Currie Chieftains coach Ben Cairns is hoping his side’s stylish 47-19 win over Heriot’s at Oriam on Saturday will lure occasional supporters to Malleny Park for the BT Premiership play-off semi-final on March 24.
Chieftains needed a victory to ensure a home fixture. And a seven-try show confirmed that Cairns’ men had shrugged off an out-of-character performance in the loss at home to Marr last time out, as well as extinguishing the slim hopes that Heriot’s still harboured of clinching a top-four finish.
Cairns will now switch his focus to the build up to a showdown with the winners of the rearranged match between Watsonians and Ayr. And he is hoping that it will be a special occasion.
“Having home advantage should be good – one, on the pitch and two, for the whole club. We have three weeks leading into it now to generate a buzz around the whole community leading up to it. This has been our rebranding year so hopefully we can piggy-back off the back of that and hopefully it’s a really good day for the whole club. Most importantly, it just brings the whole club together.”
The coach praised Heriot’s for having the foresight to hire the Oriam facility, making the clash the first game at this level to be played indoors.
“I would rather play on a grass pitch. That’s purely because that’s what the boys are used to. However, in terms of the way we want to play the game, it is perfect for us,” added Cairns with reference to the fast-flowing style that he encourages. “The other part is that we would have had to play it on March 17 when we could have four or five boys potentially with the Club [international] XV. That wouldn’t have been great for us, so we were keen to get the game on.”
And, such was the success of the venture, that it will almost certainly be repeated should similar circumstances arise in future.
A sizeable crowd, whose gate money should have covered the cost incurred by the Goldenacre club to hire the pitch, was treated to a fast-paced encounter that featured some excellent rugby.
Explaining the thinking behind the switch of venue, Heriot’s coach Phil Smith said: “If we hadn’t played, we would have been playing on the Saturday afternoon of the Six Nations. There is a club international the night before – what are we doing? Give the boys a chance to support the top team.”
Heriot’s started well and early tries from Ian Wilson and Rob Kay, the latter converted by Ross Jones, provided evidence of their determination to extend their title challenge. However, after squandering several early opportunities, Chieftains bounced back. Their pace behind the scrum was a significant factor, with sevens international Harvey Elms looking particularly lively with ball. And leading the charge was scrum-half Charlie Shiel who was celebrating having signed a professional contract with Edinburgh Rugby earlier in the week.
Tries from Fergus Scott, Ben Robbins and Shiel, who also booted two conversions, sent Chieftains in at the break with a 19-12 lead. And, after emerging unscathed from a Heriot’s onslaught in the opening minutes of the second period, Chieftains clicked through the gears to add four more touchdowns, with Robbins completing a hat-trick and Shiel a double, while Mike Vernel also found his way on to the score sheet and Shiel landed all four conversions to seal the victory before Michael Maltman had a late converted consolation score for Heriot’s.
The defeat means that the Goldenacre club’s season will end on Friday with the rearranged match against Boroughmuir at Meggetland.
Smith credited Chieftains for the quality of their performance but pointed out that the defeat was not the reason for failing to reach the play-offs – the damage having been done earlier in the campaign when Heriot’s struggled to build consistency.
But he believed that the sense of occasion attached to Saturday’s clash had gone some way towards tempering the frustration of his players. “The boys have thoroughly enjoyed it. They have been beaten and they are disappointed but they have experienced something that they might never experience again because it might never happen again.”