Heriot’s surge to a dream double was fuelled by lucky Lorne sausage and gratifying grilled chicken, coach Phil Smith revealed in the wake of his side’s 29-26 win at Ayr on Saturday.
Seven days after the BT Cup final win over Melrose it meant the Goldenacre club had not only retained their BT Premiership title but scooped the double for the first time, when a controversial late penalty try handed victory to the men from north Edinburgh.
“For the last three weeks I’ve been going down to Leith to get a bag of rolls from the same baker and some Lorne sausage from the same butcher, Anderson’s [on Great Junction Street],” said Smith.
“This morning. I thought, I can’t stop. Sure enough, all the family got Lorne sausage and we have won again. The team went for Nando’s as they did before the cup final.”
Heriot’s have clearly developed a healthy appetite for winning close games in recent weeks and Smith feels those dramatic semis at Hawks and Currie followed by the cup final win have forged them into a battle-hardened unit that ultimately proved too strong for a valiant Ayr side in the Premiership final at Millbrae.
“I think it is experience,” said Smith. “It is a cup final with a big crowd, so for the younger lads it is an experience that they haven’t really had. We just have to stick with what they’ve been doing because it’s really good.
“That’s the thing – they go again. I can’t ask for more.
We’ve had three weeks of really tough fixtures, with the maximum deficit of just a few points. They must have got something out of that.”
The Heriot’s coach had predicted a ding-dong battle ahead in his side’s bid to retain the league title and he was not disappointed with an end-to-end contest he hailed as a great advert for Premiership rugby.
The visitors struck first when Struan Dewar finished off a rolling maul as the Heriot’s pack once again looked like a menacing beast. But Ayr hit back through full-back Grant Anderson and then Ross Curle.
Heriot’s refused to let them get away, however, and Charlie Simpson’s try out wide was followed by Edinburgh pro and double cup final tryscorer Neil Cochrane finishing off another maul to give his adopted team a 17-14 half-time lead.
Ayr, who had finished the regular season well ahead in top spot, came roaring out after the break and appeared to have struck a decisive blow when Blair Macpherson drove over and Curle snaffled an interception score to get the vocal home support on their feet. You felt that the next score would be vital and it was Heriot’s who got it when Liam Steele sent Simpson in for his second on the left.
Then came the penalty try which broke Ayr hearts.
Smith acknowledged the significance of a first ever double for the club, who finished the regular season third, 12 points behind Ayr.
“It’s massive for us,” said the coach. “For everybody behind me, everybody who helps at the club, this is massive. I hope they get all the benefits of our efforts. I just stand at the front and blow the whistle and tell them what to do. All the people who are not playing put in a huge effort.”
After some well earned celebrations, thoughts will soon turn to next season and plans to maintain the grip Heriot’s are developing on the silverware of the club game.
Smith explained: “There are four guys who are either retiring or going to work abroad. But that’s the club game –it is a constant battle to get your next group together and keep them together.
“We are in the process of doing that and, fingers crossed, we’ve done it now.”
Ayr coach Calum Forrester said: “We played a lot of good rugby, but discipline let us down in key areas of the pitch. We give away stupid penalties and allowed Heriot’s to kick to the corners, which is one of their strengths. Over the past few weeks I think 60 per cent of their tries have come from driving mauls.”