BT PREMIERSHIP: MELROSE 17-21 HERIOT'S

STUART RUTHERFORD @ The Greenyards

HERIOT’S pulled off a stunning victory to kick start their assault on the Premiership top four. Melrose, meanwhile, missed a glorious chance to go top of the league due to a second half performance they will want to forget.

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On a day that Melrose launched their new Adidas sponsored kit they would have been hoping to channel their inner All Blacks, another team famously sponsored by the German sportswear manufacturers. But they fell some way short and after a poor second half showing where they scored only three points  their head coach Rob Chrystie could scarcely hide his frustration.

“Bitterly disappointed. We made silly mistakes at critical moments in the game and couldn’t match the intensity of the second half. Even at the end there we put ourselves in a position to win the game, but again an error cost us. However, I do think if we cut these out of our performances we will be just fine. There is a lot to still to be encouraged about.” he said.

Heriots arrived at the Greenyards fresh off of a convincing bonus point victory against Melrose’s close neighbour’s Gala. The Nails put Chris Dalgleish’s side to the sword by running in five tries so there was no doubt that the capital outfit would come into this encounter full of belief that they could get a result, and after a sluggish start their confidence grew as the game wore on.

“This could be a season defining win for us. A big word for us this week was energy and I think our whole team showed that over the course of the game. There has been a lot of negativity surrounding us, from inside the club and out, leading up to this fixture and I really think we demonstrated our ability. We’re not going to get too caught up, however, but we will enjoy this win.” said head coach Phil Smith.

There was only two minutes on the clock when Melrose scored the first points of the match. After a poor clearance from Heriot’s stand-off Alex Hagart, the ball was collected by Ross McCann. The winger, who has been in sensational form, did brilliantly to break through two tackles before he was taken down five metres out. After slick handling from the Melrose back line, the ball was eventually recycled to the oncoming Nick Beavon. The dynamic prop hit an excellent line before stretching over the whitewash for the score. Jason Baggott added the extras to give the home side an early lead.

The Border’s side were clearly spurred on by this early advantage, while the visitors appeared to have not yet left the team bus. The capital side were nearly further punished for their sheepish start when Melrose were awarded a penalty for crossing, however, Baggott pulled his attempt at goal wide to let the visitors off the hook.

Hagart kicked a penalty to put Heriots on the scoreboard, but the revival was only temporary as Melrose went further ahead with a textbook set piece move. After kicking a penalty to the corner,  the ball was thrown to Neil Irvine-Hess, who did superbly to collect and initiate the rolling maul. From there it was all superior leg drive before the ball ended up in the hands of Richard Ferguson. The hooker, who was starting in place of the injured Russell Anderson, had the simple task of touching down in the corner to further extend his team’s lead. Baggott nailed the tricky conversion to make it 14-3.

The men from Goldenacre responded excellently, however, and fought back with a score of their own only moments later. After a powerful break from Heriot’s captain John Semple, the ball was eventually worked in the Melrose twenty-two. Following several pick-and-goes the ball was eventually recycled before slick handling set up Harry Boisseau in the corner. The winger masterfully fended off his opposite number, Nyle Godsmark, before touching down with one hand. It was exactly the response Smith would have wanted and with the score poised at 14-8 going into the break, his team were right back in the match.

The Heriot’s packstarted the second half in dominant fashion. George Turner came on for the injured Michael Liness and the Edinburgh pro wasted no time in demonstrating his talents. The lively hooker made several eye catching breaks and the visitor’s pack were clearly raising their efforts to match his enthusiasm.

Baggott and Hagart swapped penalties to leave the match evenly balanced at 17-11, but as time ticked on it was clearly Heriot’s who were in the ascendance and on 60 minutes the capital side deservedly took the lead. Following a lineout on the Melrose five metre line the ball was superbly driven by the visitors  and when the Borderers illegally collapsed the driving maul the referee Neil Muir had no other option but to award a penalty try.

Another penalty from Hagart put the visitors further ahead 17-21 and with every Melrose mistake you could sense that the tide turning in the capital side’s favour. The hosts made a late effort to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat when they were camped on the Heriot’s five metre line for what felt like an eternity. However, a squint throw at a lineout gifted the men from Goldenacre possession with only minutes remaining. Last year’s champions held on for a breath taking victory and one, they hope, will act as a catalyst for the remainder of the season.

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Teams –

Melrose: A Lockington; N Godsmark, G Taylor, C Jackson, R McCann; J Baggott, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Ferguson, N Beavon, J Head, R Knott, N Irvine Hess, G Runciman, I Moody. Subs: D Elkington, R McLeod, A Grieve, R Taylor, D Colvine.

Heriots: G Parker; H Boisseau, C Simpson, J Semple (c), J Rae; A Hagart, A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, C Smith, M Maltman, J McLean, S Dewar. Subs: G Turner, R Mitchell, R Nimmo, A Ball, D Crawford.

Referee: Neil Muir

Scorers –

Melrose: Tries: Beavon, Ferguson  Cons: Baggott 2 Pens: Baggott

Heriots: Tries: Boisseau, Penalty Try; Cons: Hagart Pens: Hagart 3

Man-of-the-Match: John Semple led by example and put in a dominant captain’s performance. The inside centre was commanding in defence and put in the hard yards when called upon.

Talking point: Mistakes cost Melrose dearly. Time after time the home side put themselves in a position to score but were unable to capitalise due to costly errors. Could this defeat come back to bite them?

Image courtesy: Roy Smith

About David Barnes 2973 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.