Heriot’s hang on to keep in touch with leaders

HERIOT’S battled to a sixth straight win in a row but the players’ ears were burning from the verbal battering coach Phil Smith gave them as he denounced their performance on the day as “utter rubbish”.

Jack Turley and Alex Henderson go for the ball for Heriots but no try was given. Picture: Toby Williams
Jack Turley and Alex Henderson go for the ball for Heriots but no try was given. Picture: Toby Williams

“That was rubbish from us,” Smith said. “That was not a championship-winning team out there. Our first try came after three rapid phases and Aberdeen couldn’t cope.

“All I am asking is that they repeat that a few more times and score a few more tries. But we didn’t even get close after that first try.

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“It was always a bit pedestrian from us after that. It is disappointing because I know how good these players are. They are so good as a team when they really play and show that they are championship contenders.

“There will be more to come, there has to be, because what we saw today isn’t going to be good enough.”

Rubbish or not, the win means that Heriot’s are now in third place in the Premiership, behind Gala only on points difference, and chasing Melrose. For Aberdeen, the losing bonus point keeps them third from the bottom as they contemplate a trip to Melrose this weekend.

Aberdeen were easily the best team in the first half and might have been out of sight but for their inability to complete promising moves. Playing off a firm-set scrum and a well-organised line-out, the pack created plenty of chances only for the backs to squander them with a succession of fumbles, loose passes and bad decisions.

Stand-off Graeme Clow kicked two early penalties to put Aberdeen into the lead before Heriot’s suddenly surged towards the opposition line. They were stopped a few metres out illegally, but the penalty was reversed for some backchat. When the relieving clearance failed to find touch, Heriot’s drove forward again and full-back Keith Buchan off-loaded to winger Max Nimmo for the try.

On the half-hour Heriot’s loosehead Craig Owenseon was yellow-carded for deliberately killing the ball at a ruck inside his own 22. Aberdeen went for touch from the penalty, won the line-out and rolled the maul towards the line. When it was brought down the referee went to the posts to signal the penalty try and then to his pocket to send Heriot’s hooker Stewart Mustard to the bin.

A few minutes later, the third yellow card of the afternoon was flashed at Aberdeen’s tighthead Struan Cessford when he brought down a maul.

Heriot’s suddenly got some useful possession and fed the ball to outside centre Max Learmonth for a second try. Stand-off Graham Wilson’s conversion put home noses in front by a single point.

Both teams were restored to 15 men soon after the restart but Aberdeen lock Jamie Metcalfe was next for the bin after being caught offside once too often.

It got worse for Aberdeen five minutes later when Struan Cessford was penalised for the same type of offence, earning his second yellow and therefore a red. With Aberdeen reduced to 13, Heriot’s pressed home their advantage. When a scrum collapsed near the line, the referee went under the posts to award a penalty try and an eight-point lead.

Aberdeen refused to lie down, however, and a turnover in the middle of the pitch allowed them to launch an attack that flowed from one side to the other before Angus Rennie scored a classic winger’s try.

The last ten minutes were scrappy, with Heriot’s forced to tackle desperately to keep 14-man Aberdeen at bay.

Aberdeen coach Kevin Wyness said: “We shot ourselves in the foot for the second week running.

“You can look at the scoreboard and see how close it was. We had them rattled in the first half and we always believed we could win the game but we made it hard on ourselves.

“You don’t win games with three yellow cards and a red. We just need to click. If it clicks we will hurt other teams, but if it doesn’t we are only going to hurt ourselves.”