Currie Chieftains 47
COLIN RENTON @ Oriam
The match, switched from snowbound Goldenacre, produced ten tries and great entertainment for the substantial crowd, many drawn by the curiosity of Scotland’s first indoor club game.
Of course, the unfamiliar surroundings caused some uncertainty – not least when a member of the packed crowd reminded the touch judge that he had strayed onto the football pitch rather than the rugby markings. However, the experiment must surely be judged a success and it has without doubt set a positive precedent should a similar situation arise in future.
Chieftains coach Ben Cairns was delighted to get the game played but also believed that the indoor surface played to the strengths of his side.
“For us, it’s great. If you look at the way we want to play the game and the speed we have in our outside backs, it’s ideal,” he said. “I would rather play on a grass pitch – that’s purely because that’s what the boys are used to. However, in terms of the way we want to play the game, this is perfect for us. The other thing is that we would have had to play on 17 March [if this fixture was re-arranged] when we could have four or five boys potentially in the Club XV team.”
Chieftains were first to show, with Harvey Elms and his fellow centre Robbie Nelson having a tilt at the opposition defence, and they continued to enjoy the territorial advantage as the clock ticked towards ten minutes.
However, a couple of intelligent kicks by Stuart Edwards nudged Heriot’s into the Chieftains half and earned a scrum penalty. The ball was despatched into touch and from the ensuing lineout the pack drove over, with Iain Wilson applying the final touch.
By the end of the first quarter, the ‘hosts’ had added to their tally. Another lineout created the platform and the ball was moved wide to Robbie Mulveena, whose surge carried him to within striking distance, and slick handling freed Rob Kay to dot down in the corner. Ross Jones banged over the conversion.
Chieftans boss it
Chieftains squandered a close-range lineout then saw another opportunity founder on a handling error. However, their opening score was only delayed and when it came it was delivered in impressive fashion. Nelson made the initial dent before offloading to Harvey Elms, who then delivered a perfectly judged pass out of the tackle to Fergus Scott, and the hooker galloped over. Charlie Shiel added the extra points.
The Chieftains scrum-half then nudged his side into the lead. His sniping run appeared to have been thwarted, but his persistence was rewarded as wriggled out of one tackle and then shrugged off two more despairing challenges before he touched down between the sticks, then added the conversion for good measure.
By half time, the lead had grown. Ratu Tagive was the creator with a searing run and a sublime offload to Elms, who sent Ben Robbins over for try number three – even Mulveena sportingly acknowledged Tagive’s skill with a handshake.
Shiel was off target with the conversion attempt and Heriot’s ended the half with a bout of pressure that proved fruitless, meaning the Goldenacre side’s season was dangling over the precipice as the referee signalled the interval.
A strong restart failed to yield further points for Heriot’s and their task became an even taller order five minutes into the second period when Chieftains ran the ball from inside their own 22. Elms exhibited his searing pace to race into opposition territory and spark a move that ended with Robbins darting in for the bonus point score, and Shiel converting.
Pressing home the points
And the game was effectively ended with half an hour to play when Shiel passed to Mike Vernel and the lock powered through a hole in the Heriot’s defence, with Shiel’s conversion extending the advantage to 21 points.
Shiel was already celebrating signing his first professional contract earlier in the week, and he added further gloss with a tremendous solo score, pouncing when a loose ball squirted out the side of a scrum and slaloming through the defence to score, then slotting the kick.
And it got even better after an hour when Thomas Gordon offloaded to Robbins who raced in to complete his hat-trick.
Callum Mackintosh and Liam Steele were yellow carded for fisticuffs, before the scoring resumed when Michael Maltman blasted his way over for Heriot’s, and Jones added the extras. However, that was it as far as the scoring was concerned and it marked the end of the season for Heriot’s.
“We made a couple of major errors that let them into the game. To be fair, they played well but if those errors hadn’t happened…” reflected Heriot’s coach Phil Smith. “Currie deserved it for how clinical they were.”
Smith was delighted that the game had gone ahead, rather than have it rescheduled to a standby date that would clash with an international weekend. And he was also happy with the experience, adding: “It was a big crowd which was great. The boys thoroughly enjoyed it. I know they have been beaten and they are disappointed, but they have experienced something that they might never experience again.”
Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, L Steele, R Mulveena, R Kay; S Edwards, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Maltman I Wilson, J Turley. Subs: A Johnstone, G Blair, S Dewar, D Martin. C Robertson
Currie Chieftains: B Robbins; R Tagive, H Elms, R Nelson, C Gray; J Forbes, C Shiel; K Burney, F Scott, A McWilliam, H Bain, M Vernel, S Ainslie, T Gordon, S McGinley Subs: G Carson, C MacKintosh, R Davies, A Paton, M O’Neil.
Referee: D Sutherland
Heriot’s: Tries: Wilson, Kay, Maltman; Cons; Jones 2.
Currie Chieftains: Tries, Scott, Shiel 2, Robbins 3, Vernel; Cons: Shiel 6.
Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 5-0; 10-0; 12-0; 12-5; 12-7; 12-12; 12-14; 12-19 (h-t) 12-24; 12-26; 12-31; 12-33; 12-38; 12-450; 12-45; 12-47; 17-47; 19-47Yellow Cards –
Lots of contenders, mainly in Chieftains colours, but the man who edged it was back-rower Thomas Gordon, who looks to have the credentials to become the next Chieftains man to enter the pro ranks.
Credit to Heriot’s for seizing the initiative and etching a place in the history books as the first club side to host an indoor match. It shows what can be done with a little creative thinking.