ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
IT is not often a team scores six tries and ends up losers, but in what became almost an exhibition match, Melrose scored seven tries and ultimately that made the five point difference that keeps the Premiership leaders still very much in charge.
Watsonians, while seeking a win to add to their demolition of Gala a week earlier, will, however, take satisfaction from gaining two bonus points that could be what they need to cement their place in the Premiership.
“The two points for us is pretty crucial,” admitted Watsonians’ head coach, Marcus Di Rollo, add ing that he was pleased with much of what his side offered. “We’re dangerous and we can cause any side problems when we play well. We try to play an open game. In the wider channels we were pretty good.”
Indeed. Watsonians showed their Sevens pedigree with some exquisite moves in which Andrew Chalmers, who took over from the injured Ewan Scott in the first half, was the chief orchestrator. And with Reiss Cullen constantly worrying the Melrose defence and Rory Drummond again showing why he should be in the Scotland Club XV, Watsonians all but matched their higher placed opponents.
Alongside Drummond, Viliami Fihaki will have ressured his Edinburgh paymasters with a telling performance that included a two try contribution.
Watsonians did well to recover from a devastating start that left them trailing 29-6 with less that half an hour of the game played. But three unanswered tries brought the Myreside men back into the game, and set up a competitive and entertaining second half.
But, however well Watsonians attacked they could not undo the damage that had been done in the opening 27 minutes. Melrose had simply looked imperious, scoring four tries from pacy rugby and clever handling behind a dominant scrum, bolstered by Edinburgh’s Anton Bresler.
“There were some real positives in there in relation to the way we started. We got a commanding lead playing some really nice stuff but we were just a little bit off it at times whether it was the final pass in attack or in defence where we were not quite as well connected as we needed to be,” stated the Melrose head coach, Rob Christie.
“Credit to Watsonians, they played some really nice rugby. When they got into our half they showed they’ve got some good individual rugby players,” he added.
Melrose might have scored more tries but the loss of five players to injury undoubtedly disrupted their scoring rhythm. The most significant loss was that of stand-off Craig Jackson, whose departure robbed Melrose of their in-form playmaker.
Austin Lockington and George Taylor thereafter shared the stand-off duties but there was no doubt that Melrose, without Jackson, lacked the same cutting edge.
Towards the end of the match Melrose were forced to field players out of position, hooker Russell Anderson, demonstrating this all too well when he had to take over at blindside flanker.
In this context Melrose did well to operate so well in the later stages of the game and perhaps this is what marks the Greenyards men as potential champions.
Outstanding for Melrose were prop Jamie Bhatti, lock James Head and number eight Iain Moody among the forwards while behind the scrum Sam Pecqueur showed that he is back to form, George Taylor continues to be a quality midfielder, and Fraser Thomson is a constant threat when it comes to scoring tries.
The Greenyards men were three points down in as many minutes after Chalmers kicked a penalty goal. But then the blitz started as first Grant Runciman finished off a pacy move in which Moody twice appeared.
Thomson quickly added to the score sheet with assistance from Ross McCann before Jackson added to his conversions with a penalty success, answered by Chalmers. Then from a Taylor break McCann touched down and three minutes later the bonus point was in the bag as Sam Pecqueur showed good footwork to claim the fourth Melrose try .
But rather than crumble in the face of the unstoppable, Watsonians stepped up their game, responding with tries by Fihaki, replacement Steele and centre Scott McLeod, Chalmers converting two of the scores.
A second try for Thomson converted by George Taylor eased Melrose worries, only for a second touchdown from Fihaki revitalised the Watsonians challenge. Melrose then stretched their lead with tries by Nick Beavon and Peter Eccles but late scores from Cullen and Steele gave Watsonians their second bonus point before the show finally came to an end.
Melrose: F Thomson; R McCann, A Lockington, G Taylor, S Pecqueur; C Jackson, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Anderson, N Beavon, J Head, A Bresler, R Knott, G Runciman (c), I Moody. Subs: R Ferguson, R McLeod, P Eccles, S Hutchison, G Wood.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; K Young, S McLeod, DJ Innes, S McKean; E Scott, R Cullen; N Borel, S Crombie, S Rowers, C McLean, C Borthwick, V Fihaki, A Duckett, R Drummond (c). Subs`: D Miller, M Christie, E Martin, E McKirdy, R Steele.
Referee: C Rudkin
Melrose: Tries Runciman, Thomson 2, McCann, Pecqueur, Eccles, Beavon; Cons: Jackson 3, Taylor; Pen: Jackson.
Watsonians: Tries: Fihaki 2, Steele 2, McLeod, Cullen; Cons: Chalmers; Pens Chalmers (3)
Scoring Sequence (Melrose first): 0-3, 5-3, 7-3, 12-3, 15-3, 15-6, 20-6, 22-6, 27-6, 29-6, 29-11, 29-16, 29-21, 29-23 (ht) 34-23, 36-23, 36-28, 36-31, 41-31, 46-31, 46-36, 46-41
Man-of-the-Match: Watonians number eight Rory Drummond is largely responsible for his side’s resurgence. Having missed the first part of the season through injury, he has made a big impact and against Melrose he showed why he is currently so highly-rated with some hugely effective ball carrying.
Talking Point: Watsonians showed that they are worthty of a place in the top tier. Their two bonus points against Melrose should ensure that this is the case next season.
Image courtesy: Douglas Hardie