GARY HEATLY @ Goldenacre
JACK BLAIN ran in a hat-trick of tries as Heriot’s secured top spot in the regular season Super Series Championship table with a bonus point win over Watsonians. The 27-15 triumph at Goldenacre means that Heriot’s have 50 points from 11 games and will be at home to either Stirling Wolves or Southern Knights in the play-off semi-finals in a fortnight.
This result also confirmed that Watsonians will finish third in the regular season table and will be away to second placed Ayrshire Bulls in those play-offs.
Heriot’s head coach Ben Cairns said: “I am really pleased, the most pleasing thing about this win was how we dug in at the start of the game when things weren’t going to plan.
“We got through that sticky patch and then controlled large parts of the game. Having a finisher like Jack at the club is brilliant and the best thing for me is that he is enjoying his rugby and playing with a smile on his face.
“Now we have one more big regular season game to go against Southern Knights next Friday and the build up to the play-offs continues from here and we feel in a pretty good place heading into them.”
Almost straight from kick-off, Watsonians had the first chance when a good break by back-row Luis Ball and some neat work from scrum-half Conor McAlpine got them near the Heriot’s try line. Eventually a knock on saw the chance disappear, but in the third minute they did take the lead when captain Jason Baggott kicked a penalty.
The visitors continued to have the majority of territory and possession, but with 10 minutes gone the score remained 3-0.
A ’50-22’ kick then sparked Heriot’s into life and, from the resultant line-out, centre George Barber barrelled through a couple of defenders. He was stopped short of the try line, but a couple of penalties and numerous well-worked, patient phases later, tight-head Euan McLaren went over for a try from short range in the 14th minute. Full-back Dan King’s conversion attempt hit the upright and the home side were 5-3 up.
As the end of the first quarter approached Heriot’s won a penalty in a good area, but stand-off Liam Richman’s kick to touch went dead and both sides were not yet at their sharpest here.
A few minutes later King looked to have set in-form winger Blain away through the middle, but play was pulled back by referee Ruairidh Campbell for what looked like an obstruction by centre Matt Davidson.
In the 34th minute, after a strong line-out drive and with a penalty advantage to play with, a similar move saw Blain streak in under the posts for his side’s second try. The move involved neat passes from Barber and Davidson and when King converted it was 12-3.
Heriot’s had their tails up now and, three minutes later, when Blain got the ball in space some 40 metres out against a narrow and backtracking defence, there was only going to be one outcome. The former Edinburgh Rugby man’s second try could not be converted as King’s effort once again hit the upright and it was 17-3 at the break.
In the 54th minute, after patient build-up play once again, Blain bagged his third try and the bonus point score for Heriot’s. Davidson’s excellent floating pass set this one up and although King could not convert from out wide it was 22-3.
Watsonians knew they needed the next score to stay in the game and it came for them just before the hour mark when hooker Cal Davies burrowed over after taking a quick tap. Baggott could not convert and it was 22-8.
With 10 minutes to go Heriot’s made sure the win would be theirs when Barber burst through the middle and scored out wide despite the attentions of a defender. King could not convert.
Late on, replacement hooker Finn Duraj bagged a consolation try with Baggott converting, but it was too little, too late.
“I was disappointed with the performance,” Watsonians head coach Nikki Walker said. “We started the game slowly and never really got going, it was a bit of a flat Edinburgh derby. We looked like we had settled for third place in the table long before this match had finished.
“The attitude that is needed just wasn’t there at times and I said that to the boys in the post-match huddle. We know on our day we can still beat any team in this competition and we have to reset and build for the play-offs now.”
Heriot’s: D King (R Jones 60); L Wells (S Pecqueur 71), M Davidson, G Baber, J Blain; L Richman, F Campbell (S Broad 71); C Keen (J Scott 71), M Liness (D Hood 71), E McLaren (C Ramsay 71), R Seydak, J Campell, C Jupp, S Wallace (C Anderson 55), R Leishman© (W Nelson 71).
Watsonians: D Coetzer; L Macpherson (F Owsley 64), G Pringle, L Berg, S King; J Baggott©, C McAlpine (M McAndrew 66); C Davidson (C Murphy 71), C Davies (F Duraj 66), G Scougall (B Bratton 41), K Watt (S Cecil 44), A Scopes (J Berrisford 55), L Ball, K Main, K van Niekerk.
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell
Heriot’s: Tries: McLaren, Blain 3, Barber. Con: King.
Watsonians: Tries: Davies, Duraj. Con: Baggott. Pen: Baggott.
Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 0-3; 5-3; 10-3; 12-3; 17-3 (h-t) 22-3; 22-8; 27-8; 27-13; 27-15.
Player-of-the-Match: Nine tries now in three Heriot’s games for Jack Blain means the winger takes the award and his ability to sense space and glide past defenders helped him stand out in this game.
Talking point: With Grant Hughes injured some wondered how the Heriot’s midfield would fare, but George Barber slotted in nicely at 12 alongside Matt Davidson at 13 here and Heriot’s have strength-in-depth and options across the park with the play-offs around the corner.