Nothing quite sums up the excruciatingly-tight nature of this season’s Scottish rugby premiership more than the plight of Currie.
Able to escape being dragged into a relegation play-off only by a combination of results elsewhere, Currie actually managed more wins – eight – than any other side bar the leading two.
What’s more, one of those two wins was against eventual champions Ayr, something that was repeated only by Aberdeen once the title was secure!
Talking of Aberdeen, it was against those opponents in early September that Currie would produce a result from 10-29 adrift at the interval that would ultimately prove invaluable, Adam Hinds slotting a penalty five minutes into added time for a 39-37 victory.
Reflecting on that escape and others, both minor and major, captain Mark Cairns said encouragement could be taken from the fact they had rallied when it was most needed. Also, results had shown that with better game management Currie could have turned three draws into wins that would have secured a top-four finish and a British and Irish Cup slot next season. “When we had our strongest squad I felt we were a match for any team in the league,” Cairns said. “Injuries really hurt us especially in important areas like hooker but the highlight was beating Ayr, helped, of course, by their stand off Ross Curle getting an early red card for a silly spear tackle. The Aberdeen game is another we look back on as being really important but, although it was tight and we were struck by injuries so many players were used, particularly younger ones, that in a weird way we will be all the stronger next season for giving them experience.”
Among those who broke through was centre Jack Broadley. Said Cairns: “I taught Jack at Watson’s where he always had great potential. This season his attitude has been spot-on and that really impressed me. It’s easy when you are top dog at a school to get carried away. He just snuck into the Currie set-up low key, by his own choice, and really worked.
“Another who did particularly well was Malcolm Peacock, converted from flanker to wing in emergency circumstances while Mikey Entwhistle was entitled to be disppointed not to get into the Scottish club international set-up.”
Flanker Entwhistle is an ex-Ireland age group internationalist, who finished as Currie’s joint top try-scorer along with Simeon James on nine.
Cairns said: “Mikey is now Scottish qualified and intends staying on here in Edinburgh.”
One player who did aspire to the clubs’ international squad was utility back Jamie Forbes, who finished as top scorer on 202 points.
“Jamie is a really exciting player who can make something from nothing when you are on the back foot and cool enough that in close games he can slot important points.” said Cairns. “When it came down to it, we delivered and the established guys like Richard Snedden, Ross Weston and Forbes showed real consistency.
“We needed to beat Heriot’s in the final match and Ross was on top, top form. Some managed to play nearly every game because when they had niggles they sorted themselves out and got back on the pitch. Every club needs that and I include John Cox whose season was curtailed by a broken jaw but up until then he was always there when required,” Cairns went on. “John’s injury, coupled with others to Ross Merrilees and Fergus Scott, meant I had to switch from flanker to hooker for four or five games – a nightmare because although my throwing in to the line-out was all right, that cost us a jumping option.”
Giving Currie hope that their brush with the drop was a one-off is the fact that almost the entire squad will be back next season. Also, new faces are expected. “Coach Ally Donaldson has been out earlier than normal to recruit some guys who will supplement our local talent,” says Cairns who will be at Murrayfield on Tuesday to support the under-16s in a national cup final against Hawick Albion. “Our age group system must be one of the biggest in Edinburgh if not Scotland and coach Andy Jones has got the 16s through to play on Murrayfield. It proves there is talent coming through and if we can pick up just ten more points next season we will be up in the top four because things really are that tight.”
At least, too, there is one trophy on the sideboard with Currie having beaten Heriot’s in the final of the Edinburgh Cup before bowing out at the first national stage against Dundee by just 30-29. Doubtless they would have swapped a national cup run for survival even if their hearts were in their mouths while Dundee were playing Stirling and Melrose entertaining Aberdeen in matches last weekend which would decide Currie’s fate at least until a play-off.
“I was playing at Gala sevens and Ally Donaldson was keeping us updated. He said he felt sick after both final whistles had been blown. Relief all round,” said Cairns.