Heriot’s Rugby Club 35 pts (t 5, c 2, p g 2) v Currie Chieftains 10 pts (t 2)

A cool blustery March west wind sent the clouds scudding over Goldenacre, and with them went the Chieftains’ heroic hopes of gleaning something from a season where all the odds have been stacked against them. In the face of adversity, this tremendous group of coaches and players have navigated through a difficult period. Not for the first time in a relatively short history, have the ‘Malleny Upstarts’ from the fringes of the City punched above their weight, confounding the establishment and sending them ‘homeward – tae think again!’ Currie Chieftains have always embraced a challenge and will continue to be counted with the top club sides in the country.

No doubt Heriot’s had learned a lesson from their three previous unfruitful meetings with the Chieftains, particularly that battle for a play-off place a year ago, when they were well and truly humped by the Malleny boys. Heriot’s professional ‘big guns’ were wheeled in for this one, and it certainly registered their intent. From the outset the Goldenacre outfit systematically strangled the life out of most of the things that the Chieftains tried to do.

Very early on, as Heriot’s battered their way towards the Currie goal line, injury deprived the visitors of two from their starting front row. It was a big blow, with the influential Fergus Scott and Fraser Watt spending the remainder of the afternoon watching proceedings from the touchline. Heriot’s soon established a foothold inside Chieftains’ territory, and applied pressure. Following a penalty lineout, they went through multiple phases that criss-crossed the pitch, eventually producing an overlap that allowed Charlie Simpson to slide in for the unconverted opening try.

The restart was a disaster for Currie as they let the Heriot’s backrow dance through a sleepy defence that was then caught off-side; fullback Ross Jones kicked the points. It was a good twenty minutes before the visitors could put any meaningful moves together as they slowly worked passage into Heriot’s 22 and started to look menacing. Matias Argiro was at the back of a fast-moving maul that knocked defenders out of the way and crashed in for the Chieftains’ first score. Gregor Hunter’s touchline conversion attempt proved a fraction too difficult in the breezy conditions.

Heriot’s were soon on the rampage again, easily gaining territory with positional kicking that took them into the Currie 22. The signs were ominous as they turned the screw. A neat kick through the defensive Chieftains’ line had the visitors running backwards to retrieve the diagonally bouncing ball; Charlie Simpson just got his hand to it first, and after a short consultation between officials, the try was awarded. The elements prevented the touchline conversion.

Halftime score – Heriot’s 13 pts, Currie Chieftains 5 pts.  

The visitors started the second half brightly, with the ball whizzing back and forth across the pitch, but unfortunately without making much headway. Heriot’s impressive line speed lead by international centre, Mark Bennet was ferocious. Throughout the afternoon the Chieftains were unable to find space or time to execute the finer skills of their off-loading game. The unrelenting pressure and gusting wind inevitably led to mistakes which the heavy Heriot’s pack punished mercilessly. In a couple of moves they were again sniffing at the Currie goal line. A gutsy defensive display held out for a while, but following a couple of five metre scrums, Jason Hill picked up and powered over near the posts. Ross Jones had no problem with this conversion and a little later added a tremendous forty-metre penalty goal that was in line with the posts. The Chieftains’ task was beginning to look enormous, especially when halfbacks, Chris Davies and Gregor Hunter also had to retire injured.

With an eighteen-point lead Heriot’s became a little complacent, allowing both Jamie Forbes and the splendid Joe Reynolds to make a couple of exciting runs; on a different day these could have brought reward. As it was, the Chieftains’ collective effort did bring a second unconverted try via a penalty lineout; the almighty forward drive stunned Heriot’s, but this was as close as the Currie team were to get in their efforts to overturn the lead. Michael Vernel, Vince Wright and Rhys Davies battled to breach the gain line, but the ball hardly ever emerged as quickly as the Currie backs would have liked. Heriot’s soon stormed back into the Chieftains’ red-zone, and following a series of well-orchestrated phases, centre Robert Kay cut a perfect line for a touchdown under the posts; a result of more unrelenting pressure play.

Currie did rally in the closing stages, and their endeavours tested the well-organised Heriot’s defence, but the promising-looking attack eventually foundered, and a final hurrah went the way of the hosts. It looked as if Currie had created an overlap, but when the ball was fumbled, only ten metres out, sprightly Alex Ball swooped and accelerated the length of the pitch for a corner flag score at the other end: a shattering blow that banished any lingering ambition that the Chieftains may have had. Luke Crosbie, Thomas Gordon, AP McWilliam, Graeme Carson and the dependable Robbie Nelson had all played their hearts out, as indeed did the whole squad, but on the day, Heriot’s guile and determination could not be thwarted.

It was a cruel end for a team that had stayed loyal and played so well for a club that has endured more than its fair share of recent knockbacks. From the Malleny touchline supporters, thank you for another wonderful season, and may your rugby playing aspiration be achieved, wherever you find yourself in the future.

As a footnote – this year has seen the end of an era for the Scottish League system. Next season there will be a new League challenge, and you can wager that Currie Chieftains will be up for it. The title of the top club competition for next season, 2019/20 – The Premier League was confirmed at the SRU, SGM on Friday last.                   I.J.S. – 24.3.19.

 

Chieftains Team v Heriot’s – 23.3.19.

15 Jamie Forbes, 14 Ben Robbins, 13 Joe Reynolds 12 Robbie Nelson, 11 Matthew Hooks,

10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Chris Davies, 8 Luke Crosbie, 7 Thomas Gordon, 6 Marc Kelly, 5 Michael Vernel,

4 Vince Wright, 3 Fraser Watt, 2 Fergus Scott, 1 Matias Argiro.

 

16 Graeme Carson, 17 AP McWilliam, 18 Adam Nicol, 19 Rhys Davies, 20 Adam Hall, 21 Steven Hamilton.

Ref. David Sutherland

TMO. David Sloan