Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has spoken enthusiastically in favour of retaining the Scottish-Italian Challenge as an added reward for the side which emerges as BT Premiership champions.
The Goldenacre men succumbed 43-15 to an Italy Emerging XV packed with professional players and featuring two full internationals in Saturday’s second leg of the home and away contest.
However, Smith deemed the experiment a massive success, both for his club and for Scottish rugby in general. He said: “It’s been a brilliant exercise for us because we had the three-week window. We have had two brilliant fixtures and I’ve exposed 30 boys to international rugby, you could argue.”
“We had six 18-year-olds on at the end – what an opportunity and what an experience for them to come out and play in a fixture like this.”
Smith also believes that the efforts of his fringe men means that his team selection will be a tougher task in weeks to come.
“I would say that two or three of them have said they are ready for a place on the bench and then worth a shot,” added the coach. “If we do well in the next three matches, I think it will be on the back of this.”
Saturday’s encounter exposed the Heriot’s youngsters to a higher level of rugby than many had experienced before and they competed well. An early penalty by Ewan Fox handed the Capital side the lead but the visitors struck back through tries by Matteo Minozzi and Alberto Chillon – the latter converted by Paolo Pescetto who also booted a penalty in response to a try by Heriot’s skipper Michael Liness, giving the Italians a 15-8 lead at half time.
The visitors – a team drawn from full-timers expected to challenge for international honours in the coming seasons – stepped up a gear in the second period and had further tries from Matteo Gabbianelli, Simone Marinaro, Sebastian Negri and Minozzi, all of them converted by Pescetto.
In response, Heriot’s managed a second try of the game when Charlie Simpson freed Gavin Parker with a neat flipped pass and Donald Crawford added the touchline conversion.