Thursday 23 November 2017

Match Report, BT Cup R1: Accies v Heriot's

Accies 29-24 Heriot’s
(Callum Black 2-0 Chicken)

After our successful 10-from-10 start to the League season and a weekend off, last Saturday was time for the first round of the BT Cup, a competition that this year is made up of 16 clubs, the 10 Premiership and the top six National 1 clubs.

For our game against Heriot’s, we rewarded our pretty settled squad with the opportunity to play against Premiership opposition. The most notable changes from our last game were the returns of Conor Hirini, following the extended rest h had been given to freshen him up for the business end of the season, and Clem Lacour, after his break in warmer climes.

A reasonable crowd turned up, especially as it was in the aftermath of the previous day’s aptly named Long Lunch and the All Blacks were due to kick off at Murrayfield shortly after our game ended.

The conditions for rugby were good - cool but sunny - and Heriot’s kicked off towards the pond with the advantage of the wind. For the first eight minutes both sides tried to play attacking rugby, moving the ball well. The stalemate was broken after 11 minutes when, after a sustained attack in our 22, Jack Turley crossed for Heriot’s to the right of the posts: 0-7, with Ross Jones’ conversion.

Within a couple of minutes Richard Mill pulled back three points, after Heriot’s were penalised for a dump tackle on their 10m line: 3-7 with 16 minutes gone. That was just about Mill’s last contribution. Shortly after the penalty he received a bad cut to his lip and Max Love came on at 10 for the rest of the game.

Play continued with both sides throwing the ball around but neither able to make the decisive break.

The last five minutes of the half were played out in Heriot’s 22, with us coming close a number of times but sadly without reward. In the last minute of normal time Robbie Chalmers broke through and was tackled as he went over. “Try or no try?” was the call from the referee to the assistant. “No try, knock on,” was his reply, although to many it looked good

From the resulting Heriot’s 5m scrum we kept the pressure on them through good work from the forwards, but a penalty for a boot kicking the ball in a breakdown relieved the pressure.

Half time and, perhaps undeservedly, we were 3-7 down, although Callum Black was up 2-0 on former Accies’ hooker, Michael Liness, having nabbed two of the Heriot’s put-ins at the scrums.

Following our bright end to the first half, the start of the second did not go well. After just four minutes, Heriot’s went further ahead following a penalty and a 5m lineout, when Liness was at the back of the drive to score. Jones converted: 3-14.

Time to dig in and we responded well. A good break by Luther Hirini to the Heriot’s 10m line put us on the front foot and a clever grubber kick to touch by Chalmers took us to within 15m of their line.

We kept Heriot’s pinned in their 22 for the next few minutes. Then, following another penalty, we took a 5m lineout, Robin Snape made good ground and Shaun Gunn finished off the good work with a try: 8-14, 12 minutes gone.

With Conor Hirini, Rory Simpson and Angus Inwood now having replaced Chalmers, Black and Robert Lovett respectively, we withstood a period of Heriot’s pressure in our half and managed to clear our way to the halfway line.

From Heriot’s lineout, we won the ball, moved it to the left wing, then back across to the right, where Matt Coupar beat a couple of players on the halfway line, passing the ball to Conor Hirini on the Heriot’s 22 line. Connor finished the break, scoring a fine try under the posts. Callum Ramm converted to put us ahead for the first time: 15-14, with 21 minutes gone.

Our final replacement, Finlay Richardson, came on for Shaun Gunn, and we made progress from the restart but Heriot’s were soon in our half after a penalty for side entry.

Then, following a break by the Heriot’s captain, Rory Carmichael, who passed to winger Charlie Simpson, we saw the try-saving tackle of the season. Simpson, with the line at his mercy, went for the corner and Sam Johnson, not the biggest on the field, hit Simpson as he was diving in, taking man and ball over the touch in goal line. No try, 22 drop out. What a moment!

From the deep 22 restart, Heriot’s worked their way back up field to our 22, where Neil Armstrong intercepted a pass from the Heriot’s captain and ran 70m to score by the posts. Ramm’s conversion took the score to 22-14 with 12 minutes left on the clock.

Three minutes latter, Heriot’s were turned over between our 10m and the halfway line. Johnson, no doubt still buzzing from his try-saving tackle, picked the ball up and scampered the 55m to the try line, going round the Heriot’s scrum half and out pacing everyone else to the line. Ramm converted: 29-14 with eight minutes left.

As you would expect, Heriot’s did not lie down. They came right back at us and within three minutes winger Craig Robertson scored a try, the conversion taking the score to 29-21.

Heriot’s kept the pressure on and. with 90 seconds to go, converted a penalty taking the score to 29-24. Heriot’s were now within one score of a win.

As we restarted there were less than 60 seconds left. It took 11 recycles and 80 seconds for Heriot’s to get play into our half. Another 25 recycles saw them at our 22. After 29 recycles and four minutes of extra time, a crunching tackle by Max Love dislodged the ball, Heriot’s knocked on and the referee blew for full time, much to the relief of our players and vocal supporters.

It was a good all round performance from the 20 man squad, with some outstanding moments, particularly in defence. Notably Sam Johnson’s try-saving tackle in the corner and the whole team’s defence in the last five minutes. During 29 recycles by Heriot’s, we did not let a man through and conceded no penalties.

The spirit was great. To come back from 3-14 down, score four tries in 18 minutes and then defend for your life for the last few minutes showed the team’s character and fitness. And for Callum Black to take two against the head from Michael Liness was just the icing on the cake.

Our next opponents in the BT Cup will be drawn early next week. We are the only National 1 team to survive to the quarterfinals.

We now have a week off, followed by three National 1 league games in the first three weeks of December, before we break for Christmas and New Year.

The first two league games are at home, with GHA on 2December and Stew Mel on the 9th. We then play Jed away on the 16th. These are three important games where we will now be prime targets by our opposition, all with ambitions to end our winning streak.

It is all 100% in our own hands.

Onwards and upwards!

Man of the Match: Neil Armstrong, who had a great game - and where did that 70m sprint to the line come from?

Tries: Shaun Gunn, Connor Hirini, Neil Armstrong, Sam Johnson
Conversions: Ramm (3)
Penalties: Mill


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