Rugby: Smith sees run as league survival catalyst

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Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has challenged his men to build on an impressive 27-17 RBS 
Edinburgh Regional Cup win over Edinburgh Accies and mount a challenge for the silverware, but insists the Goldenacrew men’s focus remains on securing Premiership survival.

“It’s not as important as the league or staying up,” he conceded. “But I love the cup and I think if you can get to Murrayfield, it’s the best day of the season, or it certainly can be. So we will be going for it.”

The three-times finalists produced several passages of outstanding rugby in an encounter that again showcased the high quality of the club game. Accies, who also contributed handsomely, were only three points in arrears with six minutes to play and looked capable of producing a repeat of the last ditch victory they posted when the sides met on league business in September.

Smith offered several fringe players a run out with the top side, adding: “We have a few guys who are carrying knocks so it was a chance to give them a rest. And our twos are going well at the moment so some of them deserve a shot.”

As was the case in the previous meeting, Accies had looked at risk of being overrun as the hosts – ably led by the ubiquitous Jason Hill, who was clearly revelling in his role as captain for the day – produced some scintillating handling play in a whirlwind opening that saw Russell Nimmo and Gavin Cameron go over for tries, 
with OJ Brown adding a 

Ruaridh Bonner clawed back three points for Accies after their first attack of note yielded a straightforward penalty, but Heriot’s continued to run the show and they carved open the Accies defence in 13 minutes to present Joseva Nayacavou with a scoring opportunity which he exploited, ignoring two men on his outside to touch down for try number three.

However, the visitors gained a foothold in the match then enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy, and they hauled themselves back into the contest when prop Alex Allan displayed an impressive turn of pace and power to thunder over from 30 metres after Accies skipper Greg Campbell had broken from inside his own half. Bonner’s conversion trimmed the home side’s advantage at the break to ten points.

Neither side added to their points tally in a tense start to the second period and, with 59 minutes on the clock, Accies sparked hopes in the away camp when Michael Liness barged over and Bonner added the extra two points to square matters. That score proved to be the cue for the hosts to raise the pace once more and they edged in front when one of Graham Wilson’s first tasks after coming off the bench was to slot a penalty from in front of the posts. And he also booted the conversion after Heriot’s clinched the bonus point when referee James Mathew awarded a penalty try and yellow carded Allan for a deliberate knock on that blotted an otherwise impressive contribution.

The 20-year-old was one of the successes in a side that pleased coach Simon Cross with many facets of the performance. “I thought that for 50 minutes a really young team full of Scottish guys were very, very good. For the first 20 minutes and then ten minutes in the second half we backed off a little bit, gave Heriot’s too many points and lost the game because of that. But there were some very encouraging signs there,” he said.

Across the city, another rising star, Currie lock Johnny Gray, bagged two of his side’s six tries as the Malleny Park side dominated proceedings to post an impressive 39-7 cup win over Boroughmuir at Meggetland.

Having scored on his debut for the club the previous week, winger Alex Fisken repeated the feat, while John Cox, Fergus Scott and Mike Erskine 
contributed the other tries.

Johnny Latta touched down for ‘Muir’s whose bleak day was compounded by the news that Dundee High had beaten Melrose in a postponed 
Premiership fixture to leapfrog the Meggetland men who now prop up the league table. Watsonians extended their winning run to eleven matches when they eased to a 49-7 success over Lasswade at Myreside, chalking up eight tries in the process. Chris Scott added two more to the brace he scored the previous week, and there was one apiece for Scott McKean, Ewan Miller, Harris Grant, 
Andrew Chalmers, Jonny Duthie and Jack Ferguson, while Mike Ker and Brian Walls shared the kicking duties to contribute the other points. Chris Quigley dotted down to claim a consolation score for the visitors.

Elsewhere, Musselburgh avenged their defeat against the same opponents seven days earlier when they squeezed past Murrayfield Wanderers 13-12 at Stoneyhill after another cracking encounter between two closely matched sides.

Meanwhile, Stewart’s Melville were on the road to face Biggar, looking to atone for a narrow defeat on league duty at the same venue earlier in the season. However, the Inverleith men failed to reverse that earlier outcome, going down 37-22 on this occasion.