Jason Hill: Demands on Heriot’s will ensure play-off success
The Capital side, who finished second in the regular season travel to meet table-toppers Ayr in the showdown for the silverware.
Hill, who has twice played in play-off winning sides, is relishing the trip. The 29-year old was the match winner when Heriot’s snatched a dramatic 86th minute victory over Melrose on home turf in 2015. And he also played a vital role in winning at Ayr in an equally tense encounter the following year.
Hill then spent two years playing professionally south of the border with Bedford Blues and Doncaster Knights before linking up once again with coach Phil Smith this season.
And he is hoping that he and his colleagues will rise to the occasion again tomorrow when the title is up for grabs.
“We know we can win these one-off games, we know we are a cup final team so we’re just looking forward to it,” said Hill, who starts on the bench, with Jack McLean, and Struan Dewar handed the starting berths in the back row alongside skipper Iain Wilson.
Hill knows that the visitors will need to produce a more imposing performance than they managed in last week’s narrow success over Hawick in the Scottish Cup semi-final. But he is satisfied that they have the means to come out on top.
“We have a game plan. We’ll try to play our own brand of rugby,” he added. “We weren’t happy with the performance against Hawick.”
And of his personal targets for the clash, Hill stated: “My hope is that my standards don’t drop. When I play the best I can, I can bring a tempo, I can make a carry that can create momentum. If that then gets the person next to you doing it, then the next person, then you have a chain reaction.”
With a mix of emerging talent and a spine of experience, Heriot’s have every reason to be confident of repeating the win they posted at Ayr on league duty in December. Hill knows it is all about harnessing the energy and the attributes of the side.
“We are an 80-minute plus team,” he said. “We are one of the best teams in Scotland because we just demand high standards.”
Hill is relishing the challenge that an Ayr side brimming with talent and experience will pose both tomorrow and when the sides meet again in the Scottish Cup final later this month, and the chance to show the progress Heriot’s have made this season.
“It’s another opportunity to do that double that we did a few years back. We finished fifth last year and had an early exit in the cup, so we’ve turned that round. We’re buzzing for it.”
Smith has the luxury of picking from virtually a full squad – only long-term injury victim Martin Bouab is unavailable. He has named Andrew Simmers and Stuart Edwards at half back, and recalls Charlie Simpson at full-back, with Jack Blain moving to the wing.
The coach is anticipating a classic encounter to end the Premiership in its current form ahead of league reconstruction.
“Our last play-off fixture against Ayr was three years ago in the grand final at Millbrae,” Smith recalled. “This was a great occasion, with the sun shining, a big crowd and an exciting eight-try thriller, a real celebration of the club game. Let’s hope these two squads can bring something close to this again – and hopefully the same outcome, obviously.”