ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
HERIOT’S recent run of strong performances continued with a forward-orientated winning display against Hawick at a wet and windy Mansfield Park that should lift the confidence of the Goldenacre side ahead of the play-offs.
What was pleasing for Heriot’s in the concluding match of the BT Premiership era was their ability to defeat the horrendous overhead conditions by playing to the strengths of their powerful forward pack that dominated the set-piece in the late stages of the game to such an extent that Hawick were unable to prevent two scores.
“That was the best second half performance in such conditions that we’ve produced all season,” said Phil Smith the Heriot’s coach.
This bonus point win meant that Heriot’s have leapfrogged Currie Chieftains to finish the regular campaign in second place in the Premiership table, which gives them a home play-off semi-final tie against the Malleny Park men on 23rd March.
For Hawick, this was something of a dead-rubber game, on the assumption that they will not face relegation. But it was a game they nevertheless wanted to win. In the event the home team were never able to match Heriot’s in the set-piece but despite losing 4-1 in the try count, there were aspects of the home side’s play that was pleasing, notably the determination of Lee Armstrong to break the Heriot’s defence.
Heriot’s made their intentions clear, pounding the Hawick line in the opening minutes with multiple phases that produced a plethora of one-pass rugby, forcefully resisted by Hawick’s tenacious defence.
But when Hawick overthrew at a line-out in their own 22 area this same watertight defence was not prepared for possession to go the way of Heriot’s, who moved the ball slickly for Craig Robertson to race in for an unconverted try.
Heriot’s continued to dominate possession and territory but their meagre reward was a penalty goal from the ten metre line by Ross Jones.
Thereafter in the first half, Hawick began to win their share of possession but were denied a try for winger Logan Gordon-Wooley, who had fastened on to a loose ball and had the line at his mercy, only for referee Finlay Brown to make a high tackle call.
The Greens, however, finally got reward for pressure late in the first half, helped by the sin-binning of Heriot’s hooker Michael Liness. From line-out possession, Hawick drove the maul before releasing the ball for stand-off Lee Armstrong to make a half break and create a try for wing Kirk Ford, to leave Hawick trailing 5-8 at the break.
Premiership match reports:
Hawick’s hopes of overtaking the visitors in the second half , however, were quickly shattered when Heriot’s, taking a grip of the forward battle, scored through a short range try by Jack McLean and the conversion by Jones.
Heriot’s scrum looked immensely strong in the second half and when Hawick attempted to halt a set-piece shove illegally five metres from the line, the Goldenacre men were awarded a penalty try six minutes before full-time. There was still time for further points and again it was the Heriot’s scrum that did the damage with a pushover try attributed to McLean, with Jones’ conversion sealing the bonus point win.
Hawick: A Weir; K Ford, A Mitchell, G Walker, L Gordon-Wooley; L Armstrong, G Welsh, S Muir, M Carryer, D Johnstone, D Suddon, D Redpath, D Lowrie, S Graham, B McNeil. Subs: C Renwick N Little, J Linton K Davies, G Huggan.
Heriot’s: C Simpson; S King, R Jones, R Kay, C Robertson; S Edwards, A Simmers; J Scott, M Liness, S Cessford, R Leishman, A Sinclair, I Wilson©, J McLean, S Dewar. Subs: A Johnstone, H Simpson, M Hughes, A Ball, R Carmichael.
Referee: F Brown
Hawick: Tries: Armstrong.
Heriot’s: Tries: Robertson, McLean 2, Penalty Try; Cons: Jones 2; Pen: Jones.
Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 0-5; 0-8; 5-8 (h-t) 5-13; 5-15; 5-22; 5-27; 5-29.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: This was day for the forwards to excel and for the backs to freeze. And, in particular,, it was a day for the back-row men who simply revel in ruining the few handling moves attempted. None enjoyed it more than Heriot’s flanker Jack McLean, whose tackle rate was matched by his propensity to be near the ball, resulting in two tries for the former Wellington College player.
Talking point: Strong winds and heavy rain – only answer was for the forwards to take over and in this respect Heriot’s were the clear winners. The Goldenacre side, with thoughts of double honours this season (they have to get past Hawick in the Cup semis) now know that part of their armoury is in good nick. Tougher tests, however, await in the play-offs.