson almost profited from the space down the right flank although his chip ahead trickled into touch as he raced through.

Hawks responded with a blistering break from Kerr Gossman who fed Sean Yacoubian and the full back released Beattie. An offence at the breakdown earned Wilson ten minutes in the sin bin. With the Heriot’s pack a man short, the home side drove the visitors backwards and Fin Gillies applied the final touch. Steele’s kicking touch remained elusive, leaving Hawks five points clear entering the final quarter.

Hawks were now in the ascendancy and further pressure yielded another penalty on the Heriot’s ten metre line and the referee again reached for his yellow card, this time despatching Murray McCallum for ten minutes on the side lines.

A debate over whether to have uncontested scrums broke the rhythm of the game and when play restarted, Simpson sprinted down the right flank, chipped ahead, then took advantage of a slip by Pierre Mounal to dot down and send the game into extra time.

The stalemate persisted throughout the first ten minute period and two minutes later, Heriot’s had a chance to snatch the lead. However, Semple’s long-range effort fell just short of the target.

There was confusion all round as rule books were consulted. The players believed the outcome had been decided on the strength of the opening try. In fact, it was the Goldenacre men who progressed thanks to the fact that they were the visitors.

Scorers –

Hawks: Tries – Beattie, Gillies
Heriot’s: Tries – Wilson, Simpson

Teams –
Glasgow Hawks: S Yacoubian; R Beattie, B McGroarty, D Milne, K Gossman, J Steele, P Boyer; S Findlay, J Macfarlane, G Strain, A Linton, A Redmayne, F Gillies, S Leckey, A Hill
Subs used: B Cullinane, E Oag, P Mounal, K Beattie

Heriot’s: J Semple; G Bryce, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, C Simpson, G McNeish, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, R Van Heerden, J Turley, I Wilson, J Syme.
Subs used: M McCallum, H Fraser, A Henderson, S Mustard, J Rae

Referee: L Linton

Man of the match: Kerr Gossman– despite ending upon the losing side, the Hawks winger was the paciest man on show and produced two scintillating breaks.


  • MELROSE secured a 13-20 victory over Ayr at Millbrae in the other semi-final.


About Colin Renton 281 Articles
Colin has been a freelance writer on various subjects for more than 20 years. He covers rugby at all levels but is particularly passionate about the game at grass roots. As a fluent French speaker, he has a keen interest in rugby in France and for many years has reported on the careers of Scots who have moved across the Channel. He appreciates high quality, engaging writing that is thought provoking, and hopes that some of his work fits that bill!