Boroughmuir Bears 22
IAIN MORRISON @ Meggetland
HERIOT’S RUGBY claimed their second win in the second half of this Super6 season and the George Clark Cup to boot, but it proved a little more complex than seemed likely when the visitors raced into a 17–0 lead late in the first half. Two tries for the Bears either side of the break, a family affair from brothers Corey and Rhys Tait, brought Boroughmuir right back into this contest only for the visitors to flex their muscles and nail this one down during the final half hour.
The visitors finished with six tries in all, fair reward for their superiority. They boasted a little more muscle up front where Jason Hill and Jack Mann carried tirelessly, and were well served by some Edinburgh professionals in the back line. With tries going to Jack Blain, Chris Dean and Charlie Savala the extra experience was clear to see on the scoreboard.
“I thought that the entire bench made a big impact for us,” said Heriots’ coach Andrew Kelly. “But, yes, we did have some class to call upon.
“We did our homework on the Bears and we knew that they’d bring some fight. We were poor at the breakdown where we conceded I think it was six turnover in the opening quarter to their jacklers. Our defence has now conceded eight tries in the last two games so there is plenty to tighten up but overall I was pretty happy.”
The opening exchanges of the game were scrappy, disjointed and wayward. Passes went to ground, tackles missed and neither side resourced the breakdown so both teams conceded the inevitable turnovers.
But after that forgettable opening quarter the game sparked into life and the crowd suddenly had something to shout about. Neither side kicked a penalty, or even attempted one, and all 10 tries appeared in the final, hectic 55 minutes of this match.
The first sustained attack by either side didn’t arrive until just after the 20 minute mark and it was sparked by Edinburgh winger Blain who popped up not once but three times in the assault. He kick-started the whole thing by pouncing on a loose pass and kicking a 50/22 to give his side great field position. The leggy winger then popped up twice more, coming off his wing, looking for work, and winning a penalty (for a high tackle) that Heriots kicked into the corner. A few plays later and his Edinburgh colleague Chris Dean, who appeared to be on a mission all night, spotted the Bears’ defence a little narrow leaving a Gregor Tait sized gap on the left flank and Dean’s pass gave his winger the simplest of scores.
Dean had already sent Tait free up the left wing only for the winger to be called back for a forward pass so the Bears can’t say they weren’t warned.
With the crowd having to wait 25 minutes for a try, suddenly they got three in the space of just 13 minutes as the visitors piled on the misery.
Next up was Blain himself, as the spark for the opening score finished off the second. Heriot’s broke from deep with Dean initiating the break from his own half. The ball went to flanker Mann, Nyle Godsmark and skipper Ruairidh Leishman before being recycled. When fly-half Bruce Houston looked up he spotted Blain in splendid isolation on the right wing and the his kick/pass fell pretty much perfectly for the winger.
And just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse for the hosts, Dean helped himself to his team’s third try, intercepting Adam Scott’s pass deep inside Bears territory after the winger had chased back to collect a kick. This one was under the sticks so Houston added his first conversion of the evening at the third time of asking. It may have been coincidence but Scott was yanked at half time for replacement Glen Faulds.
But this Bears side have spirit and resilience to spare. With just a few minutes left on the clock they worked their way upfield, thanks in part to a penalty, and hooker Corey Tait came up with an important try to keep the home side interested in this tie, but only after the referee had checked with his touchie. Muir were still trailing but that late touchdown meant that the half time score of 5-17 was a better reflection of the first half play.
Whatever Graham Shiel said at half time had the right effect because Cory Tait almost repeated his party trick immediately after the break in the exact same manner. The hooker was stopped inches short, illegally, but his big brother Rhys, the Scotland Under-20s captain, drove over in the very next play to accelerate the Bears’ revival.
With their lead threatened the visitors upped their game and produced the best passage of play in the match to date with forwards and backs interacting seamless to create genuine accuracy in attack that proved unstoppable. The ball fairly fizzed across the away team’s back-line and full-back Ross Jones was untroubled by defenders when touching down in the right hand corner.
Both sides looked to the bench around the 60 minute mark and Heriot’s whistled up Edinburgh’s Savala to replace Houston as playmaker (the fly-half moved to outside centre), alongside Dean in a potent midfield combo.
Heriot’s continued to press in the final quarter although one chance went west when a forward reached out for the try line but came up short and lost the ball in the process. They were not denied for long, however, with the forwards rumbling a maul up to the Bear’s line before Savala applied the coup de grace.
The Bears again displayed their fighting spirit by scoring a cracking, length-of-the-field score. No 8 Scott McGinley found space through the middle of a ruck and replacement Scott Robeson couldn’t be stopped from short range.
Heriot’s bit back immediately with skipper Ruairidh Leishman sending replacement scrum-half Jed Gelderbloom over for his side’s sixth try of the evening with six minutes left on the clock.
And there was still time for Chris Anderson, on debut for the Bears, to have the last word, the prop barrelling over after sustained pressure.
“It is all part of a learning process,” was Shiel’s take on the evening’s events. “It’s great for people like Robbie McCallum to go up against Chris Dean or for Harry Mercer to play against Charlie Savala. That doesn’t happen very often so we have to learn from the experience.
“We worked hard and yes we have spirit but we do need to be a little more consistent with things like intensity. I can’t question the players’ commitment.”
Boroughmuir Bears: T Brown; A Scott, D Munn, R McCallum, J Jenkins; H Mercer, R Swan; B Sweet, C Tait, M McGinley, J King, H Bain, G Brown, R Tait,, S McGinley. Subs: I Carmichael, C Anderson, M Goodwin, E Stewart, M Mncube, M Johnstone, C Allan, S Roberson, G Faulds.
Heriots: R Jones; G Tait, N Godsmark, C Dean, J Blain; B Houston, M McAndrew, C Keen, M Liness, S Cessford, R Leishman, F Hastie, J Mann, I Wilson, J Hill. Subs: D Hood, G Strain, E McLaren, J Campbell, R Seydak, J Gelderbloom, C Savala, B Evans.
Referee: Finlay Brown.
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: C Tait, R Tait, Robeson, Anderson: Con: Faulds.
Heriots: Tries: Tait, Blain, Dean, Jones, Savala, Gelderbloom; Cons: Houston 3, Savala.
Sequence of scoring (Boroughmuir first): 0-5; 0-10; 0-15; 0-17; 5-17 (h-t) 10-17; 10-22; 10-24; 10-29; 10-31; 15-31; 15-36; 15-38; 20-38; 22-38.
Man-of-the-Match: Several candidates put their hand up with Heriot’s flanker Jack Mann catching the eye and winger Jack Blain doing the same, but Chris Dean was a deserving winner in the end. Rather than sulk about having to drop down a level, the Edinburgh player chose instead to make a point and produced a coruscating display, never far from the ball, providing one minute, finishing the next. He was even spotted counter rucking near his own try line!
Talking point: This match was horrible for the opening quarter when neither side was able to impose themselves on the opposition and both teams made a slew of unforced errors. Then, as if by magic, someone turned the switch on and we had ourselves a cracker of a contest with skill, ambition and ten good tries.