Heriot’s coach Phil Smith failed to disguise frustration with match officials after his team surrendered a winning run of seven matches by going down 18-25 at home to Hawick in the Scottish Premiership.
The hosts scored two tries to one but the tell-tale statistic, so far as Smith was concerned, lay in the way Hawick based their victory on six penalties from eight attempts by full back Neil Renwick.
Smith, clearly incorporating touch judges Brian Darling and Rob Dickson as well as referee Charles Samson in his remarks, said: “Our penalty count must have been high . . . and they were all technical ones. Are they (officials) watching that closely? Because, if they are, they should be watching Hawick as well.
“They (Hawick) were entering scrums the wrong way (so) why not penalise that if they were penalising us for wee things?”
From this observer’s viewpoint referee Samson gave what might be charitably described as an indifferent display though, ironically, he appeared to let Heriot’s off lightly when advantage would have seen Hawick gain a Keith Davies try.
And, if home full back Keith Buchan was judged worthy of a yellow card for obstruction in that incident then surely it had to be coupled with a penalty try as Hawick would have demonstrated with the advantage law applied that a try would have been scored but for illegality.
What particularly upset Smith was a penalty for ‘crossing’ ie. illegal blocking.
“That penalty came when our boy was running back towards his own line,” said Smith. “Of course you start feeling every decision is against you when I’m sure that isn’t the case and we just didn’t play.”
In five of their seven straight wins Heriot’s edged home by a single score and it seemed this lured them into a sense of false security.
Smith admitted: “Our back line hasn’t really functioned this season and our line-out, although better after half-time, only took two throws in the first half.”
Having made a storming start to go 11-3 after 16 minutes, Heriot’s inexplicably let Hawick back into the game.
Twice in the first half Boisseau threatened to break clear in exposing feeble Border tackling but, by Smith’s reckoning, he had been responsible for the key change of momentum that led to Hawick’s try at a time when Russell Nimmo and Buchan were both in the sin-bin.
“Harry Boisseau was impressive up until half-time but (afterwards) we lost a try when he got the ball in the back field then chipped into their half. Absolutely rubbish. He should have cleared his lines; we’re a man down, let us re-set and take it from there.
“Unfortunately he is inexperienced and likes to try and do a lot. That’s where it (the try) came from, turning over the ball in the wrong area of the field.
Hawick never threatened until we were down to 13 men.”
In reality the game had swung before the interval and it was not all down to a lacklustre Heriot’s as Hawick had the outstanding player afield in centre Gary Johnstone.
There was a hunger, too, about this Hawick team that Heriot’s never came close to matching and the Capital side must quickly re-discover a competitive edge or risk falling out of the title race.
Smith added: “The upside is we got a (losing bonus) point but Melrose (who visit Goldenacre on Saturday) are now seven points clear.
“It is still first versus second in the league and there will be no if’s, but’s or maybe’s. We’ll have to go out and win.”
Whether that will be enough to focus Heriot’s remains to be seen. What is certain is they won’t want to restart where they finished off in hammering at the opposition line only to see possession squandered on a day when handling on both sides – allowing for pre-match rain and a slippery ball – was sub-standard.
“I don’t know how we didn’t score at the end. They were piling boys in (to the ruck) and we weren’t piling boys in.
“Was that not the sensible thing to do?” said the admirably candid Smith in effectively answering his own question.
And, hinting at self destructive individualism, he added: “At 11-3 we should have kicked on but started doing our own thing, basically.”
The tries scored by Heriot’s were in contrasting style – a flowing moving sending in Liam Steele while Cammy Ferguson rumbled over after a series of forward drives. In kicking eight points Graham Wilson took his season’s tally to 68.
Heriot’s: Tries: Steele, Ferguson. Conversion: Wilson. Penalties: Wilson (2).
Hawick: Try: McNeill. Conversion: Renwick. Penalties: Renwick (6).
Heriot’s: K Buchan, L Steele, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, H Boisseau, M Nimmo, G Wilson, C Owenson, K Bryce, N Borrell, R Nimmo, M Douglas, G Turner, J Hill, A Henderson. Subs: S Mustard, J Koru, K Mackenzie, Brown, C Goudie.
Hawick: N Renwick, S McLeod, L Armstrong, G Johnstone, J Coutts, A Weir, J Evans, S Muir, L Gibson, W Blacklock, R McAlpine, K Willison, N Mactaggart, B McNeil, S Graham. Subs: R Graham, L Launders, K Davies, N McColm, G Anderson.
Referee: C Samson.