Heriot’s won this final to claim their second BT Cup in three years and set up a famous double opportunity with the Premiership play-off final scheduled for Saturday in Ayr. Both teams scored two tries but the Edinburgh club triumphed thanks to three penalties and a conversion from full-back John Semple when all Melrose managed with the boot was a solitary drop-goal.
The Goldenacre club were helped by their opposition’s indiscipline because Melrose were forced to play over a quarter of this match short-handed after both locks were carded either side of half time and prop forward James Bhatti finished this match in the bin. Heriot’s hooker Neil Cochrane scored his side’s two tries during Melrose’s second yellow card which proved crucial on the day.
“At half time I thought we were doing OK,” said Heriot’s coach Phil Smith. “And then we had the two yellow cards. You thought it was going to open opportunities in the set piece but they [Melrose] swapped backs off so it didn’t make any difference as far as (forward) numbers but it gave the boys a bit of a lift.”
With one try in the first half the match was slow to ignite but another three tries after the half-time tea helped spark some life into proceedings. Melrose opened the scoring and dominated the opening half but Heriot’s probably showed enough enterprise, ambition and skill with the ball in hand after the break to merit the win; the irony being that both their tries came directly from the driving maul.
“It didn’t mean that we weren’t trying to play,” Smith argued, “it’s just that that is where we were strong at that moment so go with it. I don’t think we made anything from the first card but the second was critical and we took full advantage.”
The scrums were a mess all evening although Melrose had the better of them and in stand-off Jason Baggott, a South African training with Edinburgh, they have cool operator who knocked over a nonchalant drop-goal early in the second half.
Both kickers had already scuffed penalty shots before the first points of the match arrived just before the 20-minute mark and they went to Melrose winger Nyle Godsmark. The Borderers kicked a penalty to touch, secured the lineout and sent it down the line. With nothing much on, full-back Fraser Thomson grubbered the ball in behind the Heriot’s’ defence and Godsmark was first to react, touching down in the right-hand corner.
Man of the match Semple supplied Heriot’s’ opening points of the first 40 with a penalty just before the break, but there was still time for some drama. An innocuous kick from Heriot’s fly-half Gregor McNeish was allowed to bounce, Thomson slipped and when the Rose full-back jumped to his feet his clearance kick only went as far as Cammy Ferguson lurking on the left touchline.
Heriot’s camped on the Melrose line and while they didn’t score a try they did earn another three points to take a slender one-point lead into the break after Melrose’s veteran lock Graeme Dodds was pinged and carded for slowing the ball illegally at the breakdown.
Semple extended Heriot’s advantage eight minutes into the second half but Baggott responded with his drop-goal before Melrose lost another man to the bin; Lewis Carmichael the guilty party and this time his team paid a heavy penalty.
Heriot’s kicked to the corner, several backs flooded the maul and Edinburgh hooker Cochrane was credited with the score on 52 minutes. Eight minutes later, with Carmichael still on the sidelines, the exact same thing happened with Cochrane again the last man up.
The usual flood of substitutes had the desired effect for Melrose who gave themselves a lifeline when reserve scrum-half Murdo McAndrew scored a neat try down the blindside after Sam Pequeur made the running. That left the Borderers trailing by 21-13 inside the final quarter and that was the way it stayed. Melrose huffed and puffed in an attempt to recover but the damage already done was to prove terminal.
scorers: Melrose: Tries: Godsmark, McAndrew. Drop goal: Baggott. Heriot’s: Tries: Cochrane 2. Cons: Semple. Pens: Semple 3.
heriot’s: Thomson; Godsmark (Knott 40), Taylor, Galbraith, Pequeur; Baggott, Colvine (McAndrew 58); Bhatti, Turner (Ferguson 73), Beavon (McLeod 31), Dodds (Head 77), Carmichael, Irvine Hess, Runciman, Miller.
melrose: Semple; Simpson, Steele, Ferguson, Rae; McNeish, Wilson; McCallum (Bouab 77), Liness (Cochrane 31), Cessford, Nimmo (Syme 77), Turley, Dewar, Wilson (Henderson 77), Hill.
referee: Keith Allen.