Heriot’s will be motivated by trying to ensure recent rugby history does not repeat itself when they continue their battle for a place in the club top flight next season following a 21-8 Premier Group B victory over Jed-Forest at Goldenacre.
Heriot’s started this campaign with two wins before a defeat by Edinburgh Accies sent them spiralling and losing seven matches on the bounce.
The Goldencare club have now opened Group B in similar fashion following a victory over Watsonians and once again a meeting with Accies looms next up in a fortnight. If they are to maintain progress then the performance, almost certainly, will have to be sharper than when focus was lost while leading 21-0 after 30 minutes and virtually the entire second half was spent on the back foot.
Coach Graham Marshall acknowledged that Heriot’s, while not playing well, had at least doubled their victory tally in the race to finish in the top two promotion places when reconstruction takes place and such ability to pull wins out of the fire can augur well. But the ex-Scotland back row also admitted plenty of potential remained unfilled in a match dominated by the whistle of Fife-based referee John-Marie Burel who handed out four yellow cards while missing the most obvious transgression that would have justified a sin-binning.
“That was really disappointing. We need to be gaining (four try) bonus points and building on such positive starts,” said Marshall. “We were on top but the second half was a bit of a disaster.”
At least Heriot’s have the points banked on a day when only one other fixture in the group beat the freeze and Marshall said: “At home in our second game an opportunity to set down a marker was lost. But we’ve now got two out of two wins and hopefully that is a bad performance out the road.
“In the first half we didn’t build phases, we were awfully flat. When it looked like coming together there was a forward pass or a turnover. . . it was control more than structure that we needed to develop and it was almost panic when we got a break. We needed to be a bit patient until we played the right pass.”
Initially, Heriot’s looked like putting a stranglehold on the game up front with the Jed scrum in difficulties to the extent of conceding a penalty try.
That they didn’t kick on wasn’t just due to their own shortcomings, though, and the one flash of inspiration in an error strewn encounter – how we are paying for the irregularity of the fixture planning which leaves players looking rusty – came when Jed’s stand-off, Ewan Scott, flighted a cross kick into the arms of full back Iain Chisholm for a try.
Credit Jed for hanging in and fighting back and maybe Heriot’s suffered particularly badly when stand-off OJ Brown retired with concussion because, in his absence, they lacked the wit to play for field position before attempting to open out.
Coach Marshall is banking on the return of experienced full back Gregor Lawson to galvanise the side at Accies but Heriot’s would do well to accommodate Junior Bulumakau whose direct running from the deep was a feature.
That said, the Fijian was fortunate not to be yellow carded for a high tackle on Scott albeit he was later short-changed himself when no penalty accrued after being taken out illegally by James Hogg.
A penalty from that rare second half attack might have provided the foothold for a bonus point try but overall Heriot’s could have no complaints and Graham Marshall was honest enough to admit it, applauding Jed’s spirit as well as skill and saying: “Despite the set-piece our forwards had an off day as shown with some of the (poor) carries and turnovers we gave away.
“We need to get more momentum, need to get confidence back. A performance like that dents the confidence a wee bit. We have a bit more potential but we are not seeing it.
“Our scrum has been reasonable but I still don’t think the platform is there. Hilly (No. 8 Jason Hill) is good at getting the ball away but at times he got in a tangle and was easily pressured.
“Although Junior (Bulumakau) is a good player he doesn’t talk to others the way Gregor Lawson does and hopefully his return (from a business trip) will make a difference.”
It took Heriot’s 11 minutes to hit the front when Hill rounded off a pushover scrum for Wilson to convert and the opening quarter ended with the same player instrumental in setting up the second try.
This time Hill eluded his marker on the pick-up and supplied the scoring pass to Wilson while visiting prop forward Andy Ions was spending time in the sin-bin.
As Ions returned Jed’s David Gobby took his place for kicking a ball out of an attacking scrum and the subsequent set-piece brought a penalty try in similar circumstances though no card this time.
Next to be off for ten minutes was Jed skipper Darren Gillespie who was punished for another technical offence and when Scott broke Jed’s duck with a 45th minute penalty it looked a consolation effort even at that stage.
But, encouraged by Gavin Cameron’s yellow card, Jed plugged away and Chishom’s try was visionary even if Heriot’s held out in a ragged and often disjointed match where both teams deserved to be recognised for not letting frustration with some decisions spill over.
Scorers: Heriot’s: Tries: Hill, Wilson, Penalty try. Conversions: Wilson (3). Jed-Forest: Try: Chisholm. Penalty: Scott.
Heriot’s: J Bulumakau, M Learmonth, C Ferguson, R Carmichael, C Goudie, O Brown, G Wilson (captain), A Dymock, K Bryce, S Cessford, R Martin, M Reid, R Cessford, J Hill, F Brown. Subs: S Mustard, G Cameron, R Wilson, A Scott.
Jed-Forest: I Chisholm, G Young, R Hogg, K Aitchison, D Gobby, E Scott, R Goodfellow, A Ions, D Grieve, A Croitoru, J Szudro, A Nagle, M Weekly, D Gillespie (captain), D Grieve. Subs: G Slorance, S Raeburn, G Taylor, J Hogg.
Referee: Mr J-M Burel (SRU).