Scottish Cup: Heriot’s Blues recapture that winning feeling against Biggar

A strong start sets visitors up for a morale boosting win over Biggar at Hartree Mill

Heriot's Blues got the better of Biggar at Hartree Mill. Image: Snapper Elliot
Heriot's Blues got the better of Biggar at Hartree Mill. Image: Snapper Elliot

Biggar 14

Heriot’s Blues 33

LEWIS STUART at Hartree Mill

IT took just 10 minutes for Heriot’s Blues to make sure there was no realistic chance of a Scottish Cup upset when they took their Premiership credentials to Biggar, mid table a division below them. Yet, it turned out to be one of those games where both coaches came away both satisfied with some aspects of their team’s performance and frustrated at others.

The result means that Heriot’s, on the back of five first half tries, three of them from flanker Sam Wallace, go through to meet Kelso in the second round, but the match really has to be seen in the context of two league campaigns both bubbling towards a tense finish.

For Phil Smith, the Heriot’s coach, the result was what really mattered but he was also delighted at the way young players drafted in for the game had stood up to be counted when it mattered. “We’ll use it as a building block for our last two [Premiership] games,” he explained. “We blooded some lads, to say ‘do you want to play those last two games?’ and on the whole they showed, they did.


This weekend’s other Scottish Cup results:

Scottish Cup: Musselburgh overcome mid-match wobble to despatch Highland

Scottish Cup: Hawick eye success on two fronts after home win over Jed-Forest

Scottish Cup: Stirling County pick up morale-boosting win over Aberdeen Grammar

Scottish Cup: Glasgow Hawks edge out Gala at end of tense tussle


“Take Graham Wilson out of it and it was a really young team. Clubs talk about having a lot of youngsters, but so do we. Take that team out there, there were five or six guys under 20 playing, so we have that youth, including Sam Wallace in this game though I don’t want to go into individuals.”

Although Heriot’s currently lie bottom of the Premiership they are only a point behind the two teams above them and have a game in hand over both. That said, they are both tricky matches, away at Selkirk and home to Edinburgh Accies, so simply reminding his players what it feels like to win was vital for Smith and his colleagues.

They did that thanks to a storming first half, where they weathered some early pressure and then took control with prop John Lascelles being driven over before Wallace started his scoring spree, popping up in support to run in his first, winning the race to a Wilson chip through for the second and at the back of a maul for the third. Their final try, from lock Adam Woolfson out in the back line, sealed the result before half time.

Biggar, though, are a club with ambition and with the wind behind them succeeded in turning the game around, claiming tries from Gary Orr, who had moved from prop back to hooker, and Andrew Lamb, the wing. They briefly threatened a comeback before Heriot’s regained a measure of control and saw the game out.

 

David Wilson, the Biggar coach, was happy with the second half and the spirit that allowed his troops to put their first half failings behind them and come out fighting. At the same time, he was annoyed at the lack of fight in the first 40 minutes that had put them in that position.

As far as the league is concerned, they have seven games left and are caught in that mid-table limbo where a run of wins could see them challenging for a top four spot but a run of defeats could put them in relegation trouble. So, with a young, evolving side he sees the first half as a warning and the second as a benchmark.

The club have not had to look far for troubles in recent years. They had already won promotion when the Covid lockdown hit and the league season was abandoned, leaving them without the reward they had earned in the years of building towards that peak. Last season they lost out on promotion after a controversial defeat by Heriot’s – they had a player sent off but that decision was overturned on appeal, when it was too late to make any practical difference.

“I can’t fault the guys’ endeavour, but they do have to learn how to manage the game,” Wilson admitted. “They do good things but then make a mistake and the pressure we have applied is handed back to the opposition. They let the game get so far away from them that they were always going to struggle to climb that mountain.”

In reality, this season was always going to be a struggle for Wilson. After years of building a team to reach the top of the Scottish domestic game, only to have the rewards twice snatched away in different ways, the set of players that got them there has now broken up.

“I think we lost 11 players from last season,” he pointed out. “It’s a community club and the key philosophy of this club is to give these young players the opportunity to play at the level Biggar aspires to. We have had five years of reasonable success and every team goes though periods of transition but it is very difficult for us to keep a conveyer belt of players coming thorough.”

 

They are the perfect demonstration of the issues faced by every rural club. They are never likely to pick up passing talent, so they have to have a youth system that can feed the senior side and were never going to be able to cope with as mass loss of players in the way that hit them at the end of last season – some injuries but more retirements and players leaving the area.

It’s also why they need top level rugby. While players are unlikely to head from Edinburgh or Glasgow to join Biggar, there are plenty of reasons players might head the other way and ambition is certainly one of them. Twice missing out on promotion could well have played a role in tipping the balance for some players as they sat down to decide their immediate future.

“We had 80 percent of our pack who retired or moved on and they were all key players, hard to replace. In the backs our X-factor player, Robbie Orr, has not played all season [through injury] and is now heading out to Australia, so we may never get him back – who knows?.

“Missing out on promotion through Covid was a massive blow to the club. To have players on a high and looking forward to the Premiership only to have it whipped away from them, was hard. The hangover from that was tough.

“Now, we have to crack on with what we have got and develop the talent we do have and this game was a chance to show them what the next level up looks like and what they need to do to be better. After having a settled team, we are having to start again and they showed in the second half that they could cope. That’s now the benchmark for them.

“We have pretty hard games coming up, Melrose, Ayr and Gala are all above us to we have to challenge ourselves to see how close we can get to these sides. We were the hunted for quite a period, now we need to show we can be the hunters.”

 

Teams –

Biggar: F Crozier; A Lamb, A Jardine (C), C Lavery, G Forrest; A Jardine, E Bogle; A Orr, C Gray, L Henderson, C Dunlop, J McLean, E Stewart, M Bertram, R Jackson. Subs: D Voas, A Koetze, C Frame, G Lang, J Barr.

Heriot’s Blues: C Simpson; I Kay, F Stanier, M Gray, C Robertson; D Martin, G Wilson; M Bouab, M Toward (C), J Lascelles, A Woolfson, D Webb, M Hughes, S Wallace, M Keough. Subs: D Dineen, A Munro, A Johnston, O Quinn, N Henry.

Referee: C Clark

 

Scorers –

Biggar: Tries: Lamb, Orr. Cons: Bogle 2.

Heriot’s Blues: Tries: Lascelles, Wallace 3, Woolfson; Cons: Wilson 4.

 

Yellow cards –

Heriot’s Blues: Hughes (41mins)

 

Man-of-the-Match: There were standout players on both sides, particulately in the front-row and Graham Wilson, the Heriot’s scrum-half controlled the game brilliantly. In the end, however, the award has to go to Sam Wallace, the Blues flanker, for his hat-trick of tries.

Talking point: Almost a cliched game of two halves but nothing trumps big match experience and too many of the Biggar players looked overawed and overpowered in the first 40 minutes, before turning things round when it was too late.


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About Lewis Stuart 70 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.