Heriot’s topped the 40-point mark for the first time in more than two seasons of BT Premiership rugby when coming from 14-3 down to end Stirling County’s unbeaten record with a 42-19 success at Goldenacre.
The win, played in front of Scotland’s director of rugby Scott Johnson, moves Heriot’s up to third in the table and the fact it was utility forward Murray Douglas’ last game before moving to Australia wasn’t lost on the outstanding player – home back row Jason Hill.
“We did that for Murray, whose boots are going to be hard to fill,” said Hill. “He’s been quality for us.”
After a faltering start when they lost to Glasgow Hawks at home, Heriot’s are now starting to generate momentum helped by three tries in five minutes on either side of the interval to take control.
Try-scorers were skipper Jack Turley (two), Ben Toolis, Harry Boisseau and Jason Hill, of whom delighted coach Phil Smith said: “Jason was outstanding and undoubtedly man of the match.”
No. 8 Hill carried the ball securely, reacted instantaneously to anything on the ground and put in some thumping tackles, as well as covering chores in looking every inch the Scottish clubs’ internationalist he is.
Initially, though, the entire Heriot’s side looked like being submerged by Stirling, whose scrum-half Ali Price scooted away for the best of the match’s eight tries, albeit by that stage a consolation effort.
Fortunately for Heriot’s, tactical acumen prevailed, with Smith revealing a change of approach at half time.
“We were playing touchline-to-touchline and doing it well enough but without getting any points from the approach,” said Smith. “The change of emphasis meant we were more direct.”
Heriot’s made a couple of substitutions at half time, one of them resulting in Stuart Edwards facing his old club at stand-off in place of Gregor McNeish.
McNeish distributed well, but as Smith pointed out, he has just stepped up several levels. “Sometimes the speed to the game maybe got to Gregor and he got lost a wee bit,” said Smith. “He has great skills and good awareness as well as being able to link, so with Edo [Edwards] coming on and showing he can really kick and clear his lines as well as talking really well to other players, we have added depth.”
One newcomer is Irishman Charlie Simpson, who is blessed with such speed that at some point soon he looks capable of tearing opponents apart when countering from full-back.
Another half-time introduction for Heriot’s was hooker Neil Cochrane, which must have caused consternation to some considering the 30-year-old, who has just returned from Wasps to join his native Edinburgh professional team, represented Boroughmuir last week. If that situation rather undermines the credibility of the league, Smith, understandably, highlighted the positive in a situation where a former Scotland Under-21 captain out injured since last November is now getting game-time.
Cochrane’s “transfer” hinged on the differential in pros made available to Boroughmuir and their opponents, Melrose and could have put him on the sidelines at a vital stage when he is trying to break into the Edinburgh line-up if flexibility hadn’t been shown.
“I understand concerns, but I’m just delighted Neil Cochrane got a game and that has nothing to do with being biased towards Heriot’s gaining an extra pro for the day,” added Smith.
“I don’t think something like this will happen very often and, as well as helping Neil, our line-out was rock solid.”
Heriot’s: Tries – Turley (2), Boisseau, Toolis, Hill. Conversions – Wilson (4). Penalties – Wilson (3).
Stirling County: Tries – Gilmour, Russell, Price. Conversions – Urquhart (2).
Heriot’s: C Simpson; C Goudie, K Buchan, R Carmichael. H Boisseau, G McNeish, G Wilson; N Borel, D McGregor, S Cessford, R Nimmo, M Douglas. J Turley (c), J Hill. C Mulligan. Subs: N Cochrane, G Cameron, B Toolis, S Edwards, M Learmonth.
Stirling County: J Urquhart; M Lamb, A Russell, D Gilmour, R Hughes, F Lyle, A Price; J Bhatti, R Kennedy, G Mountford, M Minari, R Leishman, S Robertson (c), A Ashe, S McDonald. Subs: S Govan, W Dineen, A Mucube, M Smith, A Black.
Referee: G Wells