Currie Chieftains underlined their BT Premiership title credentials with a 32-24 win at home to Hawick as the second half of the league programme got underway on Saturday.
The result means the Malleny Park side go into the international break sitting second in the table and with a home play-off very much in their sights.
A first-half performance that tore the opposition to shreds, showcased the pace and skill that had been missing in the loss against Heriot’s seven days earlier. But, the delight of coach Ben Cairns at the positive aspects was tempered by a fall off in performance levels in the closing half hour that left him puzzled.
The return of Harvey Elms at centre brought additional firepower to the home side’s back line and he showed the benefits of his involvement with the Scotland sevens squad the previous week with an outstanding contribution, capped by the final Chieftains try early in the second half.
Coming after Robbie Nelson, Vince Wright, Jamie Forbes and Stephen Ainslie had dotted down for a try apiece in the first period, with Forbes booting two conversions and a penalty, the score by Elms looked to have secured the victory for the hosts, who played some irresistible rugby in the opening period, with the visitors having no answer as the Chieftains attacked from all areas of the field.
However, the introduction of several substitutes appeared to interrupt the home side and, coupled with a strong finish by a Hawick outfit that currently occupies the basement slot in the league table and is scrapping for a first win of the campaign, Chieftains ended up having to battle to hold off a late flurry by the Borderers to secure the victory.
“That performance – first half especially – I don’t think many teams would have lived with us and that’s what we are capable of. For us, it’s about trying to replicate that for 80 minutes,” said Cairns.
But he was less happy with the dip in intensity, adding: “I was a bit frustrated by the reaction to us making a few subs on the 50-minute mark.
“Guys just lost a few per cent of their work rate around the pitch,” he said. “We need to make sure we iron it out because in the championship games if you come off at all you are going to lose.”
Meanwhile, Heriot’s moved back into the top four with a convincing 33-5 win away to Stirling County. Tries by Michael Liness, Callum Marshall, Rory Carmichael and Jack Turley – a score that took him into double figures for the season – had the bonus point secured by halftime, which the Goldenacre side reached with a 26-0 lead, Ross Jones landing three conversions against his former club.
And, although Stirling offered a sterner test in the second period, Heriot’s saw out the game with a Jack McLean try, converted by Jones. The result, combined with defeats for the other three sides bidding to reach the knockout phase, means that Heriot’s have now opened up a three-point gap over fifth placed Stirling.
Elsewhere, Boroughmuir slipped back into the bottom two after returning empty handed following a 28-15 defeat at Ayr. Muir suffered once again from their inability to convert pressure into points, but were only 3-0 adrift at halftime. However, the hosts stepped up the pressure after the restart and had it won before the Capital side claimed late tries through Euan McKirdy and Jordan Edmunds.