Currie Chieftains 11
COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park
NAILBITERS are common in this fixture and the wound caused by a last-minute defeat in the 2016 play-off semi final is still raw around Malleny Park. This match will go some way to eliminating that pain after Chieftains snatched a dramatic victory with a Gregor Hunter drop goal in the seventh minute of injury time.
Beaming home coach Mark Cairns alluded to that memory when he said, “I have watched Heriot’s do that to us a few times over the seasons, so it’s nice to be on the other end of it.”
And paying tribute to the never-say-die attitude of his men, he added, “It’s testament to the boys that they managed to grind it out. I felt actually that we played the better rugby of the two teams. We know they’ve got a very strong scrum. I’m so proud of the boys for how they dealt with that. I thought the scrums were about even, which is good for us against Heriot’s, and we were really smart at lineout time.”
There was understandable disappointment in the Heriot’s camp, although Phil Smith sought to keep the implications of the defeat in context. “It was never in the bag but we were comfortably defending,” he said. “But to be 10 metres from their line and turn over the ball is just criminal.
“That’s the frustration – that they have got themselves into the position to win the game and just see it out, then somebody makes an absolute howler. But there’s still three more games to go. The net effect on the whole thing is marginal.”
Admitting that he expects a reaction against Melrose next time out, Smith added: “Our attack was appalling. I will put my hand up, and people will be held accountable for that. It’s a gut-wrencher, but we move on.”
Heriot’s dominated proceedings in the opening quarter but twice knocked on inside the opposition 22 and saw another attack founder on a forward pass. A further sustained spell on the front foot ended with Stuart Edwards chipping cleverly into space, although Craig Robertson was pipped in the sprint for the line.
Premiership Match Reports:
With 20 minutes on the clock, the hosts had their first attack of note. Charlie Shiel made a searing 50-metre break. He was halted within sight of the Heriot’s line, and after two more phases the ball was whipped out to Ben Robbins, who dotted down in the corner.
The next Heriot’s attack yielded a penalty that Ross Jones slotted to trim the deficit. The visitors then spurned another kickable penalty a couple of minutes later. The decision proved to be a wise one as Struan Dewar claimed the ball at the ensuing lineout and set up Iain Wilson to crash over for a try converted by Jones.
Heriot’s ended the half in the ascendancy, despite being a man short after Adam Sinclair was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Jamie Forbes. However, they failed to add to their points tally. Charlie Jupp came on in place of Sinclair at the end of the sin-binning, but the new man lasted barely a minute before limping off.
Chieftains were enjoying the bulk of the possession and a powerful burst by Robbie Nelson from his own 10-metre line carried play into the danger zone. Twice they knocked on and another attack ended with a turnover, but the tide appeared to have turned in the home side’s favour. However, they repeatedly failed to convert pressure into points and as the contest entered its final 10 minutes it looked as if they might be left to rue another knock-on and a lost lineout on the edge of the Heriot’s 22.
Last gasp glory
A fumble by the otherwise excellent Edwards created the platform for another assault on the Heriot’s defence and a penalty at the breakdown with six minutes to play presented Gregor Hunter with a kick that he thumped over for the first points of the second period.
Heriot’s regained the initiative and looked to be running down the clock in opposition territory. However, a careless turnover allowed the hosts to break from deep and mount another series of attacks. And with seven minutes of injury time played, Shiel fired the ball back to Hunter, who clipped over a drop goal from 35 metres. The cheers of the home support that accompanied his effort drowned out the sound of the referee’s whistle, although the contrasting reactions of the players told the story.
Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson©, S Hamilton; G Hunter, C Shiel; A McWilliam, F Scott, M Argiro, V Wright, M Vernel, M Kelly, T Gordon, T Tameilau. Subs: G Carson, R Patterson, S McGinley, M Hooks, R Frostwick.
Heriot’s: C Simpson; R McMichael, R Jones, R Kay, C Robertson; S Edwards, A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, A Sinclair, C Marshall, I Wilson, J McLean, R Leishman. Subs: A Johnstone, J Scott, C Jupp, S Dewar, A Ball.
Referee: H Lasausa (France).
Currie Chieftains: Try: Robbins. Pen: Hunter. Drop goal: Hunter.
Heriot’s: Try: Wilson. Con: Jones. Pen: Jones.
Scoring sequence (Currie first): 5-0; 5-3, 5-8; 5-10 (h-t) 8-10; 11-10.
Yellow card –
Man of the match: Shifted from the Chieftains back-row into the second-row in an enforced pre-match reshuffle, Mike Vernel was outstanding in every aspect of his game.
Talking point: Not the classic running encounter that might have been expected of these sides, but an engrossing affair nonetheless, and it sets up a fabulous run in to the league programme.