Currie Chieftains 27
COLIN RENTON @ Goldenacre
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS moved into third spot in the table after chalking up a win that was just reward for refusing to buckle against a home side that appeared to be heading for the win after taking the lead inside the final ten minutes.
Although it was a humdinger of a clash, it was not a perfect performance from either team. Nevertheless, both deserved credit for their determination to play with pace in an encounter that ebbed and flowed throughout and featured some flashes of great rugby.
Home coach Phil Smith admitted that his men had committed errors that were costly in a fixture that is traditionally a close fought affair.
“That was a game that we definitely lost because we were in the lead with control at the point when we needed to be,” he said. “We made two really bad decisions, so that’s the frustrating bit. We made a bad call at the lineout then a bad call in open play. So it was a good game but for once we didn’t learn how to win – we have been pretty good at that.”
Chieftains had the better of the opening exchanges and deservedly took the lead when Joe Reynolds burst from deep and raced into the home 22 where he was collared but managed to feed Thomas Gordon who sprinted over. Gregor Hunter, the league’s top kicker, had no trouble with the conversion.
Another man with a reliable boot, Ross Jones – captain for the day in the absence of Iain Wilson – clawed back three points following a scrum offence.
Chieftains responded with another sustained spell of pressure without adding to their tally before the hosts, with Stuart Edwards orchestrating affairs and Craig Robertson stretching the opposition defence on several occasions, cut the deficit to a point through another Jones penalty.
The home pack gradually ratcheted up the power and their pressure led to another penalty at the breakdown on the edge of the Chieftains 22. Jones dispatched the ball into touch and, after a series of pick and go efforts, Andrew Simmers fired the ball to Jack McClean who plunged over, leaving Jones a straightforward conversion.
Chieftains had the final word of the first half when Hunter banged over a 40 metre penalty to leave his side three points adrift at the interval.
A Jones penalty shortly after the restart restored a six point margin, then Chieftains thought they had bagged a try when Steven Hamilton touched down. But the assistant referee judged that he had been shunted into touch by Robert Kay. The score was only briefly delayed, however. A line-out drive carried play to within striking distance and when the ball was fed back to Robbie Nelson, the Chieftains skipper bounced through attempted tackles by Edwards and Kay to touch down. Hunter converted then thumped over a penalty for a four point lead.
Despite having Robertson sin-binned for what was deemed a deliberate knock on, the hosts regained the lead in 71 minutes when another powerful surge by the pack took them to within sight of the whitewash and the recycled ball was shifted along the line to Andrew Simmers, who dummied to pass then dived over. Jones added the extra two points to set up a tense finale.
But there was another twist yet to come when Jamie Forbes darted into space and Reynolds carried on the move before setting up Nelson to dot down for a second time. Hunter’s conversion completed the win that delighted Ben Cairns, the Chieftains coach, although he was not entireley happy with the performance.
“I thought we made a lot of mistakes today but then so did Heriot’s. Both teams probably didn’t play as well as they can. No one ever got real ascendancy,” he said. ”It’s very nice to come out on top. There won’t be many games away from home when we make that amount of errors and still come out on top.
And of his ambitions for the season, he added, “We used to hide the fact that we were looking to get into play-offs. But we’ve done it for the last four years and that’s where we want to be. That’s the first goal in any season – to make the play-offs – obviously we would rather have a home semi but the first thing we need to do is get there. The way we are going to do that is by picking up wins away from home and at Malleny. We now have two big games at home against Watsonians and Melrose.”
Heriot’s: J Blain; R McMichael, R Jones©, R Kay, C Robertson; S Edwards, A Simmers; J Scott, M Liness, S Cessford, C Bell, C Marshall, M Hughes, J McLean, R Leishman. Subs: A Johnstone, M Bouab, S Johnstone, A Ball, C Simpson.
Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson©, S Hamilton; G Hunter, C Shiel; A McWilliam, G Carson, F Watt, R Davies, M Vernel, L Crosbie, T Gordon, S McGinley. Subs: C Wilson, M Agiro, M Kelly, R Frostwick, A Hall.
Referee: Manuel Bottino (Italy)
Heriot’s: Tries: McClean, Simmers; Con: Jones 2; Pens: Jones 3
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Gordon, Nelson 2; Cons: Hunter 3; Pens: Hunter 2
Scoring sequence: (Heriot’s first): 0-5, 0-7, 3-7, 6-7, 11-7, 13-7, 13-10 (h-t) 16-10, 16-15, 16-17, 16-20, 21-20, 23-20, 23-25, 23-27.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-match: Numerous candidates, including the entire Chieftains back-row, but the man whose game management was key to the win was Gregor Hunter. The stand off delivered a performance that showed he has much more to offer than a reliable boot.
Talking point: Despite a game that featured some great stuff from both sides, the respective coaches felt their sides had underperformed – a sign of heightened expectations.