ALAN LORIMER @ Goldenacre
MELROSE momentum continued unchecked as yet again the Greenyards men demonstrated their title credentials in achieving a bonus point win against Heriot’s at Goldenacre.
Astonishingly Melrose have secured five points from all eight rounds thus far and with Hawick at home next week they look set to be on for a full house of bonuses at the half way stage in the campaign.
Melrose have threatened such supremacy in recent years but this season they have really delivered. Just why they are so far ahead is understandable given the personnel in their squad. No other club has the concentration of players who are currently involved in professional rugby, or who have had past experience of the game at that higher level.
The permanent presence of stand-off Jason Baggott and back-row Ally Miller has undoubtedly contributed significantly to Melrose’s success, and against Heriot’s the duo played important roles in securing a sizable win.
Miller was the stand-out player in the Melrose pack, capping a formidable performance with a wonderful solo try.
“Ally’s dying to push on and hopefully he’ll get a shot for Edinburgh.” stated Rob Chrystie, the Melrose coach, before turning his attention to Baggott.
“Jason’s potential is massive but remember he’s been playing at stand-off for only eighteen months. He’s still got a few things to learn about game management, but he distributes well, he kicks with length and he tackles bravely.”
It is important to state that this was certainly not a two-man show. Melrose collectively showed tenacity in defence, particularly in midfield where the Heriot’s centres were continually knocked backwards, and also round the fringes, where the visitors were equally ferocious – with the likes of Ruaridh Knott and Neil Irvine-Hess leading the tackle count.
But it is in try-scoring that Melrose are forging ahead. Much of this has to do with the level of high-octane confidence that winning engenders. And against Heriot’s, Melrose showed their ability to seize try scoring chances from anywhere in the field.
Heriot’s had been expected to provide testing opposition for the Greenyards men, but in the event a performance riddled with too many errors diminished their challenge.
“They’re the best team we’ve played this season. They are just so clinical in what they do. We were never going to win this game but we might have got two points out of it when the score was 22-33,” said Heriot’s head coach Phil Smith.
Still, there was much to admire about the Heriot’s display and notably their fightback after trailing 3-28 early in the second half suggests that the Goldenacre men are rediscovering their mojo. Big performances from Callum Marshall, hat-trick scorer Jack Turley, and from replacement Adam Sinclair in the second half brought the fight to Melrose, while behind the scrum there was a certain irony that the most incisive Heriot’s back was former Melrose player Tom Wilson.
But too many handling errors killed off the home team’s hopes of threatening in the wider channels. This, compounded by mistakes in kicking and at the line-out, gave Melrose an easier ride than they might have expected.
In the opening exchanges Heriot’s had Melrose under pressure, the visitors having two kicks charged down in their own half. Heriots’ reward was a penalty goal by centre Ross Jones, but that was as good as it got in the first half as Melrose turned the screw and took control.
The visitors achieved their breakthrough when the quick thinking Bruce Colvine took a tap penalty, and with Miller twice in the move, Melrose worked the ball wide for Baggott to plunge over.
There was barely time to gather breath before Melrose struck again, with Knott adding the finishing touches to a sweeping move and Craig Jackson adding the extras.
Melrose have a knack of producing ‘spectaculars’ and against Heriot’s they did not disappoint. A Heriot’s line-out went awry and when the ball bobbled along the ground, Irvine-Hess was on to it in a flash. The flanker than set off on a 60-metre run up the right touchline, before the Melrose backs took over with deft handling that ended with Sam Pecqueur taking Nyle Godsmark’s pass to score in the corner.
Jackson missed the conversion but atoned with penalty goals on either side of half-time. All that Melrose needed now was the bonus point try and it duly came courtesy of a training ground move that ended with Fraser Thomson touching down.
Melrose lost replacement lock Aaron Welsh to the sin-bin and during his absence Heriot’s showed that they can move the ball a bit as well in setting up a score for Craig Robertson, which Jones converted.
But Melrose hit back immediately, with Miller outpacing the Heriot’s defence for a commendable solo try.
Heriot’s, however, were showing increasing resistance and when they set up a line-out from a penalty kick, Jack Turley finished off a series of close range drives. Just minutes later it was Turley again, finishing off a line-out maul, to bring the scores to 22-33.
Melrose, however, were awarded a penalty try and when Thomson went over from set scrum possession and Jackson converted it was all over for the hosts – even if a hat-trick try from Turley following a surge by Sinclair made defeat less bitter.
Heriot’s: D Crawford; J Rae, R Jones, R Mulveena, C Robertson; R Carmichael, T Wilson; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, J Turley, C Marshall, M Maltman, J McCann, M Hughes. Subs used S Mustard, A Sinclair, R Kay
Melrose: F Thomson; S Pecqueur, N Godsmark, C Jackson, R McCann; J Baggot, B Colvine; G Shiells, R Anderson, N Beavon, AWelsh, A Runciman, N Irvine-Hess, R Knott, A Miller. Subs used R Ferguson, R McLeod, A Grieve, M McAndrew, G Wood
Referee: G Wells
Heriot’s: Tries`: Robertson, Turley 3; Cons: Jones 2; Pen: Jones.
Melrose: Tries: Knott, Baggott, Pecqueur, Thomson 2, Miller, Penalty Try; Cons: Jackson 2; Pens: Jackson 2.
Scoring Sequence (Heriot’s first): 3-0, 3-5, 3-10, 3-12, 3-17, 3-20 (h-t) 3-23, 3-28, 8-28, 10-28, 10-33, 15-33, 17-33, 22-33, 22-40, 22-45, 22-47, 27-47, 29-47
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: He is a professional but it’s still worth making Ally Miller the stand-out player.
Talking point: Will Edinburgh take note of Miller’s performances for Melrose?