Heriot’s coach Phil Smith hopes the successes of the Scotland Club XV over Ireland and England will can be carried into the semi-final of the BT Cup tomorrow (kick off 3pm).
Heriot’s face Glasgow Hawks at Old Anniesland in the last four and Smith, who coached the Club XV to an historic win double, is hungry for more success.
Smith’s side will be skippered by Jack Turley, the dynamic back rower whose outstanding contribution for the Club XV that retained the Dalriada Cup by beating their Irish counterparts 19-13 in Cork last weekend included the only Scottish try of the game. Also savouring that victory were substitutes Michael Liness, Russell Nimmo and Cammy Ferguson who are named in the Heriot’s line-up tomorrow.
The winners of the tie will book a slot on finals day at Murrayfield on April 16 against Ayr or Melrose.
Smith believes that the buoyant state of club rugby should ensure that both of tomorrow’s semi-finals are entertaining affairs.
“We can now say we have the strongest club game in Europe, we beat Ireland and England and Ireland and England beat France, I really hope rugby supporters are able to come along and the see majority of the boys who played last Friday night, whether it be in Glasgow or Ayr. Trust me there is a lot of good things to see,” he enthused.
That enthusiasm was echoed by home coach Peter Laverie. “Undoubtedly this is an intriguing tie with lots of very talented players on show all desperate to do well. It should be an enthralling contest.”
Although most Heriot’s players have been focused on training for several weeks, recent representative activity – Hugh Fraser and Murray McCallum also saw competitive action for the Scotland Under 20s that lost to Ireland – should ensure that the visitors arrive primed for action. Hawks captain Brendan McGroarty and Paddy Boyer featured in Cork and, having seen them at close quarters, Smith knows they will be looking to make an early impression for the hosts, whose last competitive outing was three weeks ago when they beat a gutsy Marr side in the quarter-final. Hawks’ season will be over if they bow out of the competition.
“It will quite simply be a war from start to finish,” said Smith. “For us we have to get up and running as quickly as possible as a few weeks without a fixture can become a focus and an excuse for some.
“We cannot afford to let that be the case. Hawks bring a physicality that means we will not have time to be concerned with anything else but getting into the game. It promises to be a cracker.”
The encounter is the first of two matches on successive Saturdays that will go a long way towards defining the Capital outfit’s season and could move Heriot’s a step closer to achieving a clean sweep of the domestic silverware. The league champions will also contest the semi-finals of the BT Premiership when they meet Currie at Malleny Park next week and they already have the only other available trophy, the Charity Shield, in the Goldenacre trophy room having seen off Capital rivals Boroughmuir, last year’s cup winners, in the season curtain raiser at Murrayfield.
Heriot’s will be without influential scrum-half Graham Wilson who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Tom Wilson earns the nod and Fraser starts on the bench alongside McCallum. Also missing for the Goldenacre side will be Jason Hill and Struan Dewar, but Smith has received a boost with the availability of Glenn Bryce, the Glasgow pro who will join Edinburgh in the summer.
Heriot’s, who beat Hawks in the 2014 final, will be looking to atone for a painful exit in the semi-final last season when they lost in controversial circumstances against Hawick when an unsighted referee failed to award a try that would have secured victory.
Hawks showed the threat they can pose in this campaign when they took the honours at Goldenacre in the first league meeting of the teams. However, Smith’s men avenged that result with a win in the return fixture and have struck good form in recent weeks, and arguably will be marginal favourites to take the honours this time around.
Heriot’s: J Semple, G Bryce, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, C Simpson, G McNeish, T Wilson, M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, R Nimmo, R Van Heerden, J Turley, I Wilson, J Syme. Subs: S Mustard, M McCallum, C Mulligan, C Smith, A Henderson, H Fraser, J Rae
Glasgow Hawks: S Yacoubian, R Beattie, B McGroarty, D Milne, K Gossman, J Steele, P Boyer, S Findlay, J Macfarlane, G Strain, A Linton, A Redmayne, F Gillies, S Leckey, A Hill. Subs: G Stewart, B Cullinane, K McDonald, K Beattie, M MacFarlane, E Oag, P Mounal