Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has pointed to the feelgood factor permeating Goldenacre as evidence that the club is going from strength to strength.
However, despite a maximum haul of 15 points from three matches and a place at the summit of the BT Premiership table having played one game less than their rivals, Smith is not entirely satisfied with the performances of his men.
The defending champions had to work hard for Saturday’s 36-26 win at home to a Hawick side that was outmuscled up front by a powerful Heriot’s pack but looked lively behind the scrum. And the Borderers deservedly took something from the game, a four-try bonus point being just reward for a refusal to capitulate when the hosts raised the pace in the second half.
“We have played nine games across the club this season – firsts, seconds and thirds – and I think we have maximum points for all three teams, so that’s a good thing,” said Smith. “Hawick are a good team but I thought we won fairly well.”
The coach believed his side should have been more than 21-14 ahead at half time, pointing to the errors that had allowed Hawick to remain in the game.
“We started really well then we had a lull. They got two tries – a chip and chase, and then the intercept wasn’t great – rubbish scores to give away.”
Graham Wilson made the first contribution in an impressive performance when he raced through a gap in the Hawick defence after nine minutes. He banged over the conversion and also added the extras after Jason Hill and Liam Steele had combined to send Charlie Simpson over for the second try.
Hawick centre Wiaan Griebenhow showed his pace to win a kick and chase for a try that Lee Armstrong converted, but Wilson restored the 14 point gap with another self-converted try after a scrum that has become a potent attacking weapon under the tutelage of former Edinburgh pro Steve Lawrie.
However, by the break, Hawick were back in the match when Darcy Graham latched on to a stray pass inside the visitors’ half and sprinted clear, leaving Armstrong a simple conversion to complete the first-half scoring.
Within two minutes of the restart, the scores were level after Stuart Graham dotted down and Armstrong converted.
A period of renewed Heriot’s pressure forced a string of penalties and Hawick captain Bruce McNeil was the unlucky man after the cumulative penalty count led to the referee brandishing a yellow card.
The hosts profited from his absence with Hill supplying the bonus-point try, converted by Wilson, before the best flowing move of the match ended with Hill freeing Cammy Ferguson for the fifth try – Wilson adding the extra two points.
Hawick were not yet finished and Sean Goodfellow darted in at the corner to secure the four try bonus and cut the deficit to seven points. At that stage, the Borderers were poised to take two bonus points for their efforts, but Wilson booted a penalty a minute from full time to extend the winning margin to ten points.
“The last try was actually decent. It was the first time we really put anything together. Prior to that it was as if we thought we would score because our set piece was so strong,” added Smith. “We just kept letting them back in it which put us under more pressure to keep performing. But you do get in the habit of winning and they are fairly comfortable with what is going on.”
The victory, combined with Boroughmuir’s win at erstwhile pacesetters Melrose, moves Heriot’s into top spot with thoughts already turning to what will be required to qualify for the play-off places. Last season, Currie took fourth place with 46 points.
And, given the competitive nature of the current campaign, Smith anticipates a marginally smaller haul being required this time.
“I did look at that. Because teams are now beating each other already, I reckon 40 plus points will be pretty close,” he said.
Heriot’s: Tries: Wilson (2), Simpson, Hill, Ferguson. Cons: Wilson (4). Pen: Wilson.
Hawick: Tries: Griebenhow, D Graham, S Graham, Goodfellow. Cons: Armstrong (3).
Heriot’s: C Simpson, A Matthews, L Steele, C Ferguson, H Boisseau, G McNeish, G Wilson, M McCallum, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, R Van Heerden, J Turley, S Dewar, J Hill.
Subs: B Couper, M Boab, I Wilson, T Wilson, M Learmonth.
Hawick: A Weir, D Graham, J Coutts, W Griebenhow, C Russell, L Armstrong, G Cottrell, S Muir, L Gibson, N Little, B McNeil, C Charters, S Graham, R Scott, K Davies. Subs: F Renwick, M Landels, F Simpson, N McTaggart, S Goodfellow.
Referee: G Ormiston.