Stewart’s MELVILLE president Colin Rigby has added his name to a growing list of club officials taking aim at the SRU over the governing body’s handling of grassroots rugby.
Writing in the match programme for Saturday’s rescheduled RBS Edinburgh Regional Cup tie at home to Heriot’s, Rigby expressed his disappointment that the Inverleith club had been fined for failing to fulfil the fixture on the original date in November.
The decision to postpone the match from its initial slot had been taken as the StewMel ground was the venue for the Brewin Dolphin Schools Cup semi-final and a later kick off was not permitted for the senior side as this would have clashed with Scotland’s EMC Autumn international at Murrayfield.
Rigby’s exasperation was clear as he wrote: “Apparently hosting the Schools Cup semi-final against Watsonians (attendance 1000+), the club taking over coaching duties for the school that day (the kids loved it, both schoolboys and the players), Scotland playing South Africa at 2.30pm, thus a kick off that would be outwith the time permitted . . . are NOT valid reasons.”
And, underlining his feeling of bias against clubs, he suggested that rather than generate income by imposing fines on those attempting to support the future of the game, the governing body could improve its finances by sacking its underperforming professionals. In the event, some of the president’s ire appeared to have filtered through to the StewMel players, who stunned their near neighbours with a whirlwind start. Ben Manning opened the scoring when he applied the final touch after a catch and drive from a close range lineout, and the hosts doubled their tally inside the first ten minutes when Shannon Durrant crashed over after a length of the field move instigated by skipper Scott Brewster.
Heriot’s rarely ventured into home territory and, on the few occasions when they did so, their route was barred by a solid defence that dealt comfortably with the lacklustre efforts of the Premiership side.
StewMel continued to apply pressure, and the visitors paid the price for a mounting penalty count when Russell Nimmo was yellow carded then Struan Cessford joined him in the sin bin, just before Manning bagged his second try of the afternoon in 37 minutes for a 15-0 lead that was fully merited.
Heriot’s ended the half in the ascendancy and clawed back five points with the final play of the opening 40 minutes when Max Learmonth sent Ruaraidh Carmichael scampering over.
Mike Hanning booted a penalty for the home side two minutes after the restart but the Heriot’s riposte was a scintillating score stemming from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s break and continued by the impressive Cammy Ferguson who drew the last defender before releasing Graham Wilson to touch down.
The visitors gradually ratcheted up the pace of the game but the home defence held firm until the 64th minute when Kevin Bryce powered over. Four minutes later, the hooker bagged his second touchdown when he was on hand to exploit the space created by a slick handling move.
That score, converted by Wilson, nudged Heriot’s into the lead for the first time and the shattered home defence leaked two late tries – Gavin Cameron and Jamie Parker dotting down – for a 32-18 win that flattered the Goldenacre men. Home coach Bruce MacNaughton was delighted with the effort of his players saying, “I thought the first half was one of the best performances I’ve had since I came here.”
And he pointed to it as evidence that his men have the talent to compete at Premiership level if they can replicate that showing on a regular basis. “We are not consistent enough to be there. We’ve got the players. Ability wise we are not far off.”
However, MacNaughton acknowledged that tiredness had played its part in the closing stages, with his squad lacking the quality in depth enjoyed by his Heriot’s counterpart Phil Smith, who was quick to concede that there were periods in the match when he was concerned about the outcome. “It was a great test”, he said, before admitting that he had been prevented from implementing his game plan by a variety of factors, not least the effort of the opposition, adding: “We were trying to do things in preparation for Ayr in the league but it just didn’t happen because they played well, we didn’t start so well and the conditions just didn’t allow it.”
Heriot’s can now look forward to the Regional Cup final next month, although the identity of their opponents will not be confirmed until this weekend.
Currie stepped up their bid to secure the other berth when they got the better of Biggar 29-10 at Hartreemill. Currie will play Watsonians on Saturday knowing that a win will be sufficient to see them through to a clash with Heriot’s.
However, Edinburgh Accies also remain in contention after a comfortable 59-24 success over Musselburgh. The hosts ran in ten tries including doubles for Duncan Morrison, Nyle Godsmark and Callum Reid
Meanwhile, Boroughmuir, whose priority is Premiership survival, posted a confidence building 46-7 win over Murrayfield Wanderers.