Heriot’s coach Phil Smith believes Saturday’s stunning 28-27 RBS Premiership win over Gala is worth much more to his men than the four precious league points it yielded.
Smith’s men trailed 27-6 with 25 minutes to play, but three tries in four minutes hauled them back to within two points, and a late penalty by Graham Wilson clinched a win that provoked as vociferous a celebration as the Goldenacre stand has seen in some time.
Gala dominated the first half and tries from George Graham, Grant Somerville and Stevie Cairns plus a conversion and a penalty by Andy McLean gave them a 20-3 lead at the break that was more a reflection of their superiority in most areas of the game than of the home side’s failings.
Wilson contributed the first-half points for Heriot’s and he clawed back three more with another kick early in the second half. However, the Borderers responded in style when Lewis Bertram powered over from a clever line-out move to secure the bonus point, and McLean slotted the conversion.
The 21-point margin remained intact as the clock ticked towards the final quarter, and Heriot’s looked set for a second successive defeat. The loss of Gala centre Alan Emond to the sin bin after he had used his boot when he and home skipper Cammy Ferguson tangled on the ground proved to be a turning point in the match.
In his absence, Heriot’s posted a quick-fire treble, with Kevin Bryce burrowing over, Keith Buchan profiting from a charge down to open his account for the club, and Liam Steele doing likewise when he darted in. Wilson added two conversions to cut the deficit to two points and set up a thrilling finale.
Gala regained the initiative briefly but failed to capitalise on their opportunities and, when the visitors offended at a scrum inside their own 22 with four minutes to play, Wilson stroked over the resultant penalty to clinch an unlikely victory.
The task facing Smith and his assistant Stevie Lawrie now is to build on the result. Reflecting on the fightback, he said: “I was still hoping we would get another score. I know they can play and I know they can play well. It’s in there and now it’s up to me and Stevie to try and urge it out.”
Of the psychological impact, he added: “The result is massive because we got beat by Gala twice last season.
“We had a team meeting before the start of the season and we talked about the teams we couldn’t beat last season – Ayr and Gala – and we talked about what we were going to do different. Now this win will give everyone a massive boost.”
And, with Saturday’s victory fresh in his players’ minds, Smith is relishing the next assignment, a trip to face Stirling County, adding: “Rolling into next week, it will just give them a massive boost because they will now remember that second half rather than the first half.”
Heriot’s: Tries – Bryce, Buchan, Steele. Cons – Wilson (2). Pens – Wilson (3)
Gala: Tries – Geo Graham, Somerville, Cairns, Bertram. Cons – McLean (2). Pen – McLean
Heriot’s: L Steele, C Goudie, K Buchan, C Ferguson, M Nimmo, G Wilson, G Murdoch, C Owenson, G Turner, G Cameron, M Douglas, R Nimmo, S Burnside, C Mulligan, J Hill. Subs Used: K Bryce, A Henderson, H Boisseau
Gala: L Draycott, G Somerville, C Auld, A Emond, C Robertson, A McLean, Geo Graham, L Bertram, R Anderson, C Mackintosh, O Palepoi, C Borthwick, Gary Graham, B Murray, E Dods. Subs Used: M Kibble, C Keddie, S Cairns, E Scott, G Speirs
Referee: L Linton