HERIOT’S have acquired a winning habit that has them sitting proudly alone at the top of the BT Premiership with maximum points from three outings, not to mention the game they have in hand over their rivals.
While Melrose lost unexpectedly to Boroughmuir at the Greenyards to concede top spot, the defending champions were rolling with the punches to put away a resilient Hawick outfit, finally outmuscling and outscoring the Greens on a try count of five to four.
The win at Goldenacre, where the home side has not lost in the league since January, was more comfortable than the statistics might suggest. Heriot’s set piece was utterly dominant and when one try opportunity was squandered, it was almost guaranteed that another would be along in a minute.
Meanwhile Hawick, who defeated Heriot’s in the semi-final of last season’s Scottish Cup to deny them a potential double, kept being knocked over only to bounce back time after time. The Borderers, played three lost two before Saturday, were never ahead but they were always in with a shout right up to the last five minutes.
Heriot’s coach Phil Smith said: “We started really well and then there was a kind of lull and the tries they got were rubbish scores to give away. I felt we were fairly dominant. It wasn’t as if it was easy but we were always going to score because our set piece was so strong and we kept letting them back in it and putting ourselves under pressure to keep performing. But we did. The players have got in the habit of winning and are pretty comfortable with it.”
The game’s first points came from Heriot’s, scrum-half Graham Wilson did what he does best, scooping up the ball at the rear of a ruck and following his pack over the line. The club’s leading points scorer then converted his try to begin a personal haul that would add up to 21 by the end of the afternoon.
Hawick were being overpowered at every scrum but they were not being overawed and their competitive instincts carried a constant threat. They built up a useful head of steam and spent several minutes camped inside the Heriot’s 22 with nothing to show for their efforts.
A second try for Heriot’s after 25 minutes appeared to put them on easy street as the ball flashed from one side of the pitch to the other for full-back Charlie Simpson to score on the left. Wilson converted from the touchline.
Hawick rallied and exploited a speculative hack ahead from midfield, inside centre Wiaan Greibenow winning the foot race for the touch down. Lee Armstrong’s conversion brought them back into the game.
When Hawick No 8 Keith Davies was sin-binned at a lineout, Heriot’s turned to their dominant scrum and went for a pushover try that was successful at the second attempt, clearing the space for Wilson to get both try and conversion.
With half-time approaching Heriot’s turned on the style, but a free-flowing passing movement suddenly turned ugly as Hawick winger Darcy Graham intercepted and ran 60 metres to go under the posts.
It got even more ugly from Heriot’s point of view minutes after the restart as Hawick outside centre John Coutts broke up the middle and off-loaded to Davies who passed inside to flanker Stuart Graham for the try. Armstrong’s conversion brought the sides level but Graham was injured in the next collision and was carried off.
Heriot’s went to their scrum again, choosing to use it rather than attempt relatively simple penalties from inside the opposition 22. A yellow card for captain Bruce McNeil weakened the Hawick pack at a critical phase and there was no stopping the subsequent Heriot’s scrum that rumbled over the line for the bonus point try scored by No 8 Jason Hill.
Hawick still did not roll over, despite a Cameron Ferguson try, the best of the bunch, finished off after the ball had passed through a dozen pairs of hands. It rendered a fourth comeback try by Hawick replacement scrum-half Sean Goodfellow, only good enough for a single bonus point.
Heriot’s chose to kick a final penalty award in front of the posts and, with the scoreboard recording Wilson’s success before he had even drawn his boot back, put the game to bed.
Hawick coach Nikki Walker said: “Scoring four tries is a positive. It is always difficult against big powerful sides like Heriot’s whose scrum and maul basically won them the game. We made them really work for their victory. I am happy with the effort and the endeavour the boys put in. We showed a lot of resilience to still have a chance of winning it at the end.”
Scorers: Heriot’s – Tries: Wilson (2), Simpson, Hill, Ferguson. Cons: Wilson (4). Pen: Wilson. Hawick – Tries: Greibenhow, D Graham, S Graham, Goodfellow. Cons: Armstrong (3).
Heriot’s: Simpson, Matthews, Steele, Ferguson, Boisseau, McNeish, Wilson, McCallum, Liness, Cessford, Nimmo van Heerden, Turley, Dewar, Hill. Subs: Couper, Bouab, I Wilson, T Wilson, Learmonth.
Hawick: Weir, D Graham, Greibenow, Coutts, Russell, Armstrong, Cottrell, Muir, Gibson, Little, McNeil, Charters, S Graham, Scott, Davies. Subs: Renwick, Landels, Simpson, Mactaggart, Goodfellow.
Referee: G Ormiston.