Heriot’s Blues 44
IAIN HAY @ Braidholm
A DAZZLING display by Heriot’s saw them come out on top in an 11-try – some of which were sensational – contest to close the gap on their hosts in the league table to one point and gain some semblance of revenge for the second-round drubbing they had suffered against the same opposition.
Ahead of the game, Heriot’s boss Phil Smith had hoped for a “great advert for Premiership rugby”, which is exactly what we got, and he was understandably delighted with what he had seen. “That’s the best we’ve played all season. We beat Accies at Raeburn which was a great result but we were kind of clinging on a bit there because Accies are a good side, but here we’ve played well and put a lot more good rugby back-to-back as opposed to in fits and starts.
“I think we’ve almost won most first halves this season and really fallen away in the second, so I’m delighted we’ve had a second half where we’ve continued to score, because we hadn’t done that very well this season.
“I don’t think it’s two teams that don’t want to win matches and just throw the ball about for throwing-it-about’s sake, but I thought there was some really well constructed tries. It was great and I’m delighted we’ve come out on the right side of it, because at Goldenacre we played a similar type of game but they really ran away with it. There was a big line-out turnover around 50 minutes when it was close and I thought if they’d scored we were in for a bun-fight, but we nicked it and that was a massive point to calm the nerves.
“I think we deserved it, we played really well. It was a great game, and I hope people watch it and see that it was worth coming down for.”
GHA’s Euan Cunningham probably won’t want to watch the opening again. First his kick-off went straight into touch, then he somewhat shanked his clearance which gave Heriot’s line-out ball in the GHA 22. Hooker Danny Dineen was stopped just short when peeling off the maul for the line, but team-mate Callum Anderson was on hand to finish the job within the opening two minutes. Graham Wilson landed the extras with a tremendous effort from wide on the right.
The first of the day’s Try of the Round contenders then came from GHA’s Lamborghini Luca Bardelli. He latched on to Aminio Bogidrau’s dink in his own half, put the hammer down the right flank, before twisting and turning Charlie Simpson inside-out and scoring in the left corner.
The same play nearly produced another try, except this time it was Dario Ewing who collected a Bogidrau chip, but the captain doesn’t quite have the same gas as Bardelli and was hauled down just short of the line.
The home side were awarded a penalty when the retreating Heriot’s backline was caught offside but rather than take a simple three points to nudge ahead they opted to scrum, only to concede their own penalty for sealing off a couple of phases later.
A thundering tackle by Kyle Dixon on Paul Christie enabled GHA to turn over possession around the Heriot’s 22, and it looked like they were set to score when Borigdau floated the pass out wide for compatriot Amena Caqusau, but he was unable to gather with the line at his mercy.
There was swift punishment for their profligacy when Heriot’s scored an outstanding team try, and followed it up with another two in quick succession.
It started with a cross-kick to the right which Anderson set down for Archie Bogle, who in turn fed Dineen to make a few more metres. From there, they worked their way infield where Ross McKnight sat down Cunningham. Wilson was in quickly to keep things moving, forwards and backs effortlessly combined until Sam Wallace was over for the sensational score. Wilson, again, kicked the tough conversion.
When Bogidrau attempted a grubber moments later, the ball ricocheted off opposite number Dom Martin, who was able to gather and release Craig Robertson to run it home, and Bogidrau’s missed tackle on Ross McKnight off the back of a line-out move allowed the big winger to canter home under the sticks. That stunned the home support into silence as they stared at a scoreboard which now read GHA 5 Heriot’s 28 with barely a quarter of the game played.
The home side weren’t going to take this lying down, though. A maul try from Archie Falconer, and a try from a short-range drive by Adam Kerr after Walker Graham had made a huge break through midfield off a line-out tap-down helped reduce the arrears to nine points.
Ali Johnston was sent to the bin for a neck-roll with the first half due to end, which allowed GHA to go to the corner, but they knocked on the line-out to draw the first half to a close.
A penalty from Wilson at the beginning of the second period extended the Heriot’s lead but they then lost influential stand-off Martin to what looked like a shoulder dislocation. The bad news came in twos for Heriot’s as Falconer went over from the maul again for his second, and then came the big moment Smith spoke of.
Lovely hands by Luke McCutcheon sent Luca the Lambo away. He was collared by Craig Robertson, but Heriot’s were caught offside again so GHA went to the corner.
Charlie Jupp rose highest to claim, Heriot’s were able to work their way downfield and were awarded their own penalty on the GHA 10-m line which Wilson stroked over to make the score now 24-34.
Another rejection of an easy three-pointer for GHA led to another clutch-moment error when they lost the line-out and gave away a penalty, and they compounded that with giving away the first scrum penalty of the game, which quite remarkably didn’t arrive until the hour mark.
Heriot’s Super6 star Struan Cessford had come on for the second half and having displayed his scrum prowess once, Heriot’s opted for a scrum when awarded another penalty in the GHA 22. They dominated the set-piece and spun the ball wide for Simpson to score in the corner and kill the game off.
McKnight was able to bag his second late on, and just when it looked like Heriot’s might finish the match by hitting the half-century, GHA turned them over. Substitutes Fergus Johnston and Max McFarlane provided some nice inter-play to release another sub, Harris McLeod, to run in the consolation try.
“One of our focuses was coming out and putting them under pressure in the first 20 minutes of the game and we just didn’t do that, gave them an easy try within three minutes and then it’s almost like we sat off them a wee bit” said Trevor Carmichael of GHA.
“We showed them too much respect in that first half but you could see when we got the ball in attack and got into our shape we could do something, but there was a few too many brain-farts, if I’m honest, at certain times. We’d go through phases and do really well, then compound error after error and it’s a tough one to take.
“It doesn’t get any easier (with back-to-back Glasgow derbies v Hawks coming up) so we need to take something out of these next two games or we’ll be in a fight until the end of the season at the wrong end of the table.”
GHA: E Cunningham; L Bardelli, C Lonergan, K Dixon, A Caqusau; A Bogidrau, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, K Watt, W Graham, D Ewing©, L McCutcheon. Subs: A Pacha, L Barron, H McLeod, F Johnston, M MacFarlane
Heriot’s Blues: C Simpson; R McKnight, P Christie, R Kay©, C Robertson; D Martin, G Wilson; M Bouab, D Dineen, A Bogle, L Gordon, C Jupp, C Anderson, S Wallace, A Johnston. Subs: M Toward, S Cessford, I Hill, R Thomson, R Jones
Referee: John Smith
GHA: Tries: Bardelli, Falconer 2, Kerr, McLeod; Cons: Baird 2, Bogidrau.
Heriot’s Blues: Tries: Anderson, Wallace, Robertson, McKnight 2, Simpson. Cons: Wilson 4. Pens: Wilson (2).
Scoring sequence (GHA first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 5-12; 5-14; 5-19; 5-21; 5-26; 5-28; 10-28; 12-28; 17-28; 19-28 (h-t) 19-31; 24-31; 24-34; 24-39; 24-44; 29-44; 31-44.
Yellow card –
Player-of-the-Match: Hard to call. Dom Martin was in the running until his unfortunate injury, Ross McKnight made metres and bagged a brace, but for his near flawless kicking and delivery, Graham Wilson takes the award
Talking Point: Quite possibly my favourite match I’ve covered for The Offside Line. There was the dramatic GHA v Hawks match a couple of seasons ago where GHA won with the last play of the game having trailed throughout, but in terms of quality this eclipsed it. That second Heriot’s try (Sam Wallace) belongs in a museum.