Heriot’s Blues 29
ALAN LORIMER @ Riverside Park
AT 3pm on the 16th of December, there was still the arithmetical possibility that Jed could avoid the drop from the Premiership at the end of this season or at least achieve a stay of execution. At 4.40pm that possibility had disappeared after this loss to Heriot’s Blues; the gap between them and Glasgow Hawks or Selkirk was simply unbridgeable and that spelled only one outcome: relegation.
In a grim way there was satisfaction for the home supporters at Riverside that Jed went down fighting, showing, in the process, what might have been had they produced this kind of performance earlier in the campaign.
“That was the pleasing thing. We had a bit of fight today,” acknowledged David Grieve, the Jed-Forest coach. “We were actually disappointed that we didn’t win. The effort was there. But the pleasing thing for the coaching team was the fight the lads put up.”
Jed were certainly helped by the presence of the Young twins, whose quick acceleration, ability to beat opponents and vast experience of the game, honed on the sevens circuit, certainly gave the Riverside men a sharpness and precision in attack that they have lacked.
Another to help the Jed cause was second row Gregor Law, who was making his first start since returning from injury. The second-row’s awareness, his skill in the line-out and his mobility about the park was a further factor that both helped the Royal Blues and put a brake on Heriot’s dynamic game.
And with an eye to next season, Jed seem to have found the answer at scrum-half in Lewis Elder, who has moved from wing to the No 9 position with not a little success. But the reality for Jed is that they cannot go into a league campaign without fifteen players of the right standard: and that is what has caused their downfall this season.
For Heriot’s, who were not part of that subplot surrounding this match, what was important was winning and winning well, to keep their play-off aspirations ticking over. Job done on that front by the Goldenacre men, who delivered an end-loaded performance, helped by the quality of the bench and the desire to play attacking rugby.
“I’m happy with the win and the bonus point. We had five chances to score and we took them. Outwith that, the game was a bit of a slog simply because of the stop-start nature of the play and the amount of errors. But we got what was needed,” reflected Phil Smith, the Heriot’s coach.
Ultimately, Heriot’s were able to ride out fierce resistance from Jed and then establish their own pattern of play, scoring a gem of a try towards the end of the game as if to demonstrate this point.
But in the early part of the game, they were put under the cosh and at the end of a first quarter, dominated territorially by Jed, the Riverside team had defied the odds by leading 10-0 from an early penalty by Dom Buckley and the stand-off’s conversion of a try by centre Rory Marshall from a slick midfield move that was mined from the Royal Blues’ sevens heritage.
Heriot’s quickly reduced part of the deficit when they drove a five metre line-out to create a maul try for hooker Rory Jackson. Stand-off Luke Townsend missed the difficult conversion kick and was also wide with his conversion attempt of a second Heriot’s try, this time by their powerful wing Cammy Meager, running back a Jed kick out of defence.
In between the two Heriot’s tries, Buckley kicked a second penalty goal but two further shots at the posts just before half-time were off target leaving Jed holding on to a slender 13-10 lead at the interval.
The balance then changed in favour of Heriot’s after the visitors used line-out possession to work a clever backline move that put Angus Hunter into space before Meager, coming across from the opposite wing, cruised in for his second try.
Veteran Heriot’s campaigner Graham Wilson, taking over kicking duties, added the extras to put the Goldenacre men ahead by 17-13. Then from a line-out drive Heriot’s grabbed the bonus point with a second try by Jackson, this time unconverted.
Jed, showing their fighting spirit yet again to hit back with their own driving maul that concluded with skipper Clark Skeldon touching down for an unconverted try, narrowing Heriot’s lead to four points.
Heriot’s reacted by increasing the tempo of their game and with their replacements contributing handsomely, the Goldeanacre men produced a slick backline move that sent winger Paul Christie in for arguably the try of the match. This time Townsend, resuming as kicker, added the extras.
Jed were not going to leave the Premiership without a fight and showed Borders grit by scoring their third try, a close range effort by Law, converted by Buckley, to give the home support some pre-Christmas cheer, lifting the overall gloom hanging over their team’s ultimate fate.
Jed-Forest: L Young; G Young, R Marshall, O Cranston, R Shirra-Gibb; D Buckley, L Elder; J Ferguson, H Keith, J Bowie, G Law, C Skeldon, D Wardrop, E Lauder, B Fotheringham. Subs: D Campbell, N Bates, B Howe, R Hogg, M Glen.
Heriot’s Blues: A Hunter; P Christie, R Jones, K Kutsuna, C Meager; L Townsend, G Wilson; J Lascelles, R Jackson, S Cessford, N Doherty, M Keough, J Hill, M Dillon, A Johnston©. Subs: D Westwood, B Dineen, C Shand, R Thomson, J MacNaughton.
Referee: Gordi Reid
Jed-Forest: Tries: Marshall, Skeldon, Law; Cons Buckley 2; Pens: Buckley 2.
Heriot’s Blues: Tries Jackson 2, Meager 2, Christie; Cons: Wilson, Townsend.
Scoring Sequence (Jed first): 3-0; 8-0; 10-0; 10-5; 13-5; 13-10 (h-t) 13-15; 13-17; 13-22; 18-22; 18-27; 18-29; 23-29; 25-29.
Yellow cards –
Heriot’s Blues: Christie (48 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: Several candidates for this award. In the Jed side, Lewis Elder performed well at scrum-half, Rory Marshall looked sharp in centre, Gregor Law made his presence felt and Ben Fotheringham created several openings. For Heriot’s, Angus Hunter opened up the Jed defence and Kenza Kutsuna showed slick handling, but for sheer finishing and ability to read scoring chances Cammy Meager gets the award.
Talking point: Heriot’s bonus point win and results elsewhere puts the Goldenacre side back in the top four and if they can keep producing top quality backline tries of the kind they scored against Jed then they could well be on their way to the play-offs. For Jed, the focus is firmly on next season in National One and on re-establishing the conveyor belt from age-grade rugby to the senior game.