A late fightback wasn’t enough to give the home side the points this afternoon as Heriot’s went down 31-38 to Glasgow Hawks at Goldenacre. It was the visitors who came out of the traps firing and, ultimately, held on for the win, much to the delight of Hawks' head coach Jamie Dempsey.
He said: “It was a fantastic advert for the RBS Premiership. We came here knowing that Heriot’s are a very good side and they’re not third in the league by a fluke. However we know when we play a dynamic brand of rugby we can compete with any team in this division and it showed today by racing into the lead and having the resilience of character to repel the onslaught that Heriot’s gave in the second half.
“I’m just really pleased for the boys that we’ve now managed to beat two top four sides back to back – Ayr last week in the Cup and Heriot’s this week in the league. It shows a very competitive team and a very competitive division.
With two Scotland under-20 players in their ranks – full back Gavin Lowe and centre Neil Herron – and a number just in their twenties, Hawks edged the field in age and it showed in their speed and guile.
Said Dempsey: “If you look at our team as a whole we’re very young – apart from the elder statesmen in Ally MacLay and Scott Wight – and when you look at the energy of players like Tom Steven – 21 and scored two tries today – plus Gav Lowe and Neil Herron who are only 19, there’s strength in depth here. They’re a pleasure to coach and a pleasure to have in the team.
A number of permutations regarding the league were possible at 3pm for the top four clubs, including Heriot’s, but come 4.30, the tide had somewhat turned. Added Dempsey:
“Watching the scores come in today and to get five points here is absolutely fantastic. We’ll take what we get and enjoy it.”
A crisp, clear afternoon at Goldenacre and the last home game of the season saw Heriot’s facing a list of permutations which could ease their path to a league win. Hawks, meanwhile, in the red-for-danger side of the table were out to spoil the party from the whistle, slicing through the defence, stealing the first lineout and forcing Heriot’s into a group-try-saving tackle.
It was barely two minutes before the visitors turned pressure into points, however, with a try by Leckie converted by Wight. Heriot’s immediately fought back, forcing a scrum on the visitors’ 5m before being pinged for infringement. A botched clearance by Max Nimmo as Heriot’s continued on the attack saw the action revert to Hawks’ 35m. Full back Gavin Lowe then saw the gap and ran towards the Heriot’s 22 but his well-aimed pass was fumbled on receipt.
It was the home side’s Kevin Bryce who caused the next ‘ooh’ from the crowd as a surge down the wing into Hawks’ territory saw him deliver a natty backflip into the hands of centre Rory Carmichael who made good ground. The ping-pong nature of the match meant it was Hawks who added points on the board next, however as as solid break through the midfield from Lowe put the ball to winger Tom Steven who crossed. Barely five minutes later Lowe broke up the wing, MacLay duly arriving in support to take the pass and touch down, putting Hawks 17-0 ahead.
With Hawks looking the more dynamic outfit in the chasing stakes, Heriot’s were nonetheless solid in attack, just unable to turn pressure into points.
On the half hour, Russell Nimmo scored in the top corner, however, the sustained pressure paying off, the score converted by Graham Wilson, to register Heriot’s first points. The try was almost immediately negated by Lowe for Hawks a few minutes later, though, speeding up the far wing and dotting down by the posts, the conversion a breeze for Wight, to make it 7-24.
Just a minute later, the restart ball flying loose, it was booted upfield by Hawks and nearly led to another try, McPherson for Hawks almost winning the 200m dash to fling himself on top of the ball as it crossed the line.
With the visitors pressing, a try by sub Lohoar, duly converted by Wight made the score 7-31 in favour of the visitors at half time.
A raft of substitutions by the home side at half time brought fresh legs to the fray, though there still seemed some hesitancy in their attack. Flanker Michael Maltman pounced on a loose ball as Heriot’s made solid progress upfield, forcing a scrum on the 5m, and duly led to a try for lock Russell Nimmo, the conversion missed.
It was then Maltman’s turn to get on the scoresheet as he dotted down in the top corner, Wilson’s conversion just scraping over the uprights to put Heriot’s back in contention at 19-31; a yellow card for Hawks’ Findlay two minutes later added to that, giving a man advantage.
The hopes of the home crowd increased with eleven minutes to go when substitute Ben Toolis got his hands to the ball as it crossed the line on the stand side, Wilson nailing a tricky touchline conversion. With ten minutes to go it was 26-31.
Within a few minutes, however, Heriot’s well-worked progress up the pitch came to nothing with an intercept from Tom Steven, who then ran half the length of the pitch to dot down between the posts. The conversion put Hawks 38-26 ahead with eight minutes to go.
As legs tired and focus blurred, a penalty to Hawks rebounded off the posts and gave Heriot’s a chance to come from behind again and it was Colin Goudie who saw the gap and ran in their try, spotting the line after good pressure. The conversion from Wilson was wide but at 31-38 Heriot’s were still within striking distance as the clock ticked into injury time. Hawks held on, however and, the second they regained possession, kicked out and sealed the win.
Heriot’s: Colin Goudie, Max Nimmo, Keith Buchan, Rory Carmichael, Harry Boisseau, OJ Brown, Graham Wilson; Nathan Borel, Kevin Bryce, Gavin Cameron, Russell Nimmo, Jack Turley (captain), Michael Maltman, Chris Mulligan, Jason Hill.
Replacements: Stewart Mustard, Murray Douglas, Ben Toolis, Cameron Ferguson, Liam Steele
Glasgow Hawks: Gavin Lowe; Tom Steven, Ally MacLay, Neil Herron, Haddon McPherson; Scott Wight, Paddy Boyer; Steven Findlay, Finn Gillies, Brendan Cullinane, Andy Linton (captain), Angus Hamilton, Andy Redmayne, Stephen Leckie and Craig Brodie.
Replacements: Jack McFarlane, John Lohoar, Kenneth Beattie, Dan Smart, Jack Steele.