Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has shrugged off the disappointment of a BT Cup exit at the hands of Melrose and suggested that the future is bright for his developing squad.
Despite a 29-12 loss for the defending champions in Saturday’s quarter-final at the Greenyards, there were aspects of the performance that offered grounds for optimism.
“This is the end of a cycle when we have basically been in every competition for two seasons. We are now at the end of a third year and it is a hugely different team. Ideally it would have been good to get to a semi-final and that would suggest to the boys that have come in that they are getting to the right place,” said Smith. “Since November we have started to look as if we are beginning to merge as a group. And with a few additions for next season, I would be hopeful that we could have another crack at it. I am upbeat despite the result.”
And, although the cup will now leave the Goldenacre trophy cabinet, Smith has not yet given up hope of retaining the other trophy that currently resides there – the BT Premiership. As his assistant Stevie Lawrie prepares to take up the head coach role at Watsonians, Smith is keen to secure a play-off berth and a potential rematch with Melrose. That will depend on the outcome of the match on Saturday between Boroughmuir and top four challengers Currie.
“I’m hoping just for the boys to get another crack to finish the season. With Stevie leaving, it would be disappointing if this was his last game,” he said of the cup defeat, before underlining his optimism that the players who have broken through this season will be contenders for honours next year.
“We’ve now got another group and they are all going in the right direction. There is a little bit of depth and I maintain there is a bit of excitement ahead for the boys – maybe not this season but rolling into next season, with a couple of new players I think they will be flying into next season. We are in that process already to try and secure those players – it’s quite exciting actually.”
The outcome of Saturday’s encounter was decided in a first half dominated by the hosts. Michael Liness crossed for an early Heriot’s try but Melrose responded with a double from Austin Lockington and one apiece for George Taylor and Lewis Carmichael plus three conversions and a penalty by Jason Baggott to lead 29-5 at the interval.
Heriot’s had the better of the second period but failed to add to their tally until late in the game when Junior Rasolea touched down and John Semple converted. That second-half effort drew praise from Smith, who added: “We didn’t just fold. We kept going, and fair play to the boys because they were pretty down at half time.”
Meanwhile, Boroughmuir were eliminated from the competition in controversial fashion. They staged a second-half fight back to lead Stirling County at Bridgehaugh as the game entered the closing stages, only to fall foul of a refereeing decision that delivered the win for the home side.
Stirling dominated the first half and were in control at the break, with a Craig Keddie try Muir’s only score after 22 unanswered points for the hosts. However, with some harsh words from coach Peter Wright ringing in their ears, the Meggetland men were transformed after the restart and battled back with two tries from Rab Cairns plus one each for Aaron Purewal and Dale Robertson together with three Dougie Steele conversions to establish a six point lead.
However, there was to be one final twist in an engrossing match and it came with the final play when Purewal and his Stirling counterpart Logan Bonar contested a high kick. The Muir man was judged to have deliberately knocked the ball into touch. The referee took the view that Bonar would have scored and awarded a penalty try which Jonny Hope converted from in front of the posts to hand Stirling a 32-31 victory and a semi-final showdown with Melrose.