Heriot’s Blues 20
FINN TAIT @ Riverside Park
HERIOT’S BLUES’ second half capitulation handed a crushing victory to Jed-Forest in a must win clash for both teams. Jed’s intensity and unrelenting physicality blew their opponents away, responding to a Dominic Martin try with 38 unanswered points in an entertaining second half.
Afterwards, Heriots’ head coach Phil Smith cut an exasperated figure. “That is the worst 40 minutes of Heriot’s rugby I have seen in a decade,” he said. “I would honestly say that we were absolutely embarrassed. We had looked good in the first half and looked like we were playing well and as a team who had come together through a tough four weeks. But to turn round and deliver a 40-minute performance like that I would rather they walked home.”
The game started in tense fashion. Jed kept the pace of the game high with their quick offloading game translating into some powerful early carries from captain Clark Skeldon and his second-row partner Mathew Atkinson.
It was the Jed skipper who took the game by the scruff of the neck, exploiting his knowledge of the rucking and mauling dark arts to secure several key turnovers in the first 20 minutes. This early physicality aided by the speed of Aidan Bambrick at the base meant that Jed won a penalty deep in Heriot’s territory which was knocked over the posts by Finlay Scott in a slightly unusual role for an openside flanker.
Bambrick popped up again, capitalising on a wayward offload from Archie Bogle, to streak down the touchline, however credit must be given to the Heriot’s cover defence who executed a masterful tap tackle to force a turnover with the try line calling. More Jed pressure earned them another penalty which Scott slotted once more.
The game then turned around with Heriot’s stringing together a dominant 15 minutes led by the tireless Oisin Quinn, who on the half hour mark burst through a tackle and spectacularly offloaded over the top of the Jed cover defence to Morgan Bruce, who in turn released his young winger Noah Henry, who wriggled his way through two tackles to stretch over and score.
Heriot’s kept their foot on the throat of Jed, with a wall of mounting pressure from their resolute defensive line resulting in Sean Johnstone picking off a wayward pass from Jye McGough and galloping away to score under the sticks, which gave the visitors a well-deserved lead.
Jed suffered from a couple of early knocks with Darren Gillespie and Gregor Young entering the fray at the expense of Tom Cromarty and Robbie Shirra-Gibb just before half time.
It was the replacement Young who sparked Jed back into life, twice breaking from inside his own half with the latter winning a penalty five metres short of the Heriot’s line which cost Callum Bell 10 minutes in the bin. From the resultant scrum, McGough darted over to bring Jed back into touching distance going into half time.
The second half began just as Heriot’s would have dreamt with more good work from Quinn allowing Dominic Martin to scamper over. However, what would follow swiftly became a nightmare for the Goldenacre natives. Shortly after Heriot’s were punished for a lapse in defensive concentration with Gillespie making the bust that released the excellent Mason Cullen, who managed to pop a handy ball from the deck to Gregor Young who dived over.
Things went from bad to worse for Heriot’s after Bruce, who had been a real stand-out in defence, was helped from the field with a nasty looking shoulder injury.
Jed came again through Elliot Lauder whose cat flap offload caught the eye of the home support; the ball was recycled to Paxton who steamrolled over two attempted tacklers before finding Cullen who scored in spectacular fashion in the corner, before being helped from the field to be replaced by the returning Shirra-Gibb. Scott held his nerve and converted from the touch line.
Jed then had an intercept of their own with the impactful Gillespie smartly reading a Heriot’s pass and streaking under the posts untouched. Gillespie impressed all day through his work rate backed up with some skilful touches.
Gregor Young was again in the action, firstly offloading to brother Lewis who stretched to score a well-deserved try, and then sparking a move in the dying moments in which he and Rory Marshall made scything inroads before captain Skeldon was rewarded with a try after an excellent performance.
“Second half we came out the blocks and played all the rugby, a massive improvement on last week to put the 80 minutes together,” said victorious head coach Andy Brown. “We enter every game with a view to win and we hope to make Riverside a fortress. Firstly we will enjoy the beers and the we will look at what we need to work on for our trip to Glasgow next week”
Brown’s team was not short on standout performances: Cullen was again excellent popping up everywhere as was Bambrick. Scott had a dynamic showing adding powerful carrying to his flawless right boot. The Young brothers were both fantastic and showed their quality throughout. But it was captain Skeldon who encapsulated a dominant performance, destructive in attack and defence, adding so much to his team throughout the match.
Jed-Forest: L Young; M Cullen, R Marshall, R Ferreira, R Shirra-Gibb; J Mcgough, A Bambrick; G Paxton, T Cromarty, P Ferreira, M Atkinson, C Skeldon©, E Lauder, F Scott, B McNeill. Subs: J Storey, J Hynd, D Gillespie, L Elder, G Young.
Heriot’s Blues: C Dineen; N Henry, P Christie, O Quinn, C Robertson; D Martin, G Wilson©; M Bouab, D Dineen, A Bogle, C Bell, S Johnstone, C Jupp, M Bruce, M Nimmo. Subs: M Toward, S O’Callaghan, I Hill, R Thomson, I Kay.
Referee: Sam O’Neil
Jed-Forest: Tries: Mcgough, G Young, Cullen, Gillespie, L Young, Skeldon; Cons: Scott 6; Pens: Scott 3.
Heriot’s Blues: Tries: Henry, Johnstone, Martin; Cons: Wilson; Pens: Wilson
Scoring sequence (Jed-Forest First): 3-0; 6-0; 6-3; 6-8; 6-13; 6-15; 11-15; 13-15; (h-t) 13-20; 18-20; 20-20; 23-20; 28-20; 30-20; 35-20; 37-20; 42-20; 44-20; 49-20; 51-20.
Yellow cards –
Heriot’s Blues: Bell (40mins)
Man-of-the-Match: Jed second-row Clark Skeldon was immense all day, coming up with several key turnovers after recovering from an early knock. His work-rate and physicality on both sides of the ball was gargantuan and his leadership throughout was exemplary, but especially in the tough moments. He was rewarded with a try for his efforts at the death.
Talking point: Heriot’s Blues will have to regroup as they head away to fellow strugglers Musselburgh next week. They will need to come together as a team and find what is necessary to string the promising moments they showed into an 80 minute performance of substance.