Heriot’s coach Phil Smith insists his men will be ready to launch their defence of the BT Premiership title next Saturday, despite suffering a hefty 36-7 defeat at home to an impressive Melrose side in the BT Charity Shield last night.
The result means that Smith’s men have surrendered one of the three pieces of silverware that furnished the Goldenacre trophy room at the end of their triumphant campaign last season.
However, the man whose contribution to the trophy haul earned him the SRU coach of the year award was disappointed but not overly downbeat.
“We wouldn’t have been too disappointed if we had lost the charity shield last year and we won’t be too disappointed about this,” he said. “You want to win but, without being disrespectful, it was really a pre-season friendly.”
He acknowledged the quality of last night’s opposition and admitted that he was unhappy with the second half effort of his players, adding, “At 17-7 at half time, I was keen to get the next score so I was disappointed that we gave way points so easily.”
Both sides have undergone substantial personnel changes over the summer and the contest offered the two coaches an opportunity to run the rule over several new arrivals. Smith has had the heart torn out of his pack with the departures of Jason Hill, Jack Turley, Murray McCallum and Rohan Van Heerden, all of whom brought substantial experience to the Capital side.
Their replacements will take time to settle but Smith was satisfied with the contributions of several youngsters for whom he has high hopes, among them back rowers Jack McLean and Callum Marshall and centre Josh Laird.
There was an early-season feel about the opening exchanges, with both sides keen to play an enterprising game but most of the ambition being thwarted by handling errors.
Melrose made the breakthrough after 21 minutes when scrum half Murdo McAndrew plunged over from close range and George Taylor added the conversion.
The Borderers extended their advantage when, with half an hour on the clock, Fraser Thomson broke from deep inside his own half and chipped ahead and the visitors profited from uncertainty in the home ranks as Neil Irvine-Hess pounced on the loose ball.
And the task facing the Capital side became even tougher five minutes before the interval when Ross McCann – who has switched to the Greenyards outfit from Stewart’s Melville – took a pass from Taylor and hurtled down the flank before returning the favour for Taylor to go in at the corner.
The hosts finished the half in the ascendancy and a series of scrums eventually yielded points deep into injury time when a powerful drive allowed Marshall to dot down and leave his fellow debutant Alex Hagart to add the extras and leave the defending champions ten points adrift at half time.
Melrose made the livelier start to the second period and they boosted their points tally when Jason Baggott crashed over in 51 minutes.
A fifth try for Melrose, this time by Ruaridh Knott, was converted via an upright by Jason Baggott, as the Borderers made the win safe. And ex-Broughmuir back rower Iain Moody rubbed salt into the Heriot’s wounds when crossed for try number six – Baggott again converting.
The hosts rarely threatened in the second period and a brief flurry of attacks proved fruitless and the focus will now switch to Saturday’s league opener against Watsonians.
“It might be a bit a bit of knock because of the score,” said Smith. “But there is no panic and we’ll be ready for next week.”
Heriot’s: G Parker, J Rae, J Laird, D Crawford, C Simpson, A Hagart, A Simmers, M Bouab, M Liness, R Mitchell, R Nimmo, C Smith, A Henderson, J McLean, C Marshall. Subs used: S Cessford, D Mason, T Lapeyre, L Sinclair, L Christie, R Carmichael, A McLean
Melrose: F Thomson, A Lockington, G Taylor, C Jackson, R McCann, J Baggott, M McAndrew, J Bhatti, R Anderson, R McLeod, J Head, A Grieve, NIrvine-Hess, G Runciman, I Moody. Subs used: D Elkington, H Borthwick, R Knott, B Colvine, G Wood, R Taylor, C Mackay
Referee: M Adamson