Edinburgh Accies coach Simon Cross has hailed the commitment of his players after they secured a place in the promotion play offs with a 31-25 win away to fellow contenders Falkirk, despite playing more than half the game with only 14 men.
Reflecting on a fiercely contested encounter that saw Accies prop Kenny Blyth red carded after 36 minutes, Cross said: "Against quality players, I was delighted with the heart that they showed. It's all credit to the boys. For much of the game they were playing one man down - and a really influential player in Kenny Blyth - so I'm delighted."
Cross assumed the coaching responsibilities at the start of the season, with Jonny Else as his assistant, and has tasted defeat only once as Accies bid for a swift return to the top flight.
The Capital side needed one point to guarantee their place in the top four of Division Two and with it a play off slot. Falkirk, who have risen rapidly through the leagues in recent seasons, welcomed Accies to a sparkling new facility with a stand holding several hundred and a top quality playing surface. And it was not only the surroundings that were worthy of a higher division. Both sides sought to serve up entertaining rugby, and Accies in particular followed a game plan that has evolved this season.
Cross modestly deflected credit for their adventurous style, saying: "The players said at the start of the year that they wanted to play an offloading and fast paced game. I think we've now got the platform to be able to play that sort of game.
"We've got a good bunch of guys in the scrum and the line- out is functioning quite well. The players have decided that's what they want to do and we're just facilitating it as coaches.
"They work hard in training every week, then when it comes to game time, they work hard too. So the fruits of that labour has paid off. We needed one point, so to get a bonus point against a decent side like Falkirk - I'm happy with that."
Falkirk made an early breakthrough when Craig Sangster slotted a penalty but Accies posed difficult questions for the hosts who held out until the 24th minute when Tom Drennan broke from deep inside his own half and offloaded to Robin Snape who raced in for the score. Ruaridh Bonner converted and did so again when the visitors - already down to 14 men after Blyth was dismissed for punching - extended their lead two minutes before the interval when Iain Berthinussen did the spadework for Sam Atkin to score.
Gordon McGuire hauled Falkirk back into the game with an unconverted try and, although Bonner responded with a penalty, the hosts enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy. However, it took them until the 74th minute to boost their points tally - David Jamieson crashing over.
With the gap down to four points and the momentum swinging in the hosts' direction, Accies struck a double blow that sealed the win. First, Matt Coupar pounced when a Falkirk attack foundered and he raced over, then Jamie Sole sparked a flowing move that cut through the Falkirk defence to free skipper Dan Teague for the bonus point try. Bonner converted both to power Accies into a 31-13 lead with two minutes of regulation time to play.
However, the hosts were not yet spent and when their impressive lock Casey Gibson profited from a quickly taken penalty to score, Falkirk began to swarm all over a tiring Accies defence. Three minutes into injury time Niall Lear darted in for their fourth try and McGuire converted to trim the deficit to six points. One final frantic attack ended with a spilled ball and Accies had secured the victory, while the hosts claimed two hard earned bonus points to remain in contention for a top four finish.
Cross is now looking ahead to Saturday's derby with Stewart's Melville and relishing the opportunity to battle it out for promotion. He added: "I don't know anything about Premier One. But we'll find out in a couple of weeks."
Scorers: Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Snape, Atkin, Coupar, Teague. Cons: Bonner (4). Penalty: Bonner. Falkirk: Tries: McGuire, Jamieson, Gibson, Lear. Con: McGuire. Pen: Sangster.
Falkirk: C Harris, N Lear, S McAllister, R Denham, D Adamson, C Sangster, M Bruce, P Curry, K Burney, D Jamieson, C Gibson, A Marshall, C MacAskill, B Wyllie, C Ronald Subs: T Mocelutu, P Mavu, G McGuire, M Parsons.
Edinburgh Accies: J Sole, C Dickie, S Atkin, I Berthinussen, M Coupar, S Evans, R Bonner, J McSorley, S Jeffers, K Blyth, R Snape, N Pike, D Teague, A Lamb, T Drennan. Subs: M Liness, D MacLeod, G Campbell J Adams.
Referee: N Paterson