Heriot’s Blues 21
Currie Chieftains 29
COLIN RENTON @ Goldenacre
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS edged a little closer to securing a play-off spot with a bonus point win in a match that featured enough open rugby to raise the temperature for the supporters who had braved the freezing conditions. In the end, the visitors should perhaps have won more convincingly. That they didn’t was largely due to the determination of Heriot’s, Blues who had the better of the third quarter, and could have taken something from the game had they been able to capitalise on their pressure.
“I thought we played really well”, insisted Heriot’s coach Phil Smith, who is happy that his side is heading in the right direction in the scrap for fourth spot. “We feel as if we are now competing. We have competed with Marr, with Accies last week and we feel that we’re getting stronger with people returning. We just need to try and get more wins.”
Although there is still some way to go to guarantee a berth in the knock-out phase, Chieftains will have a better idea of where they stand in the race for a home semi-final after they welcome Hawick to Malleny Park next Saturday. Their coach Mark Cairns had every right to feel satisfied with the way his men played, but he saved his most lavish praise for the way they prevented Heriot’s from scoring a fourth try.
“I’m really happy with the way we defended at the end – to go through that many phases and not concede a penalty or a try is really pleasing. It created some momentum back to us because in the second half we didn’t really manage to get a hold of the game,” said Cairns. “We started the game really well. I thought our attack in the first half we executed most opportunities that we got. In the second half, we just couldn’t get a foothold.”
That said, it took Chieftains a couple of minutes to settle. The hosts were first to show, and they illustrated their determination to spin the ball wide with looping passes from Kenta Kutsuna and Luke Townsend that stretched the visitors’ defence but failed to produce points.
Spurred by a line-out steal in the opposition 22, Chieftains then launched a string of attacks that yielded a penalty. The ball was booted into touch and a powerful surge at the ensuing line-out took them over the whitewash, with Ali McCallum the last man to rise. Charlie Brett added the extras from the touchline for a seven-point lead that lasted only a couple of minutes.
A powerful run by ex-Chieftain Cammy Meager took the home winger to within striking distance and two phases later skipper Ali Johnston powered over. Townsend’s conversion squared matters.
Chieftains regained the lead almost instantly when hooker Ryan Stewart received a pass 40 metres out and showed impressive pace to thunder over, leaving two defenders in his wake as he dotted down to hand Brett a straightforward conversion.
The Heriot’s response produced nothing more than a yellow card for Kutsuna following a dangerous tackle, and the visitors profited from their numerical advantage when Ryan Daley produced some nifty footwork to create space then sprint over from 35 metres for try number three, with Brett again converting.
The introduction of Jason Hill – returning from long-term injury – brought some extra grunt to the home team and shortly after Kutsuna had re-entered the fray the hosts cut the deficit when Malachy Keough took possession following a penalty that was banged into touch and ran at an excellent angle to blast his way over, with Townsend adding the extras.
The end-to-end stuff continued and by half time, the visitors had harvested the four-try bonus. Slick handling saw the ball shipped wide and Brett ignored the man outside to step between the final two defenders and touch down for the final points of the half.
The Chieftains full-back added three more with a penalty four minutes after the restart and the visitors then showed their defensive abilities to thwart a Heriot’s line-out drive as the hosts enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy.
Lack of composure at key moments meant that another couple of scoring opportunities were wasted, but Heriot’s points came just before the hour after a line-out following a penalty that earned Cammy Lessels 10 minutes in the sin bin. A powerful drive ended with Rory Jackson claiming the five points, and Townsend adding two more with a well-struck touchline conversion.
That sparked a chase for the fourth try, and perhaps something more. However, the side with the best bonus point record in the league were unable to secure the necessary score and ended the afternoon empty-handed.
Heriot’s Blues: R Steele; P Christie, A Hunter, K Kutsuna, C Meager; L Townsend, G Wilson; A Munro, R Jackson, S Cessford, P Spence, M Keough, R Kirkpatrick, M Dillon, A Johnston. Subs: D Westwood, J Lascelles, J Hill, K Singleton, T Storen.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, E Crombie, G Christie, R Daley; A Harley, P Boyer; C Anderson, R Stewart, G Carson, A McCallum, C West, R Davies, R Vucago, S Cardosi. Subs: S Fisher, O Blyth-Lafferty, A Bain, C Lessels, S Leto.
Referee: Finlay Brown
Heriot’s Blues: Tries: Johnston, Keough, Jackson; Cons: Townsend 3.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: McCallum, Stewart, Daley, Brett; Cons: Brett 3; Pen: Brett.
Scoring sequence (Heriot’sBlues first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-12; 7-14; 7-19; 7-21; 12-21; 14-21; 14-26 (h-t) 14-29; 19-29; 21-29.
Yellow cards –
Heriot’s Blues: Kutsuna
Currie Chieftains: Lessels
Man-of-the-Match: Ryan Stewart was a contender for his impersonation of a winger and his excellent set-piece contribution, but the man who stood out was Chieftains full-back Charlie Brett for his role as creator, scorer and astute kicker from hand and tee.
Talking point: There were three matches taking place at Goldenacre – including the Women’s Premiership derby against Watsonians – and another Heriot’s side was away to Selkirk, while a dozen or so players had an unwanted game-free Saturday afternoon. Such levels of activity prove that all is not doom and gloom in clubland.