Heriot’s skipper Jack Turley admitted to some sympathies for vanquished hosts Glasgow Hawks after the Goldenacre men booked a place in the BT Cup final.
Heriot’s progressed to a showdown with Melrose on April 26 after the sides had ended the 80 minutes locked at 10-10 then failed to score during 20 minutes of extra time.
None of the officials knew how to decide the outcome in such circumstances. Indeed, referee Lloyd Linton informed the players that Heriot’s were winners by virtue of having scored first. In fact, the rules stated that Heriot’s won on the basis of being the away team.
“It was funny because no-one knew what was happening. We talked to Lloyd and he had to confer with his guys. After 100 minutes of rugby if you can’t split the sides then it shows what a good game of rugby it was”, said Turley. “It was a pretty epic battle. It was the first game of rugby with extra time that I’ve ever played.”
And of the result, which had appeared unlikely until a last-minute try by Heriot’s winger Charlie Simpson, he added, “It’s good to get the win and go to Murrayfield. Credit to Hawks, they made it tough. We just managed to hold onto the ball when it mattered. It was a lucky try but we’ll take that.”
While conceding that it was a tough way for Hawks to be eliminated, both Turley and Heriot’s coach Phil Smith alluded to the team’s misfortune at the same stage of the competition last year when Heriot’s were on the wrong end of a controversial refereeing decision that cost them a spot in the final.
“I’m delighted but they haven’t lost the game and that must be horrific for them,” said Smith of Hawks’ fate. “However, I was in Hawick this time last year and something irked me that day so I understand how they are feeling.”
The coach admitted that the quality of rugby on show had fallen short of the high standards to which both sides aspire, but he pointed to the physicality of the contest as evidence of how keenly contested the encounter had been.
“It was a cup tie. They missed however many kicks at goal, we missed a few kicks at goal. It wasn’t a great game. It was an interesting game and it was a cup match. I genuinely feel sorry for Hawks because what an effort the boys put in for 100 minutes of rugby. Some of the guys who I think are very fit were out on their feet,” he said.
The lack of success with the boot by both teams was partly explained by the difficult conditions, with wind and rain playing a part.
It was an edgy opening by both sides and Hawks’ kicker Jack Steele had recorded his first miss of the afternoon by the time Iain Wilson plunged over for the opening try in 32 minutes after a powerful surge by the Heriot’s pack. That was the only score in a tight first half and the Capital men also reached the break with a two-man advantage after Andrew Linton and David Milne were yellow carded.
However, they failed to capitalise on their numerical superiority and the hosts were next to score – Robert Beattie racing down the flank for an equalising try.
Wilson was sent to the sin bin in 57 minutes and immediately after his departure Fin Gillies scrambled over the line for Hawks. And it appeared to be all over for Heriot’s when Murray McCallum saw yellow as Hawks continued to press.
Not so, as Simpson earned a reward for his persistence in the final minute as he chased a kick ahead and took advantage of an error by Pierre Mounal to dot down in the corner.
The only scoring opportunity in two tense ten-minute periods of extra time came with a penalty attempt by Heriot’s John Semple, whose effort fell short of the target.
The uncertainty over the regulations meant that celebrations were subdued and it was some time before Smith looked forward to the clash with Melrose – a battle that could also be the outcome in the BT Premiership which reaches the semi-final stage this weekend – saying, “If we can get a sunny day we could get a cracking game because it’s two pretty good teams.”
Hawks: Tries – Beattie, Gillies
Heriot’s: Tries – Wilson, Simpson
Glasgow Hawks: S Yacoubian; R Beattie, B McGroarty, D Milne, K Gossman; J Steele, P Boyer; S Findlay, J Macfarlane, G Strain, A Linton, A Redmayne, F Gillies, S Leckey, A Hill
Subs used: B Cullinane, E Oag, P Mounal, K Beattie
Heriot’s: J Semple; G Bryce, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, C Simpson; G McNeish, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, R Van Heerden, J Turley, I Wilson, J Syme.
Subs used: M McCallum, H Fraser, A Henderson, S Mustard, J Rae