Heriot’s captain Graham Wilson believes Saturday’s RBS Premiership victory away to Capital rivals Edinburgh Accies can help provide a focus for the remainder of the league campaign, with a top-four finish now firmly in the sights of the Goldenacre men.
The hard-fought 21-15 success came in a game that was a fabulous advert for club rugby and featured several rising stars. They proved once more that, despite the woes of Edinburgh’s Murrayfield-based pro outfit, there is talent coming through at the grassroots level in the city, with the youngsters on both sides contributing to an enthralling encounter between two well-drilled teams.
For Wilson, who marshalled the Heriot’s side in a typically efficient manner from scrum half, as well as slotting all three conversions, said of the outcome: “It was a crucial game in terms of where we want to be playing our rugby – either fighting it out or pushing for that British & Irish Cup spot, so I’m just really pleased with the character we showed. We have now got to be looking to get in amongst Currie and Melrose and fighting for third or fourth spot.”
While a bonus point win had looked likely, but ultimately proved elusive, the skipper was delighted to overcome an Accies side that had inflicted a painful defeat when the teams met earlier in the campaign.
Admitting that he and his colleagues had benefited from regular rugby over recent weeks, while others have been left inactive by poor weather, he added: “I think it has helped us. A few of the cup games we have won but they have not been the best run outs given the scores. We would have preferred to keep going in the league, but we played a few games and trained right through, so maybe we were a wee bit sharper.”
That sharpness was evident as Heriot’s started well. However, the commitment of the Accies defenders was outstanding and the score remained blank until the 35th minute when Kevin Bryce burrowed over and Wilson converted.
A second try just before the break – this time when Chris Mulligan pounced to profit from a rare mistake in the home defence – was again converted by Wilson to give Heriot’s a 14-0 half-time advantage. That points haul should perhaps have been higher given the strong wind at their backs, but, when Colin Goudie bagged a third score early in the second half, Accies appeared to be on the ropes and a bonus point success for the visitors seemed likely.
The home side, however, dug deep into their reserves of resilience and held firm before enjoying a sustained spell in the ascendancy that yielded a try for Alex Blair, who was joined on the score sheet by Andrew Findlater whose powerful run saw him break through two tackles. Ruaridh Bonner added the conversion then, with three minutes to play, slotted a penalty to bring Accies within striking distance.
However, while Accies called on youthful exuberance to chase the win, Heriot’s had the benefit of greater experience among the substitutes to help them see out the closing minutes and leave Accies with only a narrow defeat bonus point for their efforts.
Among the Heriot’s replacements was assistant coach and Edinburgh pro Steve Lawrie. Commenting on the hooker’s value during the fraught final minutes, Wilson joked: “With Stevie having coached us all this season, it was a wee bit like playing with your dad out there. You didn’t want to make any mistakes in case he shouted at you. But it was great to be able to bring him off the bench with his experience and his influence, and he showed with his play in the scrums and his play in the loose what a huge asset he is.”
In the home camp, there were mixed emotions for coach Simon Cross, who said, “We didn’t do very much wrong and played well in areas, so I’m a bit frustrated. But I’m very proud of the effort of the boys. I was really happy with our defence – I thought it was excellent.”
Edinburgh Accies: Tries – Blair, Findlater. Con – R Bonner. Pen – R Bonner
Heriot’s: Tries – Bryce, Mulligan, Goudie. Cons – Wilson (3)
Edinburgh Accies: R Young, M Coupar, N Godsmark, R Bonner, A Blair, E Bonner, A Black, A Allan, F Rawlinson, L Niven, G Campbell, T Drennan, D Teague, H Watson, C Reid. Subs used: M Liness, C Murray, A Findlater, J Adams, R Watts
Heriot’s: S Hidalgo-Clyne, M Penn, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, C Goudie, R Carmichael, G Wilson, G Cameron, K Bryce, S Cessford, C Osazuwa, K Mackenzie, J Hill, C Mulligan, J Syme. Subs used: S Lawrie, M Welch, J Curuqara, J Parker
Referee: D Changleng