Always leave them laughing is the old showbiz maxim and Heriot’s winger James Fleming is showing it applies to rugby too.
As he prepares to take his leave and focus on building up to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games – he will be named on Wednesday in Scotland’s team for a sevens tournament in Romania which marks the start of the international circuit – Fleming has made a notable impression over two weekends at 15-a-sides.
Just as he notched a last gap try to defeat Stirling County on his Heriot’s debut seven days ago so the 25-year-old managed another timely touchdown that ultimately saw Heriot’s overcome champions Ayr 20-19 at Goldenacre.
Fifteens’ loss is sevens’ gain given Fleming’s speed and eye for an opening as it could be his domestic season is now all but over. If that is the case then at least Fleming has taken his opportunity with benefits for him in terms of contact rugby and Heriot’s who have relished his albeit brief drafting.
“It’s every boy’s dream to play for Scotland and to do that would mean getting into the Edinburgh side I have trained with and maybe in the future something will happen in that direction,” said Fleming.
“But it doesn’t get much bigger than representing your country in a home Commonwealth Games and that is this year’s goal.”
Joining up at Heriot’s from Aberdeen where he made occasional appearances last term Fleming found himself back on a pitch where his first taste of senior rugby occurred in Perthshire colours as a 17-year-old.
“I had last played at Goldenacre for Dundee and (current centre) Cammy Ferguson was a colleague there.
“We go back a bit and Cammy really created my try with a reverse pass to Murray Douglas which allowed me to go over.”
It was a rare bright spot in a dour game, as home coach Phil Smith acknowledged.
“It’s strange because we are not that high after that victory. I was pretty bored – no, that’s harsh. It didn’t ignite into anything, though.
“I thought we could have done better, a lot better.
“It really had the players to ignite but it didn’t,” said Smith.
Nevertheless, Heriot’s were resolute in defence and clinical when rare attacking opportunities arose as Ayr were made to suffer a first defeat in the Capital since losing out at Currie last October.
His mood brightening as though a penny had suddenly dropped, Smith then remarked: “Hey, it was a great win to have just beaten the champions when we didn’t perform,
“It will give us huge confidence because we have just played Ayr, Gala, Melrose and Stirling, the first three of them British and Irish Cup qualifiers, and we have won three.
“I’m happy with that going into a run of games in Edinburgh against Currie (away), Accies (home) and Aberdeen (home).”
With Fleming moving on key to Heriot’s maintaining their challenge could be retaining the services of George Turner, a hooker on Edinburgh’s books probably denied a pro debut by a ten month injury absence last year. Turner came back on during the second half at flanker with Glasgow’s Kevin Bryce getting a chance at hooker and continued to make a nuisance of himself in the loose.
It was his throw over the top – accidental or planned? – that fell beautifully for Cammy Ferguson to romp in and nullify a forward-drive try for Fergus Scott on a day when two yellow cards for Ayr helped Heriot’s set the agenda.
Graham Wilson’s flawless place kicking also provided a cushion against Kerr Gossman’s converted try and when Ayr responded to Fleming’s counter through Robbie Fergusson a nervous finale might have ensued.
That Heriot’s came through was partly down to a brilliant re-start kick by Wilson which rolled into touch and pinned the visitors down – and out.
Scorers: Heriot’s: Tries: Ferguson, Fleming. Conversions: Wilson (2). Penalties: Wilson (2). Ayr: Tries: Fergusson, K Gossman, Scott. Cons: Russell (2).
Heriot’s: L Steele, C Goudie, K Buchan, C Ferguson (captain), J Fleming, M Nimmo, G Wilson, C Owenson, G Turner, S Mustard, R Nimmo, M Douglas, M Maltman, J Hill, A Henderson. Subs: K Bryce, M Welch, C Mulligan, J Turley, H Boisseau.
Ayr: G Anderson, C Gossman, R Fergusson, D Kelbrick, K Gossman, S Diez, M McConnell, D Mutamangira, F Scott, N Cox, C White, S Sutherland, C Templeton, C Forrester (captain), G Fisken. Subs: D Young, J Yanuyanutawa, C Dunn, P Jericevich, F Russell.
Referee: P Allan.