Heriot’s coach Phil Smith is relishing the opportunity to build on Saturday’s RBS Edinburgh Cup final victory and challenge for further honours on two fronts.
The 40-7 win over Currie at Malleny Park has secured a place in the RBS National Cup quarter-finals and, while that competition offers the best chance of success, Smith insists he has not yet written off his side’s Premiership title challenge.
“I think people think we have conceded the league – 100 per cent we haven’t,” he said. “If we can get 20 points out of our last four games I think we will be in with a shout.”
Nevertheless, he admits that, with a spot in next season’s British & Irish Cup all but guaranteed, it would have been easy for his players to lose their focus had they not beaten Currie.
“That result was massive. Because we are in the top four and unlikely to drop out of it, I was worried because it is difficult to keep motivated for months with nothing really.
“This now gives us a real boost to win the next two league games then go into the next cup match. It was monumental and I was worried about it for three weeks.”
The sides had drawn in the recent league clash and another tight encounter looked to be in prospect on Saturday as they wrestled for superiority in a keenly contested opening quarter.
Currie had the bulk of the possession but failed to break through. Then, having weathered that early storm, the visitors offered an insight into the range of scoring options at their disposal, with a powerful pack and pace behind the scrum combining to yield tries for Keith Buchan, Harry Boisseau and Nathan Borel, while Graham Wilson contributed all three conversions to see Heriot’s into a 21-0 interval lead.
Currie coach Ally Donaldson has engineered a dramatic turnaround in fortunes after a poor start to the season and the hosts went into the match on the back of seven successive wins. And they hinted that they were not yet ready to surrender that undefeated record with a good start to the second period.
A powerful drive by the home pack yielded a try for Ross Weston, converted by George Horne to claw back seven points but, as had happened in the first period, the visitors survived the subsequent onslaught and opened out in the closing minutes to add a penalty try and further touchdowns by Russell Nimmo and Borel.
Heriot’s No.8 Jack Turley said: “That was a huge game to keep our season going so we put a lot into it. It was a slow start, and maybe a slow start to the second half but when we got rolling we were clinical. We still went away from our shape at times – I think we are vulnerable when we do that – but when we are all on the same page we play some good rugby.”
And, underlining why there is justifiable confidence in the Heriot’s ranks, he added: “We have beaten every team in the league so there is no reason why we can’t go for higher honours. I think everyone is buying into that and it is looking pretty positive.”
For Donaldson, the result was disheartening, but he has other more pressing issues, with the visit of fellow Premiership strugglers Aberdeen Grammar next. “That’s massive – we’ll be ready for that one,” he stated, before reflecting on the nature of Saturday’s loss. “It was pretty disappointing. The biggest difference was that that is their main focus now, our main focus is the league. We didn’t play as well as we have been. We’ve got a bit of hard work to do in the next two weeks.
“Two months ago, I think everybody thought we would automatically be getting relegated. That’s our first defeat since October. We’ve given ourselves a chance to stay in the league with four games to go so that’s where we are looking.”
Currie: Try: Weston. Con: Horne.
Heriot’s: Tries: Buchan, Borel (2), Boisseau. Penalty: R Nimmo. Cons: Wilson (5).
Currie: G Horne, H Elms, R Smith, E Pollock, M Peacock, J Semple, R Snedden, J Cox, G Carson, A Hamilton, G Temple, P Neacsu, M Vernel, K Main, R Weston. Subs used: J Roe, F Watt, A Alexander, C Kerr, J Reynolds
Heriot’s: K Buchan, M Nimmo, C Ferguson, R Carmichael, H Boisseau, O Brown, G Wilson, A Vuki, G Turner, S Mustard, R Nimmo, M Douglas, C Mulligan, A Henderson, J Turley. Subs used: N Borel, K McKenzie, R Tait, J Syme, C Goudie
Referee: G Wells