MELROSE again proved their dominance in Borders rugby by defeating their age-old rivals, Hawick, with a bonus point win, in a match that will be remembered for the high injury count suffered by the Greens.
Yet for all their problems, Hawick managed to draw the second half. But that will be scant consolation for the Mansfield Park men who now cannot avoid going into the relegation play-off match with the second top finisher in National One.
For Melrose, this result gives The Greenyards men the opportunity to finish top of the BT Premiership. That, of course, will be contingent on defeating Stirling County at Bridgehaugh in the delayed match between the two sides on 11th March, but if they can maintain the form they showed in the first half here then they have every reason to be optimistic.
“The game just got totally disjointed because of the amount of injuries, but there was some really good stuff in the first half that put us 27-0 up at half time,” stated the Melrose coach, Rob Chrystie.
Melrose were given a three point lead with a penalty goal from stand-off Jason Baggott but the fly-half was off target with his conversion attempt of a try by Ruairdh Knott, after the burly back-row had thundered through several tackles on his way to the line.
Baggott added the conversion of Moody’s try and then provided the extras for score number three, this time by centre George Taylor from a Fraser Thomson break.
Hawick then suffered the loss of full-back Lee Armstrong and shortly afterwards Fraser Thomson raced over for a try created by a midfield surge from Nyle Godsmark. Baggott adding the conversion for a 27-0 lead at the interval.
A yellow card shown to Bruce McNeil made matters worse for Hawick, but black became blacker when Edinburgh pro Kevin Bryce retired injured. Could anything else blight Hawick’s day? The answer came when Rory Hutton was yellow carded for an illegal tackle.
Despite the disheartening series of events, Hawick endeavoured to play attacking rugby and were rewarded when Ali Weir converted his own try after multiple phases.
But no sooner had Hawick come back into the game than they suffered their sixth injury, the victim this time being replacement wing Wesley Hamilton. Melrose took advantage of the gap on the left flank to work a move that ended with Baggott scoring and then converting.
Then, when Hawick’s replacement prop Matt Landels limped off injured, the Greens were down to thirteen men and the scrums were forced to become uncontested, making for an unsatisfactory final few minutes of play in a match which the on-field medics will certainly not forget.
Melrose: F Thomson; A Lockington, N Godsmark, G Taylor, S Pecqueur; J Baggot, B Colvine; D Elkington, R Anderson, R McLeod, A Bresler, A Welsh, R Knott, G Runciman (c), I Moody. Subs C Crookshank, C McKay, A Grieve, D Colvine, M McAndrew/
Melrose: Tries Knott, Moody, Taylor, Thomson, Baggott; Cons: Baggot 3; Pen: Baggott
Hawick: Try: Weir; Con: Weir
Scoring Sequence (Melrose first): 3-0; 8-0; 13-0; 15-0; 20-0; 22-0; 27-0 (h-t) 27-5; 27-7; 32-7; 34-7
Yellow cards –
Hawick: McNeil, Hutton
Man-of-the-Match: Melrose full-back Fraser Thomson was back to his attacking best with a number of defence-beating runs from deep positions. And with the Melrose backs alert to Thomson’s swift running, the tries piled up win the first half.
Talking point: Contrasting emotions for each side. Melrose achieved the five points they needed to go into their remaining match against Stirling with a chance of topping the Premiership and hence securing a home Grand Final if they win their play-off semi-final.
For Hawick the slim possibility of avoiding the relegation play-off match proved to be just that.