Southern Knights 21
ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
A TRY and conversion on full-time by stand-off Ross Jones earned Heriot’s a draw against a Southern Knights team that again showed the improvement that has been made this season under head coach Alan Tait. But, ultimately, the Greenyards men fell short of their target of four league points that would have given them a fighting chance, admittedly very slim, of reaching the Super Series play-offs.
Even so, there was a sense of achievement if not from the game then over the period of the league. Ever the competitor, Tait was, understandably a tad frustrated at missing out on what could have been a victory for his side. He said: “I think the effort the boys put in should have won the game for them. I thought the referee made some poor decisions at the end of the game. We asked the boys to give everything they’ve got because it’s the last time probably playing together as a group. We didn’t win but we drew the game against the best team in the league. We need this level of rugby for the lads and hopefully it continues.”
For Knights, there were a number of eye-catching performances from the likes of Allan Ferrie, who gave his side that vital go-forward at times in the game, prop Jack Dobie, who once again showed what a formidable front-row he is, and behind the scrum from skipper Gregor McNeish, whose quick feet and equally quick thinking helped light up the game.
For Heriot’s, this was, of course a dead-rubber. The Goldenacre side had already secured their ‘home’ semi-final (albeit next Friday’s game will be at Hawthornden, the home of Lasswade, rather than Goldenacre, due to floodlight issues) but nevertheless their head coach, Ben Cairns, dismissed any notion of the players taking the game lightly.
“We rotated our squad quite a bit. The guys on the pitch had a lot to play for because there’s a massive game that they want to be involved in next week,” Cairns pointed out. “They should have been motivated to make sure that they’re being considered.”
Moreover, as Cairns pointed out, it was never going to an easy game against the Knights: “They probably should have won at Goldenacre. We know what they bring and what they’re good at. We got lulled into their type of game tonight and made it a bit of a dog-fight for ourselves.”
Outstanding for Heriot’s was No 8 Callum Anderson while at stand-off, the years of accumulated experience that Jones possesses proved valuable at the death.
Heriot’s, looking the more dynamic side in the opening exchanges, were quickly into attacking mode and all but scored within three minutes from a rolling maul only for the ‘try’ to be chalked off for a double movement.
The visitors then had an immediate opportunity to atone from a penalty-created line-out after Knights’ full-back Donald Crawford had been carded for a deliberate knock-on. This time Heriot’s made no mistake with the execution of the driving maul resulting in Duncan Hood scoring a try comfortably converted by Jones.
Knights, eager to prove themselves the equal of the visitors, began to hit hard at the Heriot’s defence but it was not until a line-out steal by Ferrie that the Greenyards franchise made their breakthrough. Ferrie’s acceleration created the space that Knights needed and when the ball was moved wide, it was an expertly delivered pass by Corbin Thunder that gave Crawford room to run in his side’s first try, McNeish converting to level the scores.
Thunder then switched roles from provider to scorer with a close range try after Paddy Anderson and then Theo Nwosu-Hope had dented the Heriot’s defence in the five metre zone. Again McNeish added the extra points.
Heriot’s, perhaps not expecting to be in arrears, responded with slick and pacy play that brought Charlie Savala into the game for the first time, concluding with a try for Scotland under-20s full back Dan King, and the additional two points by Jones made it a squared contest at the end of the first half.
After a featureless third quarter it was still 14-14, only for Knights to break the stalemate with a try that emanated from the charge-down of a Jones’ kick. Knights’ midfield followed up quickly and aided by Heriot’s inability to control the bouncing ball centre Hamish Bentley gained possession to motor over for his side’s third try, converted by Harris Rutherford, who had come off the bench for McNeish.
Heriot’s, determined to make up lost ground, forced their way into the Knights’ 22 to mount a serious siege on their opponents line, that was successfully defended by the home forwards. Then, when Heriot’s opted to take a scrum from a penalty award, Knights appeared to have disrupted proceedings with a powerful effort from their forward pack.
Referee Ruairidh Campbell saw it differently and awarded a further penalty to Heriot’s. This time the visitors opted to kick (almost laterally) to the corner and from the ensuing line-out tried to maul their way over the Knights’ line.
Then after assessing that the Knights goal-line defence was unyielding, Heriot’s spun the ball wide for Jones to produce the equalising score and conversion to deny Knights an end-of-term celebration.
Southern Knights: D Crawford; A Cross, H Bentley, A Hall, P Anderson; G McNeish©, C Bell; C Greer, L Thompson, D Gamble, T Nwosu-Hope, A Ferrie, S Derrick, C Thunder, A Hosking. Substitutes: D Voas, J Dobie, A Dodds, M Job, G Young, B Weir, H Rutherford, C Barrett.
Heriot’s: D King; L Wells, G Baber, C Savala, S Pecqueur; R Jones©, S Broad; J Scott, D Hood, C Ramsay, C Jupp, J Campell, W Nelson, S Wallace, C Anderson. Substitutes: M Liness, J Blain.
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell
Southern Knights: Tries: Crawford, Thunder Bentley; Cons McNeish 2, Rutherford.
Heriot’s: Tries: Hood, King, Jones; Cons: Jones 3.
Scoring Sequence (Southern Knights first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7; 14-12; 14-14 (h-t) 19-14; 21-14; 21-19; 21-21.
Yellow cards –
Southern Knights: Crawford (7 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: In making the first Knights’ try and then scoring the second, dynamic Corbin Thunder showed why he retains the interest of Newcastle Falcons, whether as a hooker or in the back-row.
Talking point: Heriot’s needed Southern Knights to produce a fighting performance as preparation for the play-offs next weekend. Little, however, can be taken from the game at The Greenyards in terms of how Heriot’s will perform in the semi-finals. What is certain is that coach Ben Cairns will have a few hard choices to make in naming his team to face Stirling Wolves.