Rugby: Currie’s survival hopes get a boost

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Currie grabbed a potential RBS Scottish rugby Premiership lifeline with a 19-15 home win over Heriot’s in a match where determination was summed up by a prop forward who, but for injury, might have instead been sharing in Rangers’ Third Division title success.

The Malleny Park outfit must wait until Saturday to learn if they go into a play-off against Hawick and knowing that only an away win for either Aberdeen at Melrose or Stirling at Dundee would see them safe.

Playing a waiting game of a different sort is Fraser Watts, who soldiered on with a damaged hip in the wake of front row problems and even after retiring temporarily returned to the fray for another shift under the ‘fly change’ substitution rule.

“I felt my hip twist awkwardly and it’ll be 48 hours before I know what the damage is; hopefully it is just a bit of swelling,” said the former Scotland under-17 and under-18 prop, who joined Currie from Hamilton this season.

He added: “We were a bit short of front row cover which is why I went back on.” 
Pain thresholds are nothing new to 21-year-old Watts who revealed: “I played an under-15 trial for Rangers against Motherwell and broke my leg. I must be the only person ever to look back and say I was pleased to suffer a leg break because it was the start of moving into rugby.

“I was 30 weeks in plaster and when I got the caste off I knew I’d struggle to get back to football fitness. At the same time my pals were playing rugby for East Kilbride so, at 16, I changed sports.”

Injury was to jinx Watts again when he was unable to stake claims for Scottish under-20 caps over two seasons. But the strong scrummaging engineer, who contributed to an outstanding set-piece effort which provided the platform for Ross Weston to give a masterclass in No 8 play, has no regrets.

“Although it means a lot of travelling after work I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first season of Premiership rugby with Currie even if, against Heriot’s, we were not as accurate as we wanted to be.

“We’d targeted the Heriot’s scrum because this was the fourth meeting of the season between the clubs and on each occasion I’ve felt we’ve emerged strong with 10-15 minutes to go.

“The problem was we got 16-3 ahead just after half-time and then started to defend the lead; fortunately we snapped out of that mindset.”

What also helped Currie was the fact Heriot’s goal-kicker Graham Wilson had an uncharacteristic off day with the boot, missing two straightforward penalties and a conversion.

However, Heriot’s coach Phil Smith, whose team now have only an outside chance of a top four finish and entry to the British and Irish Cup, explained: “Graham took an early knock tackling Ross Weston and I think that might have affected him.”

Overall, Smith was left to rue a sub-par display from a team who were never ahead but who had late chances to overhaul the hosts. “In the first half we hardly touched the ball and gave away a lot of penalties. I was expecting a thumping in the second half but we got it right even if our set piece didn’t really function and our backs gave the ball away a lot” said Smith.

Consolation for Heriot’s lay in scoring two tries, by Harry Boisseau and Max Learmonth, to one by Simon Marcel.

Also, winger Colin Goudie demonstrated an extraordinarily high work-rate with Jason Hill carrying strongly.

Ultimately Currie, with their rampaging back row, just had that marginally greater incentive in posting a first league win since November – they lay third at the turn of the year - although coach Ally Donaldson acknowledged the team are not yet out of the play-off mire.

“We hadn’t played for four weeks and in the second half became a wee bit negative when we could have controlled things a little better.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more in terms of endeavour and not only Fraser Watts but Andrew Binikos, Simeon James and others were playing through the pain barrier.

“We’ve given ourselves a fighting chance of avoiding the play-off and partly it was down to (Edinburgh pro) Gregor Hunter having a superb game and Ross Weston proving absolutely outstanding.

“Ross is like that week in, week out and I sometimes think he doesn’t get credit because people are so used to seeing that from him.”

Currie started with a brilliant break by Binikos whose reverse pass should have been seized to open the scoring. Hunter’s penalty wobbled over the bar and although Wilson equalised the remainder of the half was dominated by Currie. Hunter slotted another penalty and the conversion of second row Marcell’s short range try but equally important was the full back’s saving tackle to prevent Max Learmonth escaping.

Both teams lost players to the sin-bin – Mark Cairns for Currie and Cammy Ferguson for Heriot’s – but it was the relegation strugglers who adapted better with Hunter’s two penalties cancelling a Harry Boisseau try and even when Learmonth had the last word it was too little too late for Heriot’s.

Whether it was too little, too late for Currie in the context of a fabulous Premiership season only time will tell.

Scorers: Currie: Try: Marcell. Conversion: Hunter. Penalties: Hunter (4). Heriot’s: Tries: Boisseau, Learmonth. Conversion: Wilson. Penalty: Wilson.

Currie: G Hunter, A Hinds, A Whittingham, S James, M Peacock, A Binikos, R Snedden, A Hamilton, R Merrilees, F Watts, G Temple, S Marcel, M Cairns, captain, R Weston, M Entwhistle. Subs: W Elmslie, M Erskine, J Swaelek, M Johnstone, L Draycott.

Heriot’s: M Penn, M Nimmo, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, C Goudie, G Wilson, captain, G Murdoch, C Owenson, K Bryce, S Cessford, B Morrissey, R Nimmo, F Brown, J Hill, C Mulligan. Subs: N Borrell, S Mustard, K Mackenzie, R Carmichael, H Boisseau.

Referee: C Rudkin.