Heriot’s learn lessons and march to top of league

Jack McLean crosses the whitewash for Heriot's. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
Jack McLean crosses the whitewash for Heriot's. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
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Heriot’s skipper Jack Turley believes that Saturday’s impressive 25-7 win over fellow BT Premiership title hopefuls Ayr has consigned the new table toppers’ failings of a week earlier to the ‘lessons learned’ category.

Turley had missed the 44-43 defeat at Melrose the previous week. But he was back in action on Saturday when the Heriot’s players sought to put into practice the fruits of a hard week at training.

And there was little doubt that everyone involved in the victory had delivered the reaction Turley was demanding. He was honest enough to admit that the score at Melrose had flattered the his side. But he was equally frank in appraising this performance.

“It was a great win. We had a great start which was what we wanted to do. We maybe switched off a little bit in the second half although having started out that strongly, it was hard to keep that intensity up,” said Turley. “That’s us on top of the table and I think we managed to right the wrongs and bounce back well.”

The opening 40 minutes of Saturday’s encounter featured passages of play that were of a standard rarely seen at club 
level. And, if anything, the fact that they yielded only three tries was perhaps an unfair outcome.

By the interval, Heriot’s appeared to have the match won, running in three impressive tries and dominating territorially. Ayr had arrived with high hopes of strengthening their claims for a top-four place and had a pack bolstered by the presence of international props Ryan Grant and Jon Welsh – the latter starting on the bench.

That Heriot’s took the first scrum of the day against the head was testament to the work of forwards coach Steve Lawrie – the Scotland cap and former Edinburgh pro. He had clearly prepared his front row and they rose to the occasion.

Head coach Phil Smith acknowledged the contribution of Lawrie and paid tribute to tight head Struan Cessford’s contribution, saying: “Struan’s tight play is absolutely rock solid. He is 6ft 4in and carrying 18 stone, so why would it not be? That (the scrum) was always a worry for us but we handled it really well.”

However, the result was built on a team effort. First-half tries by Glenn Bryce, Charlie Simpson and Jack McLean all came from outstanding support play and having the confidence to offload, knowing that a colleague would be on hand to continue the move. That skill undid an Ayr defence that did well to prevent the hosts claiming the bonus point before the interval.

And the visitors continued to resist in the opening ten minutes of the second period when the only scoring came from a penalty by Graham Wilson who had also kicked a three pointer in the first half and was on target with two conversions.

And that proved to be the final addition to the home side’s tally, the only other scoring coming as the visitors finished strongly and Ross Curle claimed a touchdown which he also converted.

Smith is happy with the way the season is unfolding and knows that his side is on track to book a play off spot. And 
he believes the new method of deciding the title could suit 
Heriot’s.

“If we finish in the top four we will be absolutely delighted. It is important for the club to finish in the top four and get a bit of revenue for a semi final,” he said. “It gives a strange twist to your thinking now because you want the momentum going into the play-offs. We could argue that we are a cup side when we look at last season’s cup run. So when it gets to the semi-finals, does it matter if you are away? – I don’t know yet.”

Scorers: Heriot’s: Tries: Bryce, Simpson, McLean. Cons: Wilson (2). Pens: Wilson (2). Ayr: Try: Curle. Con: Curle.

Heriot’s: G Bryce; C Simpson, L Steele, M Learmonth, H Boisseau; G McNeish, G Wilson; N Borel, D McGregor, S Cessford, J Turley, B Toolis, J Armstrong, J McLean, J Hill

Subs: B Cooper, G Cameron, J Nayacavou, S Edwards, K Buchan.

ayr: R Fergusson; R Dalgleish, R Curle, D Kelbrick, K Gossman; D McLuskey, M McConnell; R Grant, J Malcolm, S Fenwick, C Templeton, S Sutherland, G Fisken, B Johnston, B Macpherson.

Subs: G Hunter, J Welsh, W Bordill, D Armstrong, C Gossman.

Referee: S Gore-White.