COLIN RENTON @ Goldenacre
FOURTEEN-MAN Heriot’s held off a strong finish from Boroughmuir to take all five points from a game that sprang to life in the second half and ultimately produced a stirring conclusion. And, while the visitors earned two bonus points for their efforts, it was the latest frustrating Saturday afternoon for their coach Peter Wright.
“It’s like Groundhog Day – the errors cost us tries,” he said. “We didn’t play well in the first half, but we thought at half-time that we had defended pretty solidly apart from the two really good tries that they scored. At half-time, we talked about getting the first score and we did. We were doing all the right things and then we did something stupid and they got possession and they scored.
“We need the guys to understand that the two points are great but we’re killing ourselves. We seem to be getting massively punished for the errors that we make, but we’re not punishing the opposition.”
Wright’s counterpart Phil Smith was not oozing delight either. “In the opening 20 minutes, we were completely in control, playing accurate, controlled, correct rugby,” the Heriot’s head coach said. “The start of the second half we got going again, then we didn’t play in the way we expected to play.
“I’m annoyed, because they’ve shown so much good stuff. But it’s five points, so let’s remember that. It’s a case just fixing the little bits.”
Having posted a first win of the campaign seven days earlier, Boroughmuir travelled across the city in decent fettle. But, while they were gutsy in defence during the first half, the visitors offered little evidence of the pace and flair they possess behind the scrum.
Heriot’s, who had also had a shaky start to the league programme before showing signs of improvement over recent weeks, went into the game as favourites. That tag seemed apt as they raced into action and a slick move handed them an early lead – Ross Jones fed Charlie Simpson who cut inside and returned the favour for Jones. The full-back raced over, then made it a seven-point score when he added the conversion.
Heriot’s looked the slicker of the two sides and they extended their lead in 20 minutes when Tom Wilson fired out a long ball to Michael Maltman, who sent Simpson in at the corner for an unconverted score. The visitors were finding it tough to make headway and they were not helped by a mounting error count. That said, the Boroughmuir defence had tightened up and the hosts also struggled to create further opportunities to add to their points tally as the game stuttered towards the interval.
Heriot’s resumed where they had left off and a chip through by Jones forced the visitors to carry over their own line. A penalty at the ensuing scrum offered some respite, but a kick that missed touch handed the initiative back to the home side and a burst from Junior Rasolea created the platform for Alex Ball to dart in for try number three.
Greg Cannie was yellow-carded in the aftermath of that score, but his departure appeared to galvanise Boroughmuir to enjoy their best spell of the game. Lewis Carmichael came up just short, but Ross Dunbar was on hand to blast his way over.
A similar effort immediately afterwards was thwarted just shy of the whitewash. After consulting his assistant, the referee awarded a penalty and showed a red card to Heriot’s hooker Michael Liness, apparently for lashing out at an opponent. The game had now taken on a different complexion. The visitors continued to apply pressure, and bagged a second try in 57 minutes when Dan Marek crashed over from close range.
However, just as the tide appeared to be flowing in Boroughmuir’s direction, the hosts struck with the bonus-point try. Simpson kicked into space, and although Damien Hoyland was quickest to cover, the ball was dislodged from his grip and rolled over the line, where Ball pounced for his second score.
That strike against the run of play took the wind from Boroughmuir’s sails and it got worse in 71 minutes when Rasolea pounced on a speculative inside pass and raced over. Jones added the extras.
However, there is plenty of character in Wright’s squad and they launched a strong finish. With 80 minutes on the clock, it was the turn of Heriot’s to pay the price for a loose pass when Blair Mills pounced and set up Ronan Kerr for try number three.
And the visitors bagged a double bonus deep into injury time when, after a series of thwarted drives, Johnny Matthews plunged over for the fourth touchdown and Cannie added the kick.
Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, R Mulveena, R Carmichael, C Robertson; S Edwards, T Wilson; S Cessford, M Liness, M McCallum, C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Maltman, J McLean, M Hughes. Subs: S Milne, M Bouab, N Sutherland, A Ball, J Rasolea.
Boroughmuir: G Cannie; D Hoyland, R Kerr, M Hare, J Edmunds; C Whyte, J Hamilton; R Dunbar, J Matthews, D Winning, T Drennan, L Carmichael, A McCube, M Walker, C Keddie. Subs: C Davies, D Robertson, D Marek, B Mills, G McConnell.
Heriot’s: Tries: Jones, Simpson, Ball 2, Rasolea. Cons: Jones 2.
Boroughmuir: Tries: Dunbar, Marek, Kerr, Matthews. Cons: Whyte, Cannie.
Yellow card: Cannie (Boroughmuir).
Red card: Liness (Heriot’s).
Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 5-0,7-0, 12-0 half-time, 17-0, 17-5, 17-7, 17-12, 22-12, 27-12, 29-12, 29-17, 29-22, 29-24.
Referee: F Brown.
Man of the Match: On a day when both sides were guilty of playing high-risk rugby and committing multiple errors, one man who was a steadying influence and who made ground every time he had possession was Michael Maltman, whose contribution was key for the home side.
Talking point: If Boroughmuir can start games with the intensity that they finished this one, they have the potential to challenge any team in the league. However, the lack of consistency within games must be a concern for Peter Wright.