Heriot’s will sit proudly at the top of the BT Premiership over Christmas, four points clear of the chasing pack and impatiently waiting for the league to get under way again in January so they can stay in the groove.
Heriot’s 32-20 Edinburgh Accies
Scorers: Heriot’s – Tries: Armstrong, Boisseau, McGregor, Bryce. Cons: Wilson (3). Pens: Wilson (2): Laidlaw. Accies – Tries: Pecquer (2), Seyday, Liness.
Bottom club Edinburgh Accies gave the leaders a fright in a frantic first half that saw the lead change hands six times as the visitors ran in three tries before having the game taken away from them in the second.
Coach Phil Leck will rue the lack of a reliable kicker as stand off Alex Glashan had an off-day. He missed all three conversions, none of them easy, admittedly, that would have kept the pressure on the home side and given Accies an edge. But the penalty attempt the Scotland 7s international and Edinburgh pro sliced wide from directly in front of the posts was well within the easy category. The game was entering its final quarter and Accies heads visibly went down after that.
By contrast, Heriot’s scrum half and captain Graham Wilson only missed one place kick all afternoon when a long-range attempt hit the bar, He contributed 14 points with his boot, more than the winning margin, keeping his team in touch at crucial stages and, with his second penalty after 21 minutes, passing the 2,000 milestone in his personal points tally for the club.
Tries came thick and fast over the first 40 minutes, including a double from Accies winger Sam Pecqueur, who crossed the line for his first when the ball went wide after No 8 Jamie Sole and blindside flanker Ronan Seydak muscled their way into the danger area. Pecqueur repeated the formula just before the half-hour after centre Chris Dean crashed over the gainline and provided the perfect pass.
Heriot’s were lucky to add a try to Wilson’s penalties when Accies hooker David Bates overthrew a five-metre lineout in his own 22 and it dropped kindly into the arms of flanker Jonathon Armstrong, who was able to go over virtually unopposed.
Accies immediately made amends by stealing a lineout inside the Heriot’s 22 and setting up an unstoppable maul with Seydak carrying over. But the carousel kept on turning as, minutes later, the ball flashed through the hands of the Heriot’s backs to reach Harry Boisseau on the left wing while he still had enough space to squeeze through for the touchdown. Wilson’s conversion from the touchline made the half-time score 20-15.
“At half-time, we were worried,” said Heriot’s coach Phil Smith. “We were up against it. They had scored three good tries, tries that we should have prevented, so we fixed that and went out for the second half and today’s result probably gives us security that we will be in the top four of the league at least.
“I don’t think we played very well, to be honest, but Accies defended very well. We were looking to get more line breaks and play a bit of rugby but the boys were maybe a wee bit selfish at times or we might have won by more.
“We are in a bit of a winning groove just now and it’s a pity there has to be a Christmas break, but we are prepared for that.”
Accies had an early chance to get back into the game soon after the restart when Pecqueur got the ball in space and threatened to complete his hat-trick but he was quickly closed down and the chance was lost. Instead, it was Heriot’s who got the try at the conclusion of a series of fiercely-contested lineouts and mauls that saw hooker David McGregor get the score as his pack drove over the line.
With Heriot’s ten points ahead, it was a straightforward tactical decision to try and peg them back and go for goal when home stand off Gregor McNeish was caught in possession right on his 22, but Glashan made a hash of the penalty and suddenly Heriot’s were at the other end of the pitch with the pack driving over the line, only for the referee to rule the ball held up. What his pack didn’t quite manage, full-back Glen Bryce did when he collected an off-load some 25 metres out in a relatively unpromising position that he transformed into a try by dancing round and through a clutch of unconvincing tacklers to get the bonus-point try.
Accies had enough left in the tank to score a fourth try by substitute hooker Michael Liness and grab a consolation bonus point that puts them on 19 points at the foot of the Premiership, where they are level with Boroughmuir, whose game against Currie was postponed. Accies now have to front up to Ayr, who occupy second place in the table, on 10 January when the league revives, while Heriot’s make the journey across the city to see if they can stay in the groove against Boroughmuir.
Heriot’s: G Bryce; C Simpson, M Learmonth, K Buchan, H Boisseau; G McNeish, G Wilson, G Cameron, D McGregor, S Cessford, R Nimmo, J Turley, J Armstrong, J Ritchie, J Hill. Subs: S Mustard, N Borel, J McLean, C Mulligan, D Somerville.
Accies: R Young; S Pecqueur, C Dean, I Berthinussen, J Marples; A Glashan, J Munro; A Allan, D Bates, L Niven, A Toolis, G Campbell, R Seydak, T Stuart, J Sole. Subs: M Liness, D Morrison, J McCarthy, R Godsmark, R Wilson.
Referee: D Changleng.