Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has been battling to keep the excitement of his players in check as they prepare for a clash with Ayr in the Scottish Cup Final at BT Murrayfield tomorrow (kick-off 3.30pm).
The Goldenacre men were edged out in a thrilling Tennent’s Premiership play-off final against the same opponents three weeks ago. Smith allowed his squad a respite before starting the build up to tomorrow’s opportunity to avenge that loss. And now, with the preparations virtually complete, they are raring to go.
“We have now refocused after giving the players a bit of time off, picking up on a couple of areas of our game that need to improve to give us a chance,” said the coach. “The carrot of running out at Murrayfield has meant there has been a real enthusiasm in our training and I am really trying to keep a tight rein on the boys so that they don’t blow up early on the international pitch.”
Both clubs will become Super 6 outfits next season, and Smith is confident that the occasion will be another exhibition of the skills that exist at this level of the game.
“If the two groups of players can again play to form, this should be a fitting spectacle for Murrayfield. The game at Millbrae saw the two best teams in the country throwing everything at it and getting plenty reward for their endeavour, though I am sure the defence analysts would argue differently.
“Murrayfield is where every team would want to finish their season I am sure. I just hope we are able to put on a performance fitting of the arena and occasion, so showcasing the club game.”
It is a sixth appearance in the final for Heriot’s in the 24 years since the tournament was introduced. They have lost one of those ties and share the record for the most victories with Melrose and Boroughmuir.
Smith has made only one change to the side that faced Ayr, with Rory McMichael selected in place of Craig Robertson on the wing.
Veteran front rower Stewart Mustard again starts on the bench. He is poised to contest his fifth cup final, having had his first Murrayfield experience in 2003.
The headline contest is the penultimate fixture on a six-match card. The final of the Sarah Beaney Cup, a rematch of last year’s women’s showdown between Watsonians and Hillhead/Jordanhill, will wrap up the action on the main pitch (5.45pm).
Watsonians captain Nicola Nightingale is relishing a return to the national stadium and an opportunity to atone for defeat last season, believing she and her colleagues were overawed by the occasion and that allowed their Glaswegian opponents to dominate from the kick-off, establishing a 32-0 half time lead before kicking on for a 68-12 win. However, Sonians have matured as a unit and they will go into the match brimming with confidence.
Nightingale said: “It was a big occasion for the girls last year because it was the first time Watsonians had been in a Sarah Beaney Cup final and the club made a big thing of it.
“I think this year we’re ready. We’ve learned a lot from last year and the difference in the team in 12 months is massive so we’re definitely there to fight this weekend.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Livingston Ladies will go head to head with Greenock Wanderers in the Bowl final on the back pitches (3.30pm). The Almondvale side are newcomers to the competition and have clocked up the miles on their way to Murrayfield, winning at Stornoway in the semi-final.
Livi club president and scrum-half Lee Anne Steel said: “It’s going to be tough as we know what Greenock are capable of. However, we’re going to give it our best and enjoy the day”.