DAVID BARNES @ Goldenacre
TWO wins on the road from their first two matches puts Watsonians top of the Super6 table following this convincing demolition of their oldest and fiercest rivals which came courtesy of an excellent second half showing in which they scored 20 unanswered points.
“It was a game of two halves,” reflected victorious head coach Fergus Pringle afterwards. “We gave away some soft penalties in the first half so that meant we couldn’t keep any pressure on them, then we were a bit more disciplined in the second half which allowed our game-plan to come to fruition a bit more.
“There’s things that we know we need to get better at, so we’ll bank the points, and recognise that Stirling will be a massive game next week.”
Opposite number Phil Smith echoed that analysis although his emphasis – inevitably – was far more on where Heriot’s had gone wrong.
“At half-time it felt like we had dominated the game and had gifted them two scores, but then from the 41st minute we struggled to do the simple things: we missed penalties touch, we had a four-on-one right at the start of the second half and carried it into contact instead of putting it through the hands, and so on,” he reasoned.
“So, it was just poor decision making and I suppose that’s the whole point of the competition, to expose guys so that they are better when it is harder.
“It is frustrating because they scored five tries in the end, and it wasn’t a five try performance. We didn’t put them under pressure in the right areas of the field.”
Visiting full-back Jamie Forbes and home captain Iain Wilson both had promising darts in the opening 10 minutes, before Watsonians engineered the first bona fide line-break when Angus Guthrie came off his wing to hit a sharp angle off scrum-half Roan Frostwick.
The former Howe of Fife man was eventually pulled down just short of the whitewash, and in his haste to move the quick ball wide Lee Millar was intercepted by James Spencer – but it was only a temporary reprieve for Heriot’s. Their clearance kick was collected by Forbes, who ran it back with conviction to suck in two defenders before an despatching an excellent offload to Lomond Macpherson, who did well to step back inside the last man on his way to the line.
Heriot’s bounced back. Ruairidh Leishman couldn’t quite gather his own charge-down of Millar’s clearance, but the Goldenacre men kept the heat on and they evened the scores on 19 minutes from quick line-out ball, with Jack Blain appearing in the middle of the park to create the extra man and then sending Rory McMichael over.
The pendulum then swung back Watsonians’ way with a moment of individualist brilliance from Joe Reynolds, who picked up the ball after it had squirted loose following a powerful run from MacPherson, and then had both the wherewithal and technique to collect his own chip over last man McMichael for a fine try.
Alex Ball fired home a 40-yard penalty for Heriot’s to narrow it to a two point game after Morgan Inness was guilty of tackling a man without the ball, and then the hosts took the lead for the first time when Scott Riddell got the ball down after a trademark line-out maul rumbled Watsonians backwards over their own line.
Heriot’s had that butchered overlap almost straight from kick-off, when Scott Robeson went for contact instead of looking to release Blain on his outside, and Watsonians took full advantage, by reclaiming the lead after a period of pressure when Guthrie showed electrifying feet and good power to beat Blain on a sixpence to get over in the corner.
Millar couldn’t manage the conversion, leaving the scores were tied at 17-apiece, but Watsonians were very clearly now in the driving seat, and that was soon reflected on the scoreboard when after another impressive passage of continuity play, Frostwick sent MacPherson over for his second try on the right, securing the bonus point in the process.
The odds of Heriot’s getting anything out of this match lengthened considerably when replacement hooker Michael Liness saw yellow just a few minutes after replacing Ali Johnstone for taking out Inness, who had run a dangerous support line but hadn’t received the ball. Millar slotted the penalty and Heriot’s were down to 14 men for the next ten crucial minutes.
Liness was just getting ready to come back on when his opposite number Cal Davies broke from the back of a driven line-out and motored home from almost 20 metres. Millar converted to stretch out the gap to 15 points.
Watsonians were home and hosed, but they weren’t going to concede anything in this excellent second half performance, as demonstrated when Michael Badenhorst did well to hold up Andrew Simmers over the line. The visitors did lose replacement loose-head Finn Hobbis to a yellow card in the dying moments after some scrum shenanigans, but that won’t have worried Pringle and his squad too much last night as they reflected on a job well done.
Heriot’s: R McMichael; J Blain, S Robeson (C Hutchison 52), R Kay, J Spencer (R Chalmers 58); S Edwards, A Ball (A Simmers 58); C Keen, A Johnstone (M Liness 55), D Gamble (S Cessford 55), R Leishman, C Jupp, J Mann (J Hill 22), S Riddell (A Johnstone 64-74), I Wilson (C Marshall 40).
Watsonians: J Forbes; L MacPherson (A Chalmers 78), L Berg, J Reynolds, A Guthrie; L Millar (K McGovern 78), R Frostwick (M Scott 78); H Courtney (F Hobbis 73), C Davies (C Wilson 73), N Borel (J Gibson 73), B Leitch (F Simpson 78), J Hodgson, J Miller (M Badenhorst 63), C Boyle (H Courtney 79), M Inness.
Referee: Keith Allan
Heriot’s: Try: McMichael, Riddell; Con: Ball 2; Pen: Ball.
Watsonians: Try: MacPherson 2, Reynolds, Guthrie, Davies; Con: Millar 2; Pen: Millar.
Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-12; 10-12; 15-12; 17-12 (h-t) 17-17; 17-22; 17-25; 17-30; 17-32.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Watsonians centre Joe Reynolds not only provides rugby intelligence in the middle of the park, he punches well above his weight in contact and showed all his class with a brilliantly taken try.
Talking point: Heriot’s head coach Phil Smith decided to pre-pick his teams for the first three matches of the season in order to give everyone a run-out, but his much changed side for this game lacked the cohesion on display against Ayr last week, so should he ditch the plan and look for continuity and experience going into next week’s Friday night clash against Boroughmuir Bears?