Heriot’s captain Jack Turley admits the Goldenacre men must produce a flawless finale to the RBS Premiership campaign if they are to challenge for the silverware. But the combative back rower believes they have the ability to deliver.
Turley led by example in Saturday’s impressive 33-16 win over Stirling County at Goldenacre, carrying the ball well and featuring prominently in the open play that is becoming the team’s standard. That success, combined with results elsewhere, means that Heriot’s now occupy third spot in the table, with a trip to face Ayr next on the league agenda.
“Five points every week from now on is what we are going to need if we want to contend for the Premiership. That’s the kind of mentality we are going to have,” stated the Kiwi, who is delighted that coach Phil Smith is committed to playing expansive rugby when that does not entail excessive risk. “Phil has given us a bit of creative licence when we are pushing for the bonus points. As a player, when the coach gives you the green light to chuck it around a bit you are going to take it.”
And he is equally delighted with the spirit developing within the squad, adding: “It’s good that everyone has bought into our system. Obviously there have been a few slip ups along the way but this is a team that plays for each other so if we have a disappointing week, we work for each other to bounce back.”
And that determination to rally from defeat at Gala in the preceding league fixture was evident as Heriot’s swatted aside the challenge of a Stirling County side now embroiled in a battle at the foot of the table.
The visitors made the better start and led 8-3 after ten minutes, with Brian Archibald and Graham Wilson booting a penalty apiece before Matt Lamb raced in for a try.
However, a moment of brilliance by centre Keith Buchan handed Heriot’s the initiative and eased them into a lead they would not surrender. He collected inside his own half and sprinted clear then, as the two remaining defenders drifted wide to cover a potential off-load, he darted inside and accelerated clear for a stunning score that earned glowing comments from his coach.
“It was a great try,” said an impressed Smith. “He is playing brilliantly every week. We are playing him at 12, 13 and 15 which is a bit annoying for him and me, but he just does well in every position.”
By half-time, Heriot’s – clad in pink as a mark of support for the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity – had moved into a 15-8 lead, with Colin Goudie capping a week that had seen him represent the Barbarians when he dotted down after a well-executed training ground move.
Archibald clawed back three points with a penalty shortly after the restart, but Liam Steele sprinted in at the corner, Wilson booted a penalty and Alex Henderson ensured all five points when he crashed over for the bonus-point try.
Heriot’s then opened out, although their most expansive rugby of the afternoon produced only an additional score by Joe Caruqara – indeed the visitors had the final word when Richie Vernon bagged a late try.
Of that final flourish and the desire to edge things up a further notch, Smith commented: “We throw it about anyway. We’ve been talking about trying to be a bit more ambitious. We are an ambitious side, but we want to be even more ambitious. Some of it actually was quite good – we were just trying to move it on another step, then one more step just to try and stretch the opposition.”
And, while he was happy with the comprehensive nature of the win, Smith admitted that a five-point haul was what he expected. “With conditions as they were, there was no reason for us to get beat other than shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said. “Every week is a stress for me but after the first ten minutes I thought it was pretty comfortable. In the first ten minutes I was a bit worried but once we got going I thought we were pretty good.”
Scorers: Heriot’s: Tries: Buchan, Goudie, Steele, Henderson, Caruqara. Conversion: Wilson. Penalties: Wilson (2). Stirling County: Tries: Lamb, Vernon. Pens: Archibald (2).
Heriot’s: C Goudie, L Steele, M Learmonth, K Buchan, H Boisseau, R Carmichael, G Wilson, C Owenson, K Bryce, N Borel, R Nimmo, J Hill, A Henderson, C Mulligan, J Turley. Subs Used: S Mustard, G Cameron, J Caruqara, J Syme, O Brown.
Stirling County: B Addison, G Lindsay, D Gilmour, B Archibald, M Lamb, F Lyle, A McFarlane, K Burney, A Moffat, C Hutton, C Deacons, T Ryder, S Robertson, S McDonald, J Swanson. Subs Used: J Bhatti, R Vernon, S Edwards, W Bordill, R Kennedy.