Holidaying Kiwi holds nerve to help Currie beat Accies

James Semple, second from the left, is congratulated by his Currie team-mates. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
James Semple, second from the left, is congratulated by his Currie team-mates. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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Currie’s bid for Premiership survival remains on course today – thanks partly to a New Zealand holidaymaker in a pair of borrowed boots.

A remarkable match at Raeburn Place in which Currie defeated Edinburgh Accies 40-39 came down to a last kick drop-goal winner from James Semple, who was making a league debut.

“I only came to Scotland to visit my friend from boarding school days, Joe Reynolds, who had joined Currie,” revealed stand off Semple. “I got the opportunity to train with Currie just to keep fit, but once there I was asked if I wanted to play and thought ‘Why not?’ although I had to borrow Joe’s boots as he is out injured.”

A first outing in a regional cup tie against Lasswade followed and it soon became clear that Semple, who is now keen to maximise a visa and extend his stay until the end of the season, could play a bit.

In fact, he won a trial for New Zealand Under-20s and represented the country’s crack University combine, quite apart from playing 26 times in the top inter-provincial competition for both North Harbour and Counties-Manikau.

There his coaches have included Tana Umaga, Jeff Wilson and Liam Barry – each an All Black – as well as Milton Haig who now has charge of the Georgian national side.

With that pedigree Currie’s lively back line under the control of Semple were always going to be a handful although it was the man himself who sealed a match in which the lead changed hands six times before the interval and ten tries were scored within the first hour. “I always fancied the drop goal was on but I got a shock when the ref blew for full time immediately afterwards,” said Semple. “What helped me knock the ball over was the fact I thought there was still about five minutes remaining so if I missed I’d probably get another chance.

“That relaxed me a bit in making the successful drop goal and while the boys are saying they never thought of losing we did make it hard for ourselves.”

For a coach who had just seen his team score six tries and lose, Accies’ Jonny Else could not have been more magnanimous.

Leaving aside any defensive flaws – and overall it was much more a case of attacking flair then tackling deficiencies for both teams – Else sportingly declared: “What a game that must have been for the neutrals. I can’t take anything away from Currie. Fair play to them, they’ve certainly made the league more interesting. It ebbed and flowed and our boys are gutted having thought they had done enough.

“We came out firing in the second half (to go from 22-25 to 39-30 with 18 minutes remaining) but Currie kept on going and you have to do that. In the previous match we beat them in the last minute so that’s squared things 
I suppose.”

However, despite their heroics, Currie are still bottom of the table albeit with more wins than the two teams above them due to the bonus-point system.

This reflected why coach Ally Donaldson wasn’t getting carried away even though his team have now won five in row, including cup ties.

“Technically and tactically there’s a lot we have to get right,” he said, “but we showed a lot of character to come back.

“Once you get a win, what that does for a team can’t be underestimated especially one like ours whose back three were all at school last year. One of the problems of schoolboy rugby is it is not competitive enough and it is a big step up.”

Currie took a 6-0 lead through effervescent full-back George Horne, but Hamish Watson, who at one staged look liked winning it for Accies single handed with his rumbustious running, had the first try converted by Alex Black, who’d earlier landed a penalty.

Adam Alexander and Greg Campbell then swapped tries and the last named responded again when Horne had crossed for Currie. Tries by Ross Weston and Ethan Pollock on either side of the interval put the visitors ahead, but Nyle Godsmark (2) and Jamie McCarthy put the hosts in charge. They hadn’t reckoned on a late tour de force featuring a second Weston try and it was ironic such a try-fest – which also featured a charged-down conversion and yellow cards for Currie’s Mike Vernel and Accies’ Ronan Seydak was – decided by a kick.

• Scorers:

Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Godsmark (2), G Campbell (2), Watson, McCarthy. Conversions: Black (3). Penalty: Black.

Currie: Tries: Weston (2), Pollock, Alexander, Horne. Conversions: Horne (3). Penalties: Horne (2). Drop goal: Semple.

Edinburgh Accies: J Sole; N Godsmark, E Campbell, I Berthinussen, M Coupar; R Bonner, A Black; P Cringle, M Liness, S Strudwick, J McCarthy, R Seydak, G Campbell (captain), N Aitken, H Watson. Subs: F Rawlinson, J McSorley, M Campbell, J Farndale, D Campbell.

Currie: G Horne; H Elms, E Pollock, A Alexander, R Smith; J Semple, R Snedden; J Cox, D Cherry, A Hamilton, G Temple, P Neacsu, M Vernel, R Weston, M Cairns (captain). Subs: S McInally, F Watts, C McLean, S Mullins, M Peacock.

Referee: N Paterson.