Heriot’s forwards coach Steve Lawrie has pointed to squad stability as the cornerstone of the Goldenacre club’s current rich vein of form.
Another outstanding performance in Saturday’s 30-12 win over Gala at Netherdale saw the Capital men tighten their grip on top spot in the BT Premiership and move closer to securing a place in the end-of-season title play-offs.
Against a strong Gala side, the visitors outmuscled the Borderers up front and played with panache behind the scrum, again producing flowing rugby of the highest quality. Lawrie’s input has been a vital factor in creating a side brimming with confidence. However, the former professional hooker believes the key is stability in playing resources.
“We have been able to keep a squad together now for three years and that’s important – plus we have added a bit of quality. That’s massive,” he said. “I think teams that have to constantly recruit every year find it difficult. There’s a lot of good players and a lot of good leadership. That’s a big thing, particularly at club level.”
That spine of experience helped the Capital men to negotiate several difficult phases of the game against a Gala outfit that also has title aspirations and was desperate to protect an unbeaten home record.
The ability to counter-attack at pace and the offloading game that makes the Heriot’s style easy on the eye were evident in first-half tries by Charlie Simpson and Jason Hill, the latter stemming from an incisive run by Harry Boisseau from deep in his own half. Sandwiched between the two was a touchdown for the hosts by Luke Pettie, converted by Craig Dods as Heriot’s reached the break with a 10-7 lead.
Graham Wilson booted a penalty early in the second half but Gala responded with a try from Shaun Law that left Heriot’s a point ahead entering the final half-hour. But the visitors turned on the style in that closing spell and Wilson nudged them four points ahead with another penalty before adding both conversions after Stuart Edwards and Glenn Bryce had crossed for tries, the latter securing a bonus point.
“Against Gala you always do your homework up front. I said to them at half-time that we were losing the maul battle and Gala were able to get penalties and infiltrate,” added Lawrie. “When the backs opened up they were outstanding. That’s a big win for us.” That view was shared by Hill, whose latest stand-out contribution should earn him an opportunity to showcase his skills during the Edinburgh A matches this season and state his case for progression to the next stage.
“It’s a massive win. Not many teams come to Gala and do that. There is a lot of momentum and the team is firing on all cylinders,” he said.
“It was probably one of our toughest games and we had to keep going for 80 minutes because Gala weren’t giving up at the end.”
And of his ambitions to advance in the game, the 24-year old added: “I am still aiming higher. I love being involved in things like the club internationals because it’s a step up. To be involved in some of the A games would be quality.”
Such are the current impressive levels in the Premiership that the step up is now less daunting, a view endorsed by Gala coach George Graham, who believes the bottleneck at the next stage is helping promote hard work among ambitious individuals.
“I think the standard of club rugby is getting better and better and some of the individual players are being classed as amateurs but they are training like professionals,” he stated. “But we only have two professional teams and the opportunities to better yourself are minute.”
Meanwhile, although Heriot’s have taken another significant step towards qualification, Lawrie knows there is no room for complacency entering the second half of the campaign. “You think you’ve cracked and it comes back and bites you on the backside, so the boys will keep working hard,” he warned.
Gala: Tries: Pettie, Law, Con: C Dods
Heriot’s: Tries: Simpson, Hill, Edwards, Bryce. Cons: Wilson (2). Pens: Wilson (2).
Gala: C Dods, G Somerville, K Young, A Emond, S Law, R Jeffrey, G Graham, L Pettie, R Anderson, G Robertson, C Weir, O Palepoi, G Graham, S Cairns, E Dods. Subs: C Mackintosh, J Irvine, T Weir, G Speirs, E Scott.
Heriot’s: G Bryce, C Simpson, L Steele, M Learmonth, H Boisseau, S Edwards, G Wilson, N Borel, D McGregor, S Cessford, R Nimmo, J Syme, J Turley, J McLean, J Hill. Subs: S Mustard, G Cameron, J Nayacavou, G McNeish, J Fleming.
Referee: T Charabas (France).