Edinburgh Accies will face Stirling County this Saturday in a last game of the season dogfight that could decide who will take the Premiership’s relegation play-off spot.
While Gala seek to claim the title at the other end of the league table, Hawick, who play Heriot’s, and Glasgow Hawks, who play an already relegated Aberdeen, will be reluctant participants in the three-edged thriller.
Accies briefly flattered to deceive as they scored two tries and went 11 points in front of Heriot’s but their defence, which had soaked up constant pressure all afternoon, finally cracked and let the visitors run in three tries in the space of 15 second-half minutes to seal the victory.
Accies coach Jonny Else said: “It is frustrating to lose because we were always in that game and we had a chance to win but silly mistakes let us down and let Heriot’s in. It was always going to come down to the Stirling game even if we had won today. It’s our cup final and we have to be ready for it.”
Accies went behind straight from the kick-off when stand-off Alex Blair knocked on in front of the posts and his team-mates gave away the penalty as they tried to recover the situation.
Heriot’s captain Graham Wilson kicked the penalty and sparked wave after wave of attacks which came to nothing against a rock-solid defence. Two penalty attempts by Wilson fell short, and when Accies did finally break out of their own half they gave a lesson in finishing when Tongan international hooker Aleki Altui crashed over and Blair added the conversion.
The score at half-time was 7-3 and Accies immediately added another try when full-back Jamie Sole beat his man to break the gainline and shift the ball to winger Jack Marples who carried it into the 22 where, a few phases later, Blair was able to run through a big gap in the retreating defence. He converted his own try.
Wilson steadied Heriot’s nerves with a couple of penalties that chipped away at the lead and then produced a decisive moment as his box kick from the rear of a scrum wasn’t dealt with and bounced kindly for outside centre Cameron Ferguson who ran 50 metres to go under the posts. Wilson’s conversion put Heriot’s ahead for a lead they would not relinquish.
The pressure built and Accies’ Nyle Godsmark was yellow carded for killing the ball in a ruck. Immediately afterwards, Heriot’s thought they had a second try but the referee ruled the ball was lost in contact over the line. It didn’t much matter because in the next attack club international lock Murray Douglas crossed the line after several phases of good handling set up the chance. And when No 8 Jason Hill was held up over the line, it only delayed the moment when right winger Liam Steele crossed to score in the left-hand corner.
Accies tried to rescue the bonus point with a late flurry of attacking but, although Ben Toolis was sent to the sin bin in the dying moments, they couldn’t get any change out of a determined Heriot’s team that refused to give anything away.
Scorers: Accies - Tries: Latui, Blair. Cons: Blair (2). Heriot’s: Tries - Ferguson, Douglas, Steele. Con: Wilson. Pens: Wilson 3.
Accies: J Sole; N Godsmark, E Campbell, I Berthinussen, J Marples; A Blair, M Campbell; D Morrison. A Latui, A Allan, A Toolis, J McCarthy, R Snape, H Watson, G Campbell. Replacements: M Liness, D Bates, R Seydak, R Bonner, N Armstrong.
Heriot’s: K Buchan; C Goudie, C Ferguson, R Carmichael, L Steele; OJ Brown, G Wilson; N Borel, K Bryce, G Cameron, M Douglas, R Nimmo, J Hill, C Mulligan, J Turley. Replacements: C Owneson, S Mustard, B Toolis, J MacLean, M Nimmo.
Referee: G Gordon.