Heriot’s remain in the hunt for a BT Premiership and Cup double after squeezing past Currie in a tense affair at Malleny Park that tested the resolve of the current holders and ultimately saw them display the character that led them to the silverware last season.
Currie 10-11 Heriot’s
Scorers: Currie – Try: Nairn. Con: Reynolds. Pen: Reynolds. Heriot’s – Try: Mustard. Pens: Wilson (2).
The Goldenacre side’s coach, Phil Smith, admitted that the festive break had not helped his preparations, but he was happy with aspects of the performance and relieved simply to book a place in the last eight of the competition.
“I was nervous throughout because you finish on 13 December, the boys head off and do their thing, then they come back together as a group. They haven’t actually trained together”, said Smith. “I thought defensively we were very good. But we couldn’t build any momentum because we kept giving away penalties and that was disappointing.”
In the home camp, there were again signs that coach Ben Cairns is well on the way to creating a side that melds youth and experience. In the former category, were impressive performances from a young back three featuring Harvey Elms at full-back, with Ruaridh Smith and Robbie Nairn on either flank. They brought pace and flair to a Currie team that was also well served by skipper Ross Weston, whose consistently high standards are an example to the youngsters in the squad, and by Glasgow pro Mike Cusack, who made an important contribution as the hosts mounted a strong finish to the match.
Cairns singled out Nairn, a debutant the previous week, for particular praise, saying: “A special mention for Robbie Nairn. He is 17, straight out of school having won the schools cup with Watson’s and come in for his first game of senior rugby against Boroughmuir. He was probably the stand-out player in that match and made himself undroppable.”
On Saturday’s showing, the teenager is set to become a regular in Cairns’ squad over the coming weeks as Currie step up their challenge for a place in the league play-offs.
The youngster had offered an early insight into the threat he posed with a searing break. His second contribution in 15 minutes was a superb solo effort that took him past a handful of defenders before dotting down for an outstanding try. Joe Reynolds added the conversion to give the hosts a 7-3 lead – Graham Wilson having already opened the scoring with a penalty.
Another spell of Heriot’s pressure saw Wilson land another three-pointer, although Reynolds cancelled that out with a similar effort just before the interval.
Heriot’s spent the opening minutes of the second half camped inside the Currie 22 and they snatched the lead when Stewart Mustard was on hand to apply the final touch after a powerful surge following a close range lineout.
“We came out second half and did the right things. There was a bit rustiness and a bit nervousness because we haven’t been together. I invited them to be a bit more ambitious because it was just a bit turgid,” said Smith.
However, while that period in the ascendancy yielded the score that would eventually see Heriot’s into the quarter-finals, it was the last time they threatened the home line as Currie laid siege to the visitors’ defence. Ruaridh Smith came close to breaking through, and the hosts thought they had snatched what would have been the winning points when Matt Goodwin dived on to a loose ball after a drop goal attempt was charged down. But, after consulting his assistant, the referee disallowed the score and awarded Currie a penalty on the basis that Goodwin had been in front of the kicker. That decision caused some consternation among the home supporters as a Heriot’s hand had been last to touch the ball.
From the ensuing penalty, Reynolds made a good contact but his effort drifted just wide. That was his third miss of the second half and he also failed with one final kick.
“I’m not saying we deserved to win because, if you put it on stats, that wasn’t true”, said Smith. “But it’s a cup and we are still in it.”
Currie: H Elms; R Nairn, J Reynolds, M McPhillips, R Smith; J Semple, R Snedden; R Patterson, M Goodwin, M Cusack, M Vernal, C McLean, P Mundell, M Peacock, R Weston. Subs: G Carson, J Cox, M Mladenovic, R Denonain, C Logan.
Heriot’s: G Bryce; D McMaster, L Steele, K Buchan, C Simpson; G McNeish, G Wilson; N Borel, D McGregor, S Cessford, R Nimmo, J Turley, J Armstrong, J Ritchie, J Hill. Subs: S Mustard, J McLean, R Carmichael, JP Ward, J Beecroft.