Colin Renton @ Malleny Park
HERIOT’S will play Ayr in the final of the BT Premiership after emerging victorious from an engrossing match against Currie at Malleny Park. However, for the second week in succession, it took a bizarre twist for the Goldenacre side to progress.
Heriot’s had gone nine matches since their last defeat against Currie and that run appeared to be coming to an end as the clock ticked into the third minute of injury time with the home side holding a slender single point advantage. And, believing that time was up, the hosts despatched the ball into touch.
But it seemed that they had misheard referee Mike Adamson who insisted there was still time for the lineout. Roan Van Heerden gathered the throw and Heriot’s rumbled ever closer to the line but were unable to find a way through some ferocious Currie tackling and the ball was fed back to Gregor McNeish who clipped over a drop goal to snatch the win that means Heriot’s now have BT Cup and BT Premiership on their schedule in the coming weeks.
As with so many of the recent meetings of these sides this game was another fiercely contested, bruising affair from the off and saw the lead change hands five times and was utterly compelling for the good-sized crowd.
The first attack of note came with two minutes on the clock when Harvey Elms raced into contact and Mike Vernel took the recycled ball and crashed into contact. The ball was lost in contact but an offence at the ensuing scrum handing Currie a penalty. James Semple kicked for touch and a catch and drive ended with Ross Weston touching down. Semple banged over the conversion from wide on the left.
Currie continued to display the greater verve and a bullocking run by John Cox earned a penalty which Semple stroked over to take Currie’s tally into double figures.
Heriot’s enjoyed a brief but ultimately fruitless spell in the ascendancy that ended with a turnover and breakout by the impressive Elms.
However, with 24 minutes on the clock, the champions were back on the attack and this time their visit to the home 22 produced a breakthrough with Michael Liness spying a gap in the Currie defence and galloping over behind the sticks. Tom Wilson’s conversion cut the deficit to three points.
Five minutes later an offside offence 30 metres from the home line handed John Semple the chance to square matters, and he was bang on target with his kick.
And by half time, the visitors had their noses in front after a powerful drive that shunted the home defence backwards and Russell Nimmo applied the final touch. Semple was off the mark with his conversion attempt, but it was the away side that went into the break the happier of the two sides.
The second period started in a similar manner to the first, with Currie holding the upper hand. James Semple delivered a neatly weighted kick that was gathered by Charlie Simpson who was then bundled into touch. A catch and drive from the resultant lineout saw Weston rumble over, but he was held up by Jack Turley.
The try was only delayed briefly and when the ball was spun wide a minute later, Semple fed Chris Logan who sprinted in, then thumped over the touchline conversion to edge the home side back into the lead.
The momentum swung back in favour of Heriot’s after 60 minutes when Hugh Fraser slotted a penalty after Currie had been penalised for pulling down a maul.
The gap grew to four points after 69 minutes when, with the referee playing advantage, Gregor McNeish wheeled round and landed a sweetly struck drop goal.
The next twist in a dramatic contest came four minutes later when a driven lineout ended with Weston dotting down for his second try of the afternoon to hand his side a single point advantage. That appeared to be sufficient to send Currie into the showdown for the silverware.
And then came the dramatic denouement.
Currie: H Elms; C Gray, F Efthymiou, R Nelson, C Logan; J Semple, R Snedden; J Cox, M Goodwin, A Hamilton, M Vernel, S Ainslie, L Crosbie, T Brooke, R Weston. Subs: G Carson, A McWilliam, S Ruwers, H Bain, T Gordon, C Shiel, M McPhillips.
Heriots: J Semple; J Rae, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, C Simpson; R Carmichael, T Wilson; M McCallum, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, J Turley, I Wilson, S Dewar, J Hill. Subs: D Mason, M Bouab, R van Heerden, J Syme, A Henderson, H Fraser, G McNeish.
Referee: M Adamson
Currie: Tries: Weston 2, Logan; Cons: Semple 2; Pen: Semple.
Heriot’s: Tries: Liness, Nimmo; Con: T Wilson; Pen: Semple, Fraser: DG: McNeish 2
Man-of the match: He may have ended up on the losing side, but Ross Weston led by example with a typically committed performance and two tries.