COLIN RENTON @ Goldenacre
ANOTHER humdinger of a Super Series Sprint contest ended with honours even, a fair outcome between two teams that matched each other for ambition, skill and physicality. Neither side managed to create any daylight against determined opponents and there was never more than one score between the pair.
Neutrals would certainly have left Goldenacre feeling entertained. It was a tougher watch for supporters, while the coaches will have had less stressful days during their careers. In the home camp, Ben Cairns was probably more satisfied than his counterpart Stevie Scott, although both saw it as a missed opportunity.
“It definitely feels like a loss,” admitted Cairns. “I thought our work rate and our physicality were outstanding and you need that against Watsonians, because they bring that every week. I was really proud of the boys’ effort and the way they matched them. It’s just frustrating how hard we made it for ourselves in terms of exits – that’s the bit we need to work on.”
For Scott, who is still settling in at Myreside, the biggest issue was allowing Heriot’s to respond almost immediately each time Watsonians harvested points.
“It’s a bit frustrating really because as you saw through the game, when we were in the gold zone we came away with points pretty much all the time. But pretty much every time we scored we allowed them to score and we gave them three or four easy scores. They will probably be saying the same about us,” he said before giving an early assessment of how he is implementing his plans.
“Progress takes time, but from my expectations, we’re probably not where we should be. We know as a group that that’s not good enough. The quality of players we have, no disrespect to Heriot’s, but for our own standards we’re not happy with that.”
With the wind in their favour, the visitors spent the opening minutes softening up the home defence before deservedly bagging the first points of the afternoon. Campbell Wilson, who had looked lively in an earlier move, was foiled just short of the whitewash but Luis Ball was on hand to complete the task. Lee Millar stroked over the conversion.
With 15 minutes on the clock, Heriot’s paid their first visit to the opposition 22 when Ross Jones banged a penalty into touch. That proved the launchpad for an attack which ended with Euan McAra being held up. The score was only delayed and another line-out pouched by Ruairidh Leishman was followed by a drive which ended with Iain Wilson crashing over. Jones was on target with the conversion to square matters.
Watsonians won a penalty from the restart and enjoyed another spell in the ascendancy. It took an outstanding effort from Charlie Jupp to prevent a touchdown but the momentum was with the hosts and Grant Hughes was yellow-carded after pulling down a maul.
The visitors took advantage of the extra man with a series of attacks that edged them closer to the line where Jamie Berrisford twisted and reached over to dot down. Millar mastered the elements to add the extras.
Back came Heriot’s and they stretched the opposing defence before the ever-threatening Mike Gray was collared by a desperate tackle and Jones carried on the move then flipped the ball out the back to Dan King who raced in. Jones was on target with the kick to restore parity.
The direct approach of the home side posed a constant threat and they had a chance to take the lead but a crucial intervention by Ball held up Euan McVie over the line to leave the scores tied at half time.
Watsonians made a lively restart and it took a last-ditch tackle to halt Neil Irvine-Hess just shy of the target. The try looked to be coming as the visitors moved the ball wide, and edged towards the line. And so it proved, with Seb Cecil carrying to within a few metres where he offloaded to Wilson who crossed for the score and left Millar a straightforward conversion.
Again the Heriot’s response was immediate. And once more it was a forward effort, with the latest surge ending with Wilson again claiming the five pointer, the skipper’s sixth try in three matches. Jones was just wide with the conversion.
The home side snatched the lead for the first time when Callum Anderson galloped through a gap in the Watsonians defence and raced over for the bonus point score, with Jones adding the extras.
Both coaches rang the changes and one of the newcomers, Ross Graham claimed the bonus point try for Watsonians after picking up the pieces following a try saving tackle by Leishman on Irvine-Hess. Millar’s kick drifted on the wind leaving the scores level with 16 minutes to play.
That situation lasted less than a minute and it was Heriot’s who regained the initiative when Euan McLaren bulldozed his way over between the sticks to leave Jones a simple conversion.
There was still plenty of time for another twist and it came with a couple of minute left. A fumble by Watsonians in the home 22 and an attempted hack ahead left the ball bobbling. Jason Baggott was the quickest to react, scooping it up and rounding three defenders. Millar again banged over the conversion and the sides were even once more.
The visitors were well placed to snatch a dramatic late winner but Baggott appeared to have miscalculated and with Watsonians inside the home 22 as the clock ticked into injury time, he booted the ball into touch to end the game.
Heriot’s: D King; A Boyle (J Couper 60) , M Davidson, G Hughes, M Gray (M Russell 65); R Jones, E McAra; J Scott (C Anderson 60), M Liness (R Stewart 60), C Ramsay (E McLaren 49), E McVie (C Anderson 45), R Seydak (C Cobbett 76), C Jupp, I Wilson© (W Nelson 60), R Leishman.
Watsonians: D Coetzer (G Pringle 45); L MacPherson (S King 71), L Berg, J Baggott, A Guthrie; L Millar©, M McAndrew (H Patterson 70); R Deans (C Davidson72), C Davies (R Graham 54 (C Davies77)), M Wilson (G Scougall 25), L Ball, J Berrisford (K Watt 65), S Cecil, C Wilson (J Morris 54), N Irvine-Hess.
Referee: R Campbell
Heriot’s: Tries: Wilson 2. King, Anderson, McLaren; Cons: Jones 4.
Watsonians: Tries: Ball, Berrisford, Wilson, Graham, Baggott; Cons: Millar 4.
Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-12; 7-14; 12-14; 14-14 (h-t) 14-19; 14-21; 19-21; 24-21; 26-21; 26-26; 31-26; 33-26; 33-31; 33-33.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Plenty of contenders, but the stand-out contributor was Ruairidh Leishman of Heriots, who gets the nod for his involvement in the tries, his line-out value and a couple of try-saving tackles.
Talking point: The semi-pro set up is producing some decent rugby and results show that there is no dominant side at the moment – that adds to the attractiveness of the product, although it is still not reflected in crowd numbers.