Latest Fosroc Super Series Championship season ‘a massive step forward’ for Southern Knights, says head coach Alan Tait
Come the end of 2022’s regular season, with Tait and Lewis Carmichael as assistants to then gaffer Bruce Ruthven, they only missed out on the championship’s wooden spoon thanks to a 21-19 win at home to Stirling Wolves with their last throw of the dice, consigning their visitors to the basement spot.
That was only their second win of that campaign, their other having come away to Heriot’s, by 27-20, the Saturday before, leaving them with 11 points from ten fixtures, and they went on, with Tait assisted by Carmichael and Scott Wight, to lose all six games of the ensuing Fosroc Super Series Sprint in April and May.
This time round, the Borderers bow out of the championship in fifth place on 27 points from a dozen fixtures, with four victories to their name, though two of them were against newcomers the Fosroc Future XV, set to end the season without a win unless they can get the better of second-bottom Boroughmuir Bears this Friday night.
Knights remained in the mix for the play-offs until their penultimate game of the season, however, and were in contention, depending on results the day after, to finish fourth until the final moments of their last hurrah at home at Melrose’s Greenyards to table-toppers Heriot’s last Friday.
They’d been 21-14 up against the Edinburgh side until a try and conversion by visiting stand-off Ross Jones right at the death forced them to settle for a draw, dashing their hopes of keeping their play-off hopes alive for a further day.
Tait’s been impressed by that relative turnaround in their fortunes despite selection difficulties caused by ongoing injury issues, telling us: “Going from the sprint series, when we didn’t win anything, to winning four games and drawing one has been a massive step forward for the lads.
“I have to compliment the lads. They’ve been a really good group to coach and they’ve all got on.”
Looking back over Friday’s draw, the 59-year-old added: “I thought we played really, really well against a top team.
“I admire the way Heriot’s play the game, to be honest. They throw the ball about and they’ve got some really dangerous players. I knew we’d be up against it so I was really chuffed to be leading 21-14 at 80 minutes.
“I was really chuffed with the guys. The performance they put in was really good.
“Our defence was as good as I’ve seen it this year apart from the Watsonians game at home.”
Knights’ tries were scored by Donald Crawford, Corbin Thunder and Hamish Bentley, with captain Gregor McNeish converting two and replacement Harris Rutherford the other.
Touching down for Heriot’s, besides Jones, were Duncan Hood and Dan King, with Jones converting all of them.
Looking ahead to spring’s sprint series, Tait is expecting to be fielding a much-changed squad, saying: “We’ll lose quite a lot of players. That’s just the way it is.
“A lot of the lads are travelling as they’ve been offered opportunities in America and Australia, so good luck to them all – that’s what we’re here for, to be a stepping stone – but we’re hoping to keep quite a few players too.”