ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
MELROSE secured their place in the quarter finals of the BT Cup after defeating Currie on a Greeyards pitch saved from the effects of the recent frost by a protective covering.
In the event the pitch offered the opportunity to play fast running rugby early in the match but thereafter the increasing moistness of the surface and overhead militated against this approach and in the end the contest deteriorated into a game redolent of yesteryear winter rugby.
This is the second successive season that Melrose made progress in the BT Cup at the expense of Currie, the Borderers having defeated the Malleny Park side 25-21 last year to reach the semi-finals.
Melrose, deserved winners, scored all of their points, two converted tries and a penalty goal, in the first half hour before Currie could make an impression on the scoresheet. But thereafter, the visitors dug in, scoring a converted try on the stroke of half time and claiming the only points of the second half.
“We gave ourselves too much to do. When you’re 17-0 down against the best club team in Scotland it’s going to be a difficult day at the office, especially away from home,” admitted the Currie coach, Ben Cairns.
“We got off to a poor start and made a lot of errors that cost us points and allowed them to get on the front foot. But we can take a lot of confidence from the fact that we were able to turn that around. We got ourselves back into the game and probably had a few opportunities to tie the match and take it to extra time,” he added.
Currie were missing four Scotland under-20 players but Melrose, too, were without a number of their top performers. In the event, Melrose were able to expose several local players to this level of rugby, confirming the considerable strength in depth at the Greenyards.
“It was good that a number of the young boys were able to step up. It shows that because we’re working together in training they can fit in,” said Rob Chrystie, the Melrose coach.
“For the club to get the game on was terrific. There were twenty five helpers down at The Greenyards this morning removing the covers. There’s a real buzz at the club right now.”
Crucial for Melrose, following Craig Jackson’s collar bone fracture against Watsonians last week, was the return of stand-off Jason Baggot. The young South African has been out for two months but showed he has lost little of his sharpness during that absence.
He kicked three goals from four attempts, and from hand was able to send the ball a long way up the touchline. In attack, his measured distribution gave his outside backs chances to run the ball, with Austin Lockington, incisive in the first half, and Fraser Thomson, back to attacking best, the main beneficiaries
Baggot’s first points came from the conversion of a driving maul try by second row Aaron Welsh, who was called into the Melrose squad after the late withdrawal Edinburgh’s Anton Bresler. The Melrose ten then added to his side’s points tally with a 45m penalty kick.
The home side’s commitment to wide movement of the ball brought a further dividend with a try by temporary replacement Thomas Klein from a break by centre Lockington and support from fellow midfielder Gavin Wood. Baggot added the conversion from the touchline.
Currie finally broke the Melrose stranglehold on the game just before half-time with a surging run by Ross Weston that took several tacklers to arrest his progress. The damage, however, had been done, with Weston’s off-load allowing hooker Fergus Scott to crash over for a try converted by stand-off Jamie Forbes.
The Currie fly-half then further reduced the Melrose lead with a penalty goal five minutes into the second half. At the other end, Baggot registered his first miss off the kicking tee to leave Currie needing only a converted try to level the scores.
It looked as though Currie would achieve their objective when they drove a line-out near the Melrose line only for the maul to be brought down. Currie might have felt aggrieved at what seemed a reasonable case for a penalty try being rejected by the referee.
Currie were given a further chance to hit back when the Melrose blindside flanker Ally Grieve was shown the yellow card but despite being a man short the Greenyards men maintained an impervious defence to make sure of their place in the last eight of the Cup.
Melrose: F Thomson; P Anderson, A Lockington, G Wood, S Pecqueur; J Baggot, M McAndrew; C Cruickshank, R Anderson, R McLeod, J Head, A Welsh, A Grieve, G Runciman (c), I Moody. Subs: C McKay, J Bhatti, C Wilde, B Colvine, T Klein
Currie: H Elms; R Smith, M Hooks, R Nelson, B Robbins; J Forbes, M O’Neal; AP McWilliam, F Scott, G Carson, R Davies, M Vernel, S McKinley, T Gordon, R Weston; Subs: C McEvoy, J Cox, R Patterson, D Marek, C Smith.
Referee: D McClemont
Melrose: Tries: Welsh, Klein; Cons Baggot 2; Pen: Baggot.
Currie: Try: Scott; Con: Forbes; Pen: Forbes.
Scoring Sequence (Melrose first): 5-0; 7-0; 10-0; 15-0; 17-0; 17-5; 17-7 (h-t) 17-10.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: He may not be your stereotype back row giant, but Grant Runciman, the Melrose number seven, pound for pound one of the best forwards in the Premiership, again demonstrated the art of the openside flanker with a typically intelligent display of always being close to the ball. It does help that he has been a key player in the success Melrose have enjoyed in sevens rugby.
Talking Point: Currie, as their coach Ben Cairns admitted, gave Melrose too much of a start, but they did make a good fist of staging a fightback. Melrose are now in the quarter finals. Is it too early to contemplate a league/cup double?
Image courtesy: Douglas Hardie