Edinburgh hooker Neil Cochrane will find out early this week if he will get a shot at another final with Heriot’s or if he will be back in the pro-team’s plans for their game in Munster.
Cochrane scored both the Goldenacre club’s tries at BT Murrayfield on Saturday as they beat Melrose 21-13 to lift the BT Cup for a fourth time in their history.
It was his first Heriot’s outing in a season that has seen him play for Edinburgh 16 times, even captaining the side. The 32-year-old’s power and experience helped finish off two driving mauls in the second half which, along with three yellow cards for the Borders side, tipped the final in the favour of Phil Smith’s team.
Asked if he might now play for Heriot’s again in their BT Premiership final at Ayr on Saturday, he said: “I don’t know yet. We’ve got a week off from the PRO12, but I’ll see what comes whether I’m with Heriot’s or not.
“In the perfect world I would be playing for Edinburgh, but Ross Ford and Stuart McInally are fantastic players. They’re Scotland’s No.1 and 2, so it’s a hard job to try and oust them out the team.”
Melrose also fielded an Edinburgh hooker in the shape of George Turner and Cochrane added: “It’s a good opportunity to get a little bit of game time should Edinburgh need to call on me for the Munster game. I’ve played a lot with Edinburgh this year, and to get a bit of game time with Heriot’s – obviously I would jump at that opportunity.
“I do feel bad for the Heriot’s player that had to miss out, but like Phil [Smith] said, they’re here to win. If that’s picking the strongest available side, so be it. I get told where to go: my employers are the SRU, so that’s the bottom line. If they say ‘You’re playing for Heriot’s’, I play for Heriot’s.”
Smith rewarded his usual hooker Michael Liness with a taste of the occasion for the first half hour before throwing on Cochrane and, while accepting some unfortunate aspects, said he was comfortable with the situation.
“It’s difficult. They had an Edinburgh professional player too,” said the coach. “They are the rules we’ve got. If they get released, they need to play. Neil needs game time.
“We as a club support Edinburgh Rugby so if we can help them we do. Unfortunately one of our guys goes to 23rd man and misses out.
“It was a horrible decision but the end result is we are here to win. We talk about ‘amateur’ rugby but we’re not amateur. We’re semi-pro and have guys who want to go pro.
“I’m delighted Neil scored two tries and I’m not going to stress about it.”
Cochrane’s brace and the boot of man-of-the-match John Semple gave Heriot’s the points they needed to win the game but the decisions of referee Keith Allen to sin bin three Melrose players, Graeme Dodds, Lewis Carmichael and Jamie Bhatti, proved to be the crucial factor in a competitive battle which never really produced the expansive rugby that many predicted.
Melrose had opened the scoring when Fraser Thomson’s intelligent kick ahead was chased down by wing Nyle Godsmark for an unconverted try in the corner.
The lead was relinquished in a chaotic finish to the half when Semple’s penalty was followed by an error by Melrose full-back Thomson when his clearing kick fell short of touch and in the ensuing desperate defence led to Dodds’ yellow and Semple’s second penalty.
Semple added a third penalty before Jason Baggot’s well-struck drop goal got Melrose back to within a point. Then came that costly Carmichael sin-binning and Cochrane rumbled over twice to take the game away from Dalziel’s side.
Melrose did hit back with a well-worked try by Murdo McAndrew after a neat exchange with left wing Sam Pequeur but Taylor was just wide with the conversion, which kept Heriot’s eight points clear and they defended the lead with some comfort.
Smith believes the two hard-fought semi-finals in cup and league against Currie and Glasgow Hawks has made his side a battle-hardened outfit. He said: “I think the two tough semi-finals we’ve had recently has helped because that little bit of steel keeps coming through. To see it out was good.
“They missed their conversion which kept it at an eight-point game and we just kept it going.”