Boroughmuir coach Fergus Pringle insisted no blame could be attached to goal-kicker Harry Leonard after the Edinburgh professional saw two late attempts miss the target in an 11-12 RBS Premiership defeat by Gala at Meggetland.
With the final act of an exhilarating match, 20-year-old Leonard dragged a penalty across the face of the posts from a similar angle to where he had struck an upright with the conversion attempt of the game’s only try – by Kian Coertze – ten minutes earlier. However, Pringle said: “Harry missed the conversion and the penalty (but) you can’t really blame him.
“Other opportunities existed, like when they had a yellow card and we missed with the line-out down on their line.
“The way the guys fought and played out of our half to get field position and force the (last gasp) penalty was a positive; nine times out of ten Harry would have kicked that over and we’d have gone away happy.”
In refusing to panic despite being seven points adrift at the bottom of the table, Pringle also absolved Leonard from going for goal with a penalty from the other side of the pitch with ’Muir 11-12 behind to instead punt to touch.
“The only reason why Harry didn’t kick the penalty was because he thought it was out of his range with the wind the way it was,” added Pringle.
“The young guys did well. Damien (Hoyland) in his first full season keeps on developing and Jordan (Edmunds), the other wing, is only 18. They will benefit from this experience.”
The difference, of course, is that Leonard is about to enter a third year attached to Edinburgh Rugby thanks to a contract extension awarded 12 months ago and ironically he joined Chris Paterson in the record books by slotting seven penalties in a match earlier this season, against Scarlets.
In another irony, Boroughmuir kept frequent top scorer and ex-pro Ally Warnock, who once kicked a last minute goal to beat Glasgow, on the bench throughout.
It was a move many found as mystifying, as substituting former clubs’ international scrum half Calum Cusiter, admittedly for the highly reliable Sam Johnson, when he appeared to be turning the tide the home side’s way.
Explaining that decision, Pringle said: “Calum has come back in and is managing rugby with his work.
“Sam came in and did a good job (including) a couple of good box kicks.
“We just backed both of them, rotated them a bit. We gave Harry a full game and Ally Warnock didn’t get on.”
The demeanour of the two coaches could hardly have been more contrasting and added another twist to an enthralling spectacle even with the dearth of tries.
“For me it is not about an uphill battle in terms of where you are, it is about performance,” declared Pringle.
“It is still close in the league. Anybody can beat anybody on the day and we have a good run of home games coming up. Our forwards worked really hard and the epitome of that was Andy Rose, along with back row colleagues Neil Rodger and Jamie Swanson.
“Our line-out just didn’t give us the platform at times and that came back to bite us but we stopped Gala scoring a try – another positive.
“It helped having Ben’s passing skills to move the ball around, but we just didn’t give the ball to him enough.”
Meanwhile, Gala coach George Graham was left fuming at referee Kevin White, saying: “I’m really, really angry and not just because of the ineptitude of the official – you can quote me on that and I don’t care if it gets me into trouble – but our general play as well.”
Gala led by four penalties from Lee Miller to a couple from Leonard before Coertze’s try from a driven line-out closed the gap to a point.
“If you were to have picked the team in the title hunt you wouldn’t have said it was Gala. That’s what annoys me,” said Graham.
Maybe, but on sheer will-to-win there is more chance of a Gala side, who shrugged off three yellow cards, closing a six point gap on Ayr at the top of the table than Boroughmuir leapfrogging a second bottom Dundee High side who are seven points above them and the reason more than any other, including missed goal-kicks, was a superb cover tackle by Craig Borthwick on the overlapping Damien Hoyland five minutes from time.
On such incidents are titles won and relegation issues truly settled.
Boroughmuir: Try – Coertze. Penalties – Leonard (2).
Gala: Penalties – Miller (4).
Boroughmuir: K Buchan, D Hoyland, B Cairns, S Wilson, J Edmunds, H Leonard, C Cusiter, N Fraser, M Brown, J Latta, G Scott, I Moody, A Rose (captain), J Swanson, N Rodger. Subs: D Millar, K Coertze, J Latta, J Achilles, A Warnock.
Gala: A McLean, C Robertson, C Auld, B Turner, G Young, L Miller, George Graham, L Pettie, R Anderson, E McQuillan, C Weir, O Palepoi, C Keddie, Gary Graham, S Cairns. Subs: C Mackintosh, T Weir, C Borthwick, C Dods, D Owenson.
Referee: K White (SRU).