Southern Knights 34
GARY HEATLY @ Goldenacre
A TRY at the death from replacement Dan King gave Heriot’s the victory in an entertaining clash – and was enough to send them to the top of the standings, ahead of the Ayrshire Bulls on points differential, at the halfway stage of the regular season.
The hosts looked to be coasting to a win at half-time, which came with them 19-5 up. But the Knights were a completely different side in the second half and looked to be on track for an impressive comeback victory until King’s intervention.
Heriot’s head coach Ben Cairns said: “The initial emotion after that is relief. I thought that we started the game really well and I said to the lads I was really pleased that they found a way to win at the end, but the bit in the middle wasn’t our best stuff, it was disappointing.
“We lost momentum and control at the end of the first half and at the start of the second, so we will look at why that happened and build from here.
“It is good to be top of the table on points difference at the halfway point, we are pleased, but we know there is a lot of rugby left to play in the next couple of months. The squad is in a good place though.”
Heriot’s took the lead after just three minutes when, following a strong lineout drive, centre Grant Hughes danced through the defence and could not be pulled down until two metres short of the try line. The ball was recycled at pace and centre Matt Davidson went over for the five-pointer, which was converted by stand-off Ross Jones.
After nine minutes they looked like they may have been on their way to try number two when tight-head Euan McLaren barrelled his way through supported by scrum-half Fin Campbell. They were five metres short of the try line and about to recycle before back-row Monroe Job, the Scotland Under-20 cap, won a crucial turnover and a penalty.
The second try did come for Heriot’s in the 13th minute, though when, with penalty advantage, Jones floated a cross-field kick over to winger George Barber. The kick was slightly behind him, but Barber caught the ball, steadied himself and weaved through some pretty poor Knights defence to score under the posts. Jones converted for 14-0.
The Knights steadily grew in confidence after that setback, and on the half-hour mark they got themselves on the scoreboard when, after a lineout that did not quite go to plan, lock Sam Derrick reacted quickest at the tail to dot down.
Heriot’s scored a crucial third try just minutes before the break to give them a 14-point advantage at the interval. Second-row Ronan Seydak will no doubt be adding the neat offload from him that gave the move momentum to his showreel, and Davidson and Hughes then teamed up to set up Lewis Wells.
The winger, who was recently invited to train with Edinburgh Rugby, showed his strength to go over in the corner with a couple of defenders hanging off him. Jones could not convert and it was 19-5.
The Knights needed a fast start to the second half and they got one when the forwards drove over the try line and hooker Corbin Thunder was the man attributed with the score. Grieve converted and it was 19-12.
In the 51st minute things got even better for them when Heriot’s nine Campbell was yellow-carded for what looked like deliberate offside.
The Borderers took advantage and, from the resultant scrum after a couple of surges forward, second-row Allan Ferrie went over for their third try. Grieve converted and suddenly it was 19-19.
Heriot’s managed to bounce back from those two tries with their bonus-point fourth try, back-row Sam Wallace the man credited with his seventh try in three games which Jones converted. Then, just before Campbell returned to the pitch, the Knights scored their bonus point fourth try, Cross scoring with an acrobatic finish.
The try was not converted, leaving the visitors 26-24 behind, but with 15 minutes to go they took the lead for the first time when some lovely interplay and a good final pass from winger Calum Barrett put Derrick in for his second of the day. Again, it was unconverted.
Into the last 10 minutes scrum-half Chris Bell then showed great pace and composure when he burst out of his own half for the Knights following an interception. He looked like he might be caught by chasing defender Hughes, the Scotland Sevens cap, but Bell had the legs and scored. It was unconverted and the score was 34-26.
In this second half that just kept on giving Heriot’s then scored their sixth try when Seydak muscled his way over. Jones’ conversion made it 34-33 with minutes remaining.
And, in the very last play, Heriot’s found some width on the edge and Scotland Under-20 man King dived in on the left despite the attentions of defenders. It was unconverted, but it mattered not as they took this one five match points to two.
The Knights will rue their slow start to this game and the fact that they kicked just two conversions. They are an improving side, though, and head coach Alan Tait said: “We said to the guys at half-time that we hadn’t fired a shot and that had to get better in the second half.
“We were right in the game in that second half and put ourselves in a brilliant position to win it, but then there were five minutes of madness at the end.
“They scored a try through the middle which was preventable and then we were too tight in defence and we knew they’d go for the edges. We didn’t have our heads up and they took advantage.
“It is a sore one, but we are scoring tries and must keep building from here.”
Heriot’s: L Richman; G Barber, M Davidson, G Hughes, L Wells; R Jones, F Campbell; C Keen, C Fenton©, E McLaren, R Seydak, J Campell, W Nelson, S Wallace, B Smith. Subs: M Liness, J Scott, C Ramsay, C Anderson, D Hood, E McAra, D King, S Pecqueur.
Southern Knights: D Crawford; A Cross, P Anderson, C Grieve, C Barrett; G McNeish©, C Bell; J Dobie, C Thunder, D Gamble, S Derrick A Ferrie, M Job, J Rutherford, G Young. Subs: L Thompson, C Greer, C Dodds, E Miller, A Hall, R Cottrell, H Rutherford, H Bentley.
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell.
Heriot’s: Tries: Davidson, Barber, Wells, Wallace, Seydak, King. Cons: Jones 4.
Southern Knights: Tries: Derrick 2, Thunder, Ferrie, Cross, Bell. Cons: Grieve 2.
Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 19-5 (h-t); 19-10; 19-12; 19-17, 19-19; 24-19; 26-19; 26-24; 26-29; 26-34; 31-34; 33-34; 38-34.
Yellow card –
Heriot’s: Campbell (51 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: There were plenty of candidates with a number of players on both sides having purple patches, but it was the Heriot’s centre pairing of Grant Hughes and Matt Davidson who looked the most composed and the former takes the award.
Talking point: Just what will this league throw up in the second half of the regular season? There have been some crackers in the first half of the Championship campaign and this one – including 12 tries and thrills and spills – was right up there.