Rasolea runs riot but praise must be held for hosts’ guile
THE second half of the club season is underway already, and the Premiership table now has a familiar look to it. Heriot’s lost their first game of the campaign to Watsonians and struggled to find consistency in the ensuing weeks, but in Saturday’s reverse fixture they were far too strong for their capital rivals and are now back in the kind of form that won them the league and the cup last season.
Edinburgh professional Junior Rasolea helped give the home side the physical edge in this 10-try triumph, but it would be wrong to single anyone out from an all-round team performance. Wrong, too, to over-emphasise physicality, because the intelligent running and passing of backs such as Charlie Simpson was just as important as the dominant display of forwards like Michael Maltman and Struan Dewar.
All four of those players were absent from the early games, and, while Rasolea may be only an occasional contributor, the other three will be vital components as Phil Smith’s team aim to retain their title. So too will winger John Rae, scorer of the first two tries, and lock Russell Nimmo, who claimed the next two from lineout drives as Heriot’s secured the bonus point with only 25 minutes played.
By that time Marcus di Rollo, Watsonians’ head coach, had been sent to the stand after what appeared to be a dispute with an assistant referee over precisely how close to the touchline he should be allowed to stand. Things got worse for the visitors as Harry Boisseau and Maltman added tries before the break, and although Angus Duckett opened Watsonians’ account just before half-time any thought of a comeback had long since disappeared.
“The first half was almost a complete performance, apart from the try [for Watsonians] at the end,” Smith said afterwards. “It was great. My rugby hero is Andy Irvine, and at half-time he walked past me and said that was the best half of rugby he’d seen here in Scotland for years. And it was. Some of it was sublime. So I’ll take that.”
The second half was marginally less one-sided, and further tries from Craig Borthwick and Nathan Borel gave the score a semblance of respectability for Watsonians. But Simpson scored first in that second period, Nimmo completed his hat-trick, and Rasolea added two more to take the Heriot’s try account into double figures. “We’ve slowly worked towards getting this group together, doing the right things, and doing them more often,” Smith added. “It’s a case of keeping it going. The league is set up that you go week to week just trying to make sure you keep at boiling point. Because if you do, you’re going to be in with a shout.”
The league takes a three-week break after Saturday, but Heriot’s have a two-leg tie against Italy’s Under-23s to look forward to, with the away game in Milan on 11 November followed by the return at Goldenacre eight days later. Having been short of match practice back in August, they should resume competition in December at peak sharpness. “We had a good start, but then let them get too much momentum,” was the verdict of Simon Taylor, Watsonians’ assistant coach. “We fell off tackles, they got their offloading game going, and they ended up looking like the Harlem Globetrotters. We just couldn’t find a way of nipping their momentum in the bud. They’ve been at this level for a number of years. We’re trying to get to it. There’s a lot to take away from it.”
Heriot’s remain ten points off the top, but the result has cemented their status inside the top four, and on this form they will be formidable opponents for Ayr when the pair meet at Millbrae on Saturday. Ayr are second after their 41-32 win at Currie, while Melrose are ahead of them on points differential only following their 45-12 win at Boroughmuir. Glasgow Hawks, 50-24 winners against Gala, are three points behind the top two.
The margin of defeat for Watsonians was identical to that of one of their most celebrated victories at Goldenacre, the 43-0 win back in 1995 when they were building a squad that would go on to become champions three years later. On its first season back in the top flight, the current squad has the more modest aim of a solid mid-table finish, and it has the talent to achieve that.
The problem is, however, that in such a tight division with very little between four or five clubs, it could take no more than a slight loss of form for any one of those clubs to slip from just outside the championship play-off places into the relegation play-off slot. To avoid such a fate, Watsonians need to ensure they beat at least some of the four clubs below them in the coming weeks, starting on Saturday when Hawick visit. The Borderers stay last after Stirling County’s 43-30 win.
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