Heriot’s skipper Jack Turley refused to use the conditions as an excuse after the champions succumbed 12-5 in Saturday’s BT Premiership clash against Glasgow Hawks at Goldenacre.
Turley produced a typically rumbustious performance for a misfiring Heriot’s side but the Capital men lacked a cutting edge and failed to reproduce the rugby that has seen them dominate opponents in recent weeks.
And they could have few complaints about the outcome against a side that is something of a bogey outfit with Hawks having posted three wins in the past four meetings of the teams.
The visitors had clearly done their homework and dominated the scrum in a manner that is rare for Turley and his colleagues who would normally expect to be in the ascendancy at the set piece.
On a day when swathes of the sporting calendar were wiped out across Scotland, Turley praised the condition of the Goldenacre surface and insisted that weather had not been a factor in the defeat.
“The pitch was great. We couldn’t believe it after all the rain we’ve had,” he said. “The wind affected things a bit but it’s the same for both teams.”
The hosts enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the first 40 minutes but Hawks led 5-0 at the break, scoring the only points after 11 minutes when full back Robbie Houliston made a break from deep and offloaded to Erlend Oag who sprinted in at the corner for an unconverted try.
Heriot’s had their best scoring opportunity four minutes from half time but John Rae was held up over the Hawks line.
Heriot’s had reached the break a man short after Struan Cessford was yellow carded. The prop’s return to the fray brought some ballast to the home scrum, which nevertheless remained under pressure. That proved the source of the next score – initially thought to be a penalty try but later attributed to Andrew Hill, with Josh Henderson converting.
One of the frustrations for Turley was the fact that the hosts left it late to make a bid to take something from the match. They eventually raised the pace and finished the game strongly and found a way through the Hawks defence with five minutes left on the clock when Iain Wilson rose last from a heap of bodies after a powerful surge by the home pack.
The momentum was with the hosts at that stage and another score seemed to be on the cards. However, Hawks earned ample reward for their supremacy at the set piece and tireless defensive efforts when they held out to secure a win that makes securing a play–off spot a realistic objective.
“You have good weeks, you have bad weeks and it’s a long season,” said Turley. “But it shouldn’t take to the 75th minute to get a reaction from us.”
He also commented on the reaction of Heriot’s coach Phil Smith, adding: “I think it was what he didn’t say that resonates most with the boys.”
While his disappointment was evident, Turley sought to keep the result in perspective. “It showed us areas we need to work on. Last week we beat Hawick in the bad weather, then this.”
The narrow defeat bonus point Heriot’s garnered could yet prove to be invaluable. Indeed, with Melrose taking nothing from their defeat at Gala, Heriot’s actually tightened their grip on second spot in the table, with a trip to face leaders Ayr next on the agenda.
“We are still sitting second going into another week, so that’s good,” added Turley before apportioning praise to Hawks. “They are no shabby team – they knocked us off twice last season. You’ve got to give then respect and I’m sure they will keep knocking off a few other teams over the season.”
For Smith, the outcome was deflating after his players had appeared to be hitting their stride over the past four weeks. But he remains upbeat and confident that they will be ready for the challenging fixtures they face in the remaining four weeks of the campaign.
“It was just a disappointing performance, that’s all,” he said. “Our set piece wasn’t really functioning so we were suddenly under pressure. We will fix it.”
Heriot’s: Try – I Wilson
Glasgow Hawks: Tries – Oag, Hill. Con: Henderson
Heriot’s: J Semple, M Learmonth, L Steele, C Ferguson, J Rae, G McNeish, G Wilson, M Bouab, S Mustard, M McCallum, C Smith, R Van Heerden, J Turley, I Wilson, S Dewar. Subs used: S Cessford, B Coupar, T Wilson, J Syme
Glasgow Hawks: R Houliston, E Oag, B McGroarty, M McFarlane, R Beattie, J Henderson, P Boyer, S Findlay, J MacFarlane, B Cullinane, S Cummings, A Linton, A Kirkland, M Smith, A Hill. Subs used: G Stewart, G Strain, A Davidson, S Yacoubian, K Gossman
Referee: K Allen