Heriot’s Rugby 53 – 10 Boroughmuir Bears

Saturday, 25th January @ Goldenacre

Match report by Stuart Bathgate for The Offside Line

Adverts for a product are not always completely accurate in what they promise, but in the case of this match, at least, the promotional slogan was spot on. “It’s time for a Bear grilling,” was the Heriot’s marketing team’s chosen phrase to publicise this match, and the team on the pitch duly delivered with a nine-try trouncing of Boroughmuir.

Heriot’s were on top of their game from the start and the Bears were always off the pace. The bonus point was in the bag with five minutes or so to play in a first half which saw two Boroughmuir players yellow-carded, and although the second half was a formality, the home team did not let up, much to the delight of head coach Phil Smith.

“We’ve had a few wins in a row, but that was undoubtedly our best performance – not so much the score as the way we played,” said Smith after what was in fact his side’s fifth win on the bounce. “I thought some of our attack play was phenomenal, and at a level that was above the Premiership, which to be honest I’ve not really seen before. Our running on the ball, our handling, our movement – it was excellent right from the start.

“It was difficult at half-time, because where do you go next? OK, you want same again, but to keep pummelling for 80 minutes is bloody difficult.”

Heriot’s might not have looked like title contenders after losing two of their opening three games, but now they are in the thick of a three-way fight for the two home play-off places, and with games against Watsonians and Ayrshire Bulls to come are in control of their own destiny. They were certainly in control of proceedings here right from kick-off, and took a third-minute lead after good build-up work involving Andrew Simmers and Jack McClean ended up with Cameron Hutchison easing through a gap on the far left. The restart was the only occasion in the first ten minutes in which the Bears got out of their own half.

Heriot’s were on top in the set piece as well as in open play, and they scored again just after Boroughmuir scrum-half Tom Wilson was sent to the sinbin for kicking the ball away with his scrum under pressure. Opting to scrum again, the home team produced a simple right-to-left move and James Couper finished off. 

Heriot’s were soon back on the attack thanks to a stolen lineout. Jason Hill was twice involved in the offence as they powered their way closer to the Muir line, and finally Iain Wilson forced his way over from two metres out. 

A penalty from Martin Cimprich opened Muir’s account just before the half-hour, but the visitors then fell further behind after an interception produced a Heriot’s breakaway. The initial assault on the Bears line was held up, but then a lineout maul was collapsed and referee Keith Allen awarded the penalty try and yellow-carded Dan Winning into the bargain.

There was time before the break for Couper to get his second from a pop-up pass just short of the line by Rory McMichael, and that gave Heriot’s a commanding 26-point lead to take into the second half. Far from taking it easy from then on, however, they began the second 40 just as keenly as they had started the first, and went further ahead when Simmers finished off a fine counter-attack by jinking in from the edge of the Muir 22.

Jordan Edmunds then scored the try he had been threatening since midway through the first half, but that was as good as it got for the visitors. After a maul had been held up, Charlie Jupp made it seven tries for Heriot’s by rounding off the move thanks to an overlap on the right, then substitutes James Spencer and Alex Ball put two more layers of icing on the cake with scores in the closing couple of minutes. Duncan Hood, a 17-year-old schoolboy, also came off the bench for the victors, becoming the youngest participant in Super6 to date. 

On a day in which little went right for the Bears, their replacement stand-off Jack Steele had to be taken to hospital after appearing to injure a shoulder in a tackle. Captain Chris Laidlaw could be back next week, but the depth of the Meggetland squad is being severely tested. They were competitive even when losing before the festive break, but this was a second heavy defeat in as many weeks, and they will now need to rely on favours from elsewhere if they are to realise their pre-season aim of getting into the top four. 

“Christmas came at the wrong time for us,” Bears head coach Graham Shiel said. “Before Christmas we were going well, with a bit of momentum in what we were doing, and there was a bit of steel in our performances. 

“The reality is kicking in now. It’s actually quite tough. Super6 is a hard competition in terms of games, but probably more in terms of the work you need to do off the pitch, and how you step from an amateur team training two nights a week to a semi-professional one. There’s quite a complicated mixture of things to get right.

“Some clubs are further forward in their evolution, and we’re trying to hang on to their shirt tails. We need to work really hard to be competitive.”