A horror misunderstanding cost Currie a shot at their third championship title as Heriot’s snatched a dramatic last-gasp victory in Saturday’s BT Premiership semi-final at Malleny Park.
A ding-dong battle in which the lead changed a total of five times appeared to have swung decisively in the home side’s favour when No 8 Ross Weston finished off a driving maul for his second try of the afternoon to put Currie 22-21 up with minutes remaining.
Heriot’s pushed for a response but, when they knocked on to concede a scrum, it looked like their dreams of a double (or treble if you include the Charity Shield) were over.
Currie kept possession as the clock ticked down but scrum-half Richard Snedden was premature with the boot out and the Goldenacre side were given a lifeline, which they took superbly by setting up replacement stand-off Gregor McNeish for his second drop goal with the last kick to spark wild celebrations in the away camp.
It means Heriot’s, who first face Melrose in the BT Cup final a week on Saturday, will travel to Millbrae to face Ayr on 23 April and look to retain their Premiership crown.
Explaining the confusion at the death, Currie assistant coach Mark Cairns said: “I’ve spoken to [referee] Mike [Adamson] and he said he’s counted down from 30 to 20. Our scrum-half’s asked and he said ‘ten’ and he thought he had said ‘time’. Then, as he went to kick it, Mike has then screamed ‘ten seconds’ to try to stop him but it was too late.”
McNeish showed nerves of steel under the pressure of a desperate rush defence to slot the goal and Heriot’s coach Phil Smith praised his side’s spirit.
“We could end up with nothing, but we’re in the mix. It’s finals, it’s exciting,” he said. “Hopefully we can relax now we’re in two finals – relax and enjoy it.
“We actually attacked quite well but we made some stupid errors that let them back into the game. You’ve got to take your chances, and we probably took most of our chances when we got into their areas. The one time we didn’t take our chance led to a try for them.
“We’re unbeaten in 2016. That’s a nice wee thing for them. They just want to win.”
Although Currie will still be hurting this morning, the truth is that club rugby was the real winner on an afternoon of fabulous entertainment and classic knockout rugby.
Currie have now gone ten games without a win against Heriot’s but got off to a flying start with Weston’s try and a conversion followed by a penalty by James Semple.
But Heriot’s hit back to lead 15-10 at the break thanks to tries by hooker Michael Liness and lock Russell Nimmo and the boot of John Semple.
The home side roared out in the second half and wing Chris Logan marked his last game for the club before returning to Australia with a converted try which had them back in front.
A penalty by Hugh Fraser and a beautifully struck first drop goal by McNeish hauled Heriot’s back in front before the dramatic denouement played out.
Smith was at a loss to explain his side’s incredible run in this fixture. “It’s one of those things in rugby. You struggle against some teams, who other teams that you beat then beat,” he mused. “It’s a strange cycle. But certainly at the moment we’ve done well against Currie.
“I know Ayr hate coming here – they can’t win here – and Melrose struggle here. But we just seem able to do it.”
Cairns added: “I didn’t know we had gone ten games without beating them. Looking at the more recent games they’ve all been pretty close.
“It wasn’t in the boys’ minds and we went in feeling we were the form team. We’d done our homework and had a gameplan to beat them.
“A lot of that came good except for a bit of indiscipline and a couple of bad decisions – obviously everybody will talk about that last one – and that’s where these games are won and lost.
“I did feel we were the better team. We let them into it with some indiscipline.”