Heriot’s coach Phil Smith slams SRU pro draft policy as ‘a shambles’
The Edinburgh side had led 25-12 in the second half and seemed on course for glory but Ayr chipped away and Climo was the hero as, moments after missing a conversion for the lead from the same wide left touchline, the left-footed Kiwi stand-off nailed the demanding effort under immense pressure to spark wild celebrations.
It was a bitter blow for Smith, pictured, who described the atmosphere in the Heriot’s dressing room afterwards as “the lowest in my seven years” and, while praising and congratulating Ayr, felt he had to comment on the situation in which the opposition had two young Glasgow Warriors professionals in their ranks.
Stafford McDowall, the 6ft 4in, 16-stone centre, who is tipped for big things, got the late try which brought Ayr back to within a point before Climo missed the conversion, after Robbie Nairn, a 6ft 3in, 16-stone winger, who signed a pro contract with Glasgow last week, had come off the bench.
“I’m trying not to bitch about the pros in the opposition but you bring on Robbie Nairn, who is some sort of mountain, he affects their final try because he comes in and creates all sorts of chaos,” said Smith after the game.
He said Heriot’s had not been offered any professionals for the final and added: “If I’m to be brutal about it, it’s just a travesty that the SRU won’t admit they can’t function the pro draft system fairly. It’s a shambles, been a shambles for years and nobody will step up and recognise that something simple would make it fairer.
“It’s a bugbear. Would I have mentioned it if we’d have won? I probably would have because it’s just a case of ‘come on guys, just play for your club’. We feel we are the strongest club.
“I suggested a couple of years ago that when you get to semi-finals and beyond of the cup it should be different [in terms of pros drafted in]. If Jed-Forest had got to the semi-finals, no pros would have been able to play against them because they’re a lower division. Just make that across the board and finish the season with club players.
“Stafford McDowall plays against Saracens [in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals] and then plays against us the next Saturday [in the Tennent’s Premiership Grand Final]. Sorry, did he need game time that weekend, did he? Come on, get a grip.
“But that’s a deflection from a game that was pretty good, that we feel we contributed to and just had a poor moment at the end.”
Smith will now move on to coach the Heriot’s amateur team as Ciaran Beattie takes the reins for the Super 6 side next season, when he will be pitting his wits against Ayr coach Peter Murchie, who was full of praise for his side’s character to fight back.
It was a cracking final, which Ayr started brightly as wing Kyle Rowe, who had scored two tries in the Premiership Grand Final win over Heriot’s, went over for an early score.
Ross Jones pegged back a penalty for Heriot’s before Ayr hooker Robbie Smith stretched the lead.
But Heriot’s responded with tries by their superb full-back Charlie Simpson and then No 8 Struan Dewar, on the stroke of half-time, to put them 15-12 ahead.
The boot of Jones and a piece of magic by Simpson gave Heriot’s a grip on proceedings, the full-back’s glorious behind-the-back pass putting in wing Jack Blain to score.
Climo sparked the comeback as he finished off a slick move before the drama of McDowall’s late try, the missed conversion and the winning penalty.
Former Scotland and Glasgow full-back Murchie, who will now lead Ayr into the Super 6 after guiding the club to their second double and fourth cup win, said: “We didn’t play that well today but you’ve just got to win these finals. There won’t be much reviewing of this game, you just need to win it and we found a way to win.
“We had momentum going against us in the second half, we lost the ref at the scrum, the lineout was poor, but we found a way to get back into it.”
On Climo’s bold call to go for the sticks, the coach said: “It’s a judgment call. If our lineout had been firing all day then, yes, you go to the corner. But our lineout was probably less than 50 per cent so if your kicker has the belief to say ‘I’m going to kick that’ you’ve got to back him. To have the bottle to slot that from the touchline, on the wrong side for a left footer, it’s unbelievable skill.”