HOLDERS Heriot’s remain on track for a successful defence of the BT Cup after emerging with a hard-earned victory from a compelling and physical encounter between two sides intent on playing attractive rugby despite the difficult conditions.
Scorers: Currie: Try: Nairn. Con: Reynolds. Pen: Reynolds. Heriot’s: Try: Mustard. Pens: Wilson (2).
The Goldenacre side spent lengthy spells doing defensive chores, but clinched victory by capitalising on a scoring opportunity at a key stage, securing the vital points during the opening minutes after the restart.
“We came out second half and did the right things. I invited them to be a bit more ambitious because we were a bit turgid,” said Heriot’s coach Phil Smith. “I’m not saying we deserved to win because if you put it on stats that wasn’t true. But it’s a cup and we are still in it.”
The numbers to which he was referring would show that Currie had the bulk of the possession over the 80 minutes and had four unsuccessful penalty attempts – albeit only one of them could be considered straightforward – by Joe Reynolds, a man who has frequently been a match-winner in the past.
Currie coach Ben Cairns said of the centre: “Credit to Joe for stepping up and backing himself every time to nudge it. He was striking the ball really well and missing by inches. Against a top club side, that’s what it comes down to – those margins, today they just didn’t go for us.”
Honours were even in the opening exchanges, with Heriot’s enjoying a spell in the ascendancy and the home side responding in kind with impressive 17-year-old winger Robbie Nairn offering an early glimpse of his pace with a run that tested the visitors’ defence.
Heriot’s were the first team on the scoresheet when Graham Wilson banged over a penalty from 45 metres after ten minutes. Within five minutes Currie had struck back, Nairn, making only his second senior start, darting through a gap in the defence and shrugging off a last-ditch tackle to plunge over for a try and leave Reynolds with a straightforward conversion.
Both sides were determined to play expansive rugby, but it was another kick by Wilson that made the next impression on the scoreboard, the Heriot’s scrum-half landing a second penalty of the afternoon. However, the hosts ended the half with a flourish and the final action was a successful penalty by Reynolds which gave Currie a 10-6 advantage at the break.
Heriot’s restarted in determined fashion, but, despite incessant pressure, failed to unlock a resolute home defence until the 53rd minute when the hosts were finally undone by a lineout drive that ended with Stewart Mustard applying the final touch for an unconverted try.
The hosts responded instantly and a rampaging run by skipper Ross Weston carried play into the opposition 22 for the first time in the second half and the recycled ball was moved out to Ruaridh Smith, who was thwarted just short of the line.
With an hour on the clock, Reynolds had an opportunity to edge Currie back into the lead, but he pulled a penalty attempt just wide of the target. The momentum was firmly with Currie, but Reynolds was again awry with his next effort on goal and the contest remained delicately poised entering the final ten minutes.
Smith was foiled with a delicate chip and chase as the hosts mounted another flurry of attacks. Then, with advantage being played, Reynolds had a drop-goal attempt charged down, and Matt Goodwin appeared to have reacted quickest to claim a try. However, after consulting his assistant, the referee ruled that the scorer had been ahead of the kicker and brought play back for the original offence, but Reynolds again shaved the wrong side of the upright with his kick.
He was presented with one final scoring opportunity but capped an uncharacteristically disappointing day with the boot with a final miss that sees the defending champions progress to the last eight of the competition.
Currie: H Elms, R Nairn, J Reynolds, M McPhillips, R Smith, J Semple, R Snedden, R Patterson, M Goodwin, M Cusack, M Vernal, C McLean, P Mundell, M Peacock, R Weston.
Subs: G Carson, J Cox, M Mladenovic, R Denonain, C Logan.
Heriot’s: G Bryce, D McMaster, L Steele, K Buchan, C Simpson, G McNeish, G Wilson, N Borel, D McGregor, S Cessford, R Nimmo, J Turley, J Armstrong, J Ritchie, J Hill. Subs: S Mustard, J McLean, R Carmichael, JP Ward, J Beecroft.
Referee: C Rudkin.