Heriot’s v Stirling County: pack power key for hosts

Four tries playing into a tough wind in the first half set up a victory which underlines home team's title credentials

Heriot's v Striling
Heriot's had too much firepower for Stirling County on a frosty day in the capital. Image: Bryan Robertson

Heriot’s 54

Stirling County 12


AMID torrential rain and fading light, Heriot’s edged closer to the top of the Premiership table with a dominant, bonus-point victory over Stirling County. The home side scored four tries in each half with struggling County failing to capitalise on an advantageous tailwind in the first period.

Heriot’s were forced into a late change before the match when Scotland 7s player Jack Cuthbert pulled out. He was replaced on the left wing by Alex Ball, with Dougie Steele coming onto the bench.

Fresh from their crucial win away to Ayr last week, the hosts began strongly in tricky conditions, with scrum-half Andrew Simmers bursting up-field before being dragged down five metres from the County try-line. Heriot’s did not have to wait much longer to bag the opening try though, with second-row Adam Sinclair crashing over for the score, and centre Ross Jones converting.

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Simmers got the second try of the match after County had been reduced to 14-men for ten minutes through a yellow-card for back-rower George Arnott, as punishment for a forearm challenge on opposite number Iain Wilson. Heriot’s wasted little time in making use of their numerical advantage with their scrum-half darting over from close range following several waves of pressure from the home forwards.

Eddie Pollock’s men recovered to score a brilliantly worked try of their own through Adam Nichol. Led by fly-half Andrew Goudie, County slowly but surely worked their way up-field. Sublime handling between backs and forwards and impressive ball retention brought them to within five yards of the line. Goudie then fed Nichol who cantered in under the posts.

Heriot’s replied immediately courtesy of Robert Kay after County knocked on at the restart, and Jones converted again. But then Logan Trotter did likewise for County following the next restart, with Heriot’s caught off guard on the far side, leaving the winger free to streak in for the score.

Struan Cressford wriggled over late in the first half to secure the bonus point.

Playing against the strong headwind, it was a first-half performance Heriot’s coach Phil Smith hailed as “fantastic.”

“I think the first half was better than the second because it was really difficult to play out of our own half in those conditions,” he said.

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Second half

The second half was a far more one-sided affair and this was largely due to County’s inability to keep hold of the ball in attack. Almost every attacking opportunity the visitors had in the Heriot’s half ended with a knock-on or turnover.

The County set-piece was another weak link on a day where conditions and lack of visibility played a large role in how the game was played. Line-out overthrows and the prowess of Heriot’s second-rows Sinclair and Charlie Jupp made life difficult for County throughout.

Heriot’s began the second half just as they’d finished the first, with Martin Bouab touching down just three minutes after the restart, following a superb break by Simmers which nearly sent Ball over.

Having been denied earlier, Ball eventually got his try after forcing an intercept from a desperate County backline keen to make something in midfield.

Heriot’s were happy to let County dominate possession for the next quarter of an hour, safe in the knowledge that their defence had the measure of the visitors.

Replacement prop Josh Scott added a seventh try with a 20 metre solo effort to go under the posts. Full-back Charlie Simpson then scored the second interception try with seconds remaining, scorching in from the halfway line to complete the rout.

With Melrose coming unstuck at home to Ayr, Heriot’s have edged one point closer to a home play-off semi-final draw, and Smith is sure that his squad are gathering momentum for a big push in the closing games in the New Year.

“Ever since we came off the pitch last week, there’s been a sense of confidence,” he said. “I know we’re in game 14, but there’s less coaching to be done, because they’ve kind of taken it on themselves now.

“Today was a good example of that, The boys saw the conditions and probably played a grown-up game of rugby. They did the proper things at the right time.

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Teams –

Heriot’s: C Simpson; R McMichael, R Jones, R Kay, A Ball; S Edwards, A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Jupp, A Sinclair, I Wilson, J McLean, R Leishman. Subs: A Johnstone, J Scott, C Marshall, M Hughes, D Steele.

Stirling County: C Robertson; L Trotter, R Tagive, E Magarvie, C Sorbie; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, A Orr, A Nicol, J Pow, S Yarrow, G Arnott, H Burr, A Mackie. Subs: B Robertson, M Walker, R Bundy, C Turnbull, J Hope.

Referee: I Kenny


Scorers –

Heriot’s: Tries: Sinclair, Simmers, Kay, Cressford, Bouab, Ball, Scott, Simpson; Cons: Jones 7.

Stirling County: Tries: Nichol, Trotter; Cons: Goudie.

Scoring Sequence (Heriot’s first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 12-5; 12-7; 17-7; 19-7; 19-12; 24-12; 26-12 (h-t) 31-12; 33-12; 38-12; 40-12; 45-12; 47-12; 52-12; 54-12.


Cards –

Stirling County: Arnott


Man-of-the-Match: It was never going to be a completely free-flowing game of rugby, but Heriot’s scrum-half Andrew Simmers controlled it as best he could throughout. His quick delivery gave the home side the tempo and impetus needed to put County to the sword and his 26th minute try was well taken. He knew when to distribute to his backs and when to stick with the forwards. That the latter group scored the bulk of the tries against a howling first half gale was key to the win, and Simmers was at the heart of this success.

Talking point: In a game in which conditions dictated the style of rugby on show, Heriot’s mastered these far better than County. As Smith said, the first half display was crucial in getting the hosts on the front foot early on, and by securing the bonus point inside the opening 40 minutes, they knew they could kick on in the second, with the wind firmly behind them. They took their foot off the gas at stages in the final quarter, but two late tries proved the title challengers had more than enough in hand.

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