Heriot’s will have a shot at a fourth Scottish Cup title next month after a dramatic semi-final victory over Glasgow Hawks yesterday.
They didn’t win the game but progress to the showpiece against Melrose at BT Murrayfield courtesy of being the away team – a rule which both sides were unaware of as this tense battle went into extra-time after a 10-10 deadlock.
There was an understanding that Heriot’s would progress if the scores after the additional 20 minutes remained level – but on the basis of first try scored. As it was there was no further scoring and the Goldenacre club celebrated at the end.
“We kind of got wind of it [the rules] and I was trying to get it on to the pitch,” said victorious coach Phil Smith after the finish. “Just keep the ball and see the game out and we’d win. Conditions weren’t great and it wasn’t a good game but I genuinely feel sorry for Hawks. What an effort they put in over 100 minutes of rugby. Some of our guys who I consider quite fit were out on their feet. It was going all directions.”
The opening exchanges were evenly matched and after Jack Steele had spurned a penalty chance for the hosts, Heriot’s got their rolling maul going and had the Hawks under pressure. A cross-kick from stand-off Gregor McNeish turned the screw further before referee Lloyd Linton brought things back for a 25m penalty, but visiting full-back John Semple struck the left-hand post.
Stand-off Steele sparked the home side’s most promising attack approaching the half-hour mark but indiscipline at the ruck saw a penalty conceded on the Heriot’s 22m line and the visitors made full advantage as they drove Hawks back. Another momentous maul drive had the home side creaking and, despite some illegal efforts which saw lock Andrew Linton subsequently sin-binned, Heriot’s found their way over for the opening score as openside Ian Wilson touched down.
Remarkably, Semple struck the right hand post this time and the lead remained at only five points, but the mismatch in the forwards battle was becoming more evident as the half wore on. The rampaging Heriot’s pack secured another sin-bin scalp in the 39th minute when inside centre David Milne was shown the yellow card as attempts to stem the maul reached desperation levels.
Hawks came out firing in the second half and unsurprisingly, given the way things had been going up front, it was out wide that they profited as right wing Robert Beattie seized on a gap and scampered clear to score. Steele missed the conversion and a difficult penalty chance a few minutes later to keep the encounter locked at 5-5.
The game suddenly sparked into life in the 57th minute when Hawks left wing Kerr Gossman surged into the Heriot’s half with a brilliant chip and take which had Heriot’s scrambling and flanker Wilson saw yellow as the attack was stopped illegally. The turnaround in the forward exchanges was epitomised moments later when the Hawks drove over and blindside Finn Gillies emerged to take the congratulations of his team-mates. Steele missed the conversion and a fairly straightforward penalty as the clock ticked into the last ten minutes.
Then Heriot’s wing Charlie Simpson chased his own kick and profited from full-back Sean Yacoubain’s failed attempt to kick into touch. Semple couldn’t make the touchline conversion and the tense battle went into extra time.
Semple had the only scoring opportunity, falling just short with a penalty from almost half way but, ultimately, it wasn’t needed.