Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has claimed anger fuelled his side’s 36-3 victory at Boroughmuir that leaves them eight points clear at the top of the BT Rugby Premiership.
Smith maintains the game should never have gone ahead – a view supported by the fact that it was so cold one player retired at half-time suffering hypothermia.
For the fourth-successive league match, Heriot’s notched a four-try bonus point and, according to Smith, the catalyst was determination to make Boroughmuir pay for pressing to proceed with the kick-off amidst intermittent snow storms.
“They were desperate to get it on because they had three pros released by Edinburgh. That was motivation for our boys,” said Smith.
Stuart McInally, Nick McLennan and Sam Beard were the Edinburgh full timers in the Boroughmuir ranks, plus academy prospect Magnus Bradbury who was included 24 hours after it was announced he would step up to pro status in the summer. But their was influence was nullified as the Heriot’s pack took the game by the scruff of the neck. By the interval, when home stand off Chris Laidlaw had to be withdrawn to stand in a hot shower, they were a try to the good through winger Charlie Simpson and leading 17-3 thanks also to four Graham Wilson penalties.
A converted pushover try credited to Jason Hill while Boroughmuir prop Robbie Wilson was in the sin-bin for throwing a punch confirmed Heriot’s superiority and effectively killed the contest leaving sub Gregor McNeish and Russell Nimmo to guarantee that extra increment with touchdowns inside the closing ten minutes.
“We were a few men short of full strength and they had a full squad plus three pros yet we totally outplayed them,” said Smith. “We had grit and determination before you even get to the skills factor. It was probably our best victory of the season and it had to be because of the conditions. The first-half effort from us was phenomenal.”
Mathematically, this was the best performance of the season from Heriot’s.
While Boroughmuir coach Bruce Aitchison conceded his team had no frontal platform, he also picked out Heriot’s scrum half, the son of a former Boroughmuir stand off, as a major difference, saying: “Graham Wilson does fantastic things. The control he showed, his goal kicking, his game management, the way he contributed to team spirit ... he is probably the most valuable player in this league.” Smith responded, saying: “We expect that from Graham and others were outstanding, too. Stewart Mustard came in and did well, Jack McLean in our back row tackled everything including Magnus Bradbury coming round the corner (of scrums and rucks) and he is a big lad to shift. Then there was Russell Nimmo who carried ball the whole day and was unstoppable for his try. As for our third score by Gregor McNeish, handling-wise that was superb in the conditions.”
The scoring pass to McNeish came from Harry Boisseau who had come off the bench at the same time a few minutes earlier reflecting well on the way Heriot’s reached for impact players in the search for a bonus point.
Is there not frustration in the Heriot’s ranks, though, that for the first time play-offs will decide the title when they are almost out of sight entering the home straight in the regular season?
“We’re in a good place and comfortable with the play-off system. All we want now is to finish in the top two and get a home semi-final. We will just crack on towards that in the knowledge that Edinburgh Accies’ win over Ayr means there are now eight points covering the bottom six clubs who include Currie, who will visit us on Saturday even more desperate to win,” said Smith.
For Boroughmuir a trip to second place Ayr beckons and coach Aitchison can’t wait to consign this latest display to history. “It was a bad day at the office but we have had a few this season and this one stings because we thought we were in a position to have a good crack at Heriot’s. Their forwards were bigger and when we lost Chris Laidlaw with hypothermia Craig Marshall came on and he hasn’t played stand off for a while due to long-term injury.
“We just never had the platform to play from at half back.”
Bottom of the table on scoring differential after this defeat Aitchison admitted the match should not have gone ahead. “The referee delayed the kick-off. In hindsight we would have called it off but hindsight is no use to us now.
“We’ve made our own bed and now we have to get up and play our way out of trouble.”
Boroughmuir: Penalty: Laidlaw.
Heriot’s: Tries: Simpson, Hill, McNeish, Nimmo. Conversions: Wilson (2). Penalties: Wilson (3).
Boroughmuir: N McLennan, G McConnell, J Edmunds, S Beard, S Visser, C Laidlaw, J Adams, R Wilson, S McInally, J Latta, A Best, I Moody, A Rose (captain), M Bradbury, M Entwhistle. Subs: C Davies, A Wallace, T Sutton, S Johnson, C Marshall.
Heriot’s: K Buchan, C Simpson, L Steele, R Carmichael, D McMaster, S Edwards, G Wilson, N Borel, S Mustard, S Cessford, R Nimmo, K McKenzie, J Turley (captain), J Hill, J McLean. Subs: B Cooper, J-P Ward, J Beecroft, G McNeish, H Boisseau.
Referee: K Allen.