Super 6 Heriot’s survived a spirited challenge by Hawick as the two teams shared eight tries and made a mockery of the form book in this free-flowing Scottish Cup semi-final.
Hawick, who finished second bottom of the Premiership, hadn’t played a game in more than a month while, for Heriot’s, it was a second semi-final in the space of seven days.
With next week’s grand play-off final against Ayr already set up, four-times cup winners Heriot’s were quietly confident of adding the 2019 Scottish Cup final at Murrayfield to their end-of-season tilt at silverware.
Hawick had different ideas: having put their name on the trophy twice in their history – last time in 2002 – they were looking to upset the odds and beat Heriot’s for the first time this season.
A scruffy kick off and a tentative start by both sides was abruptly enlivened after ten minutes when Heriot’s scrum half Alex Ball picked up a ball that squirted out the side of a scrum and weaved his way 60 metres up the pitch before being brought down in front of the posts. He managed to get the ball back and it passed into the hands of inside centre Robert Kay to cross and score. His centre partner Ross Jones added the conversion.
Barely a minute had passed when Heriot’s full back Jack Blain gathered and charged at the line past some half-hearted tackling for the second try. Jones converted.
If Heriot’s thought they would just pile on the points they were soon disabused of the notion. Hawick recovered and surprised the home team with their first real attack of the game and a clutch of green jerseys helped sweep hooker Matt Carryer over the line, stand off Lee Armstrong converting.
And just as the first quarter ended Hawick outside centre Keith Davies found a gaping hole in the Heriot’s defence and ran in to score. Armstrong added the extras to square the match.
And Hawick then surged into the lead with Davies going over in the corner for his second and his team’s third try. The conversion attempt hit the post.
As play see-sawed unpredictably, Heriot’s hit back with Blain’s second try, Jones conversion putting the home team back in the lead only for the visitors to edge ahead when Armstrong kicked a 25 metre penalty.
The frantic pace continued into the second half and Jones’s 40 metre penalty saw the lead change again in favour of Heriot’s. Advantage tilted back to Hawick when they enjoyed a period of sustained pressure that finally built up the momentum for Carryer to snatch his second try, Armstrong converting from the touchline.
Heriot’s set up a lineout and rolling maul inside the Hawick 22. The first time the maul was illegally pulled down, the second time it marched over the line and loosehead prop Josh Scott got the credit for the try that squared the match. Jones’ conversion regained the lead and Heriot’s absorbed the remaining pressure, including a crucial penalty miss by Armstrong, to close out the match.