Jason Hill, a dynamic performer for Heriot’s in this BT Premiership play-off semi-final success, is relishing a massive week for the club, with Barbarians and Melrose set to visit within a few days later this month.
The invitation side will line up on April 21 for a match that will celebrate Heriot’s 125th anniversary. But it is the clash with the Borderers four days later that will be the focus for Hill and his club colleagues as they chase the BT Premiership title after emerging as 17-13 winners on Saturday.
Playing at lock rather than his more accustomed back-row berth, Hill produced a typically rumbustious performance as Heriot’s built a lead then held off a strong finish by Currie. But, in addition to a string of trademark big hits and turnovers, he also displayed deft handling skills to create the best try of a hugely entertaining encounter.
Hill, a Scotland age-group and club international cap, has been training with Glasgow Warriors, and looks set to move into the professional ranks next season. Before that he has two huge Goldenacre occasions to enjoy.
“Barbarians then Melrose so it will be a fun week of rugby,” he said of the forthcoming games when he wants to apply the gains he has made during his spell with Glasgow. “I feel a wee bit stronger. I have done a lot of gym work that I’ve never done before and it definitely pays off in games.”
And, of the opportunity a step into the full-time ranks will present, he added: “I would hope that I have the ability to go up there with some of the better players. I have always been a grafter so I think that with the correct gym programme and work on my skills I have the potential to get better. But I will never know until I try.”
Hill was one of several individuals who caught the eye in a match that kept the sizeable crowd enthralled. A penalty apiece by Joe Reynolds and Graham Wilson appeared to signal another tight encounter between two sides that had enjoyed close battles in their three previous encounters this season, albeit all had been won by Heriot’s. However, by half-time, the home side had seized the initiative to lead 17-6 through tries by skipper Jack Turley, converted by Wilson, who also added the extras after Hill’s deft flick had sent Colin Goudie racing over, while Reynolds booted a second penalty for the visitors.
The only score of the second period came through a self-converted try by Reynolds with 57 minutes on the clock. That sparked a closing flourish finish by Currie that exposed the Heriot’s defence to a torrid examination. However, once again the visitors came up just short against the only side in the league they have failed to beat this season, and the hosts progressed to the showdown for the silverware.
Currie coach Ben Cairns was understandably downbeat after seeing his side falter at the penultimate stage. However, his personal stock has risen substantially in his first season at the helm and he sees much to feel positive about at the Malleny Park club.
“We made too many errors to really give ourselves a chance of winning. We came back really strongly in the second half. That was testament to the character we have in the squad but we just left ourselves a bit too much to do,” he said.
Then, looking ahead to next season, he added: “I know we have finished on a low but it has been a really successful season for us, to get to the play-offs. From where we have come from at the start of the season to where we have finished, there are massive positives. The plan is to keep most of those guys together and, in terms of development, we are starting from a much better place next year.”
Elsewhere, Watsonians signed off a disappointing BT National Division One campaign with a 27-15 defeat at home to Dundee High on Friday evening and Livingston remain rooted to the foot of Division Two after losing 54-13 at home to Whitecraigs.
Heriot’s: Tries: Turley, Goudie. Cons: Wilson (2). Pen: Wilson
Currie: Try: Reynolds. Con: Reynolds. Pen: Reynolds
Heriot’s: G Bryce, C Simpson, L Steele, K Buchan, C Goudie, G McNeish, G Wilson, N Borel, D McGregor, S Cessford, J Hill, J Turley, J Armstrong, J Mclean, D Levison. Subs: G Turner, S Mustard, JP Ward, R Nimmo, J Syme, S Edwards, M Learmonth
Currie: P Murchie, R Smith, F Efthymiou, R Nelson, C Logan, J Reynolds, R Snedden, J Cox, M Goodwin, G Carson, M Vernel, J Gray, T Brooke, M Peacock, R Weston. Subs; K Bryce, M Cusack, A Hamilton, R Denonain, M Mladenovic, M O’Neil, M McPhillips
Referee: C Maxwell-Keys