ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
MELROSE brought their try tally to seventeen from the opening two rounds of the BT Premiership after running in nine scores against what was admittedly an understrength Boroughmuir side.
After an attritional match against Ayr in the first round of the championship, Boroughmuir were forced to go to The Greenyards without playmaker, Chris Laidlaw, winger Jordan Edmonds and centre Ronan Kerr, but even with their top flight performers the visitors would have found it difficult to resist a Melrose team clearly on song.
Conceding that it had been a difficult afternoon for his side, Boroughmuir coach, Peter Wright said : “I thought we played pretty well in the first half but after the break they were absolutely clinical. They have quality players in their back three and in the middle Craig Jackson just controls things.”
“It’s a lesson for the boys but when you go into a game without five first team backs it’s difficult. It was frustrating. At half-time we were in the hunt but we made mistakes and they capitalised. We’ve got a lot of new faces in this team and we’ve just got to keep building.”
The final score certainly did not reflect Boroughmuir’s first half performance that put pressure on Melrose and forced the home side to ‘up’ the intensity of their defence, after Sean Kennedy, released by Edinburgh, made several telling breaks. At times, too, the visiting midfield handled well and showed incision.
Arguably Boroughmuir made it easier for Melrose, when Lewis Carmichael, a former favourite at The Greenyards, spent ten minutes in the bin for a ‘spear’ tackle on Sam Pecqueur, during which time the home side ran in two tries.
But there was no denying that once Melrose moved into a scoring rhythm they looked imperious and a half century of points always looked likely as their forwards bossed the frontal battle and their backs went through a repertoire of exciting moves.
Melrose were helped by the release from Edinburgh of the Scotland Sevens centre James Johnstone, whose clever attacking angles and sheer pace created two of the Melrose second half tries.
The score might have been even greater had Craig Jackson kicked more conversions. In the event he succeeded with just three from nine but with all his attempts from the touchline it was always going to be difficult.
Jackson, however, is the man who pulls the strings, his calm presence and astute judgment giving the Melrose backline its potency. He took over the captaincy after Grant Runciman was taken off, and said afterwards that his side’s try bonanza over the opening two games should not be read as a sure sign of success against Ayr in round three.
“We’ve got a lot to work on before we go to Millbrae and not get carried away with our two opening results. We’ve got to look after the ball better but we can’t complain after scoring nine tries. As for my goal-kicking it wasn’t quite on the money. I’ve got to go away and work on this, because there will come a time when these kicks are crucial,” he said.
In a match that eventually ran away from them, Boroughmuir actually looked potent in the opening exchanges but their sole first half reward was a penalty goal by stand-off Ciaran Whyte.
Then Melrose struck twice while Carmichael was in the sin-bin, Ross McCann gathering the sweetest of cross kicks from Jackson before racing over and Fraser Thomson profiting from an overlap to score the first of his brace for a 10-3 interval lead.
Melrose began the second half with intent with a driving maul and then a switch to the blind-side that gave Sam Pecqueur a try in the corner converted by Jackson.
A surge from a line-out by Carmichael gave Boroughmuir their first try, the ball swung left to Greg Cannie before teenager Dan Marek piled over. It was to be only a small riposte by the Edinburgh side, however, and they then watched the scoreboard race away from them ominously quickly as Runciman completed a driving maul for the bonus point and then Thomson raced in for his second try, converted by Jackson.
Pecqueur touched down for his second score before replacement scrum-half Bruce Colvine added a brace of tries, the second of these, converted by Jackson.
Reward for Muir’s staying power finally came when Carmichael crashed over under the posts leaving Whyte with an easy conversion kick, but, inevitably, Melrose had the final say, this time their backs showing quick hands as the ball was transferred to Pecqueur for the wing to complete his hat-trick.
Melrose: F Thomson; R McCann, N Godsmark, C Jackson, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, M McAndrew; G Shiels, R Anderson, N Beavon, A Runciman, I Moody, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman, A Miller. Subs used R Ferguson, R McLeod, R Knott, B Colvine, J Johnstone.
Boroughmuir: S Chalmers; G Welsh, G Cannie, M Hare, R Scott; C Whyte, S Kennedy; R Dunbar, J Matthews, D Winning, C Keddie, L Carmichael, A Mcube, M Walker, T Brennan. Subs used: C Davies, D Robertson, D Marek, G Inness, J Adams.
Referee: B Blain
Melrose: Tries: McCann, Thomson 2, Colvine 2, G Runciman, Pecqueur 3; Cons: Jackson 3.
Boroughmuir: Tries: Marek, Carmichael; Pen; Whyte; Con; Whyte.
Scoring Sequence (Melrose first): 0-3; 5-3; 10-3 (h-t) 15-3; 17-3; 17-8; 22-8; 27-8; 29-8; 34-8; 39-8; 44-8; 46-8; 46-13; 46-15; 51-15.
Yellow cards –
Melrose: McLeod (77)
Boroughmuir: Carmichael (18), Hare (74)
Man-of-the-Match: Hooker Russell Anderson was the heart of the Melrose driving play and his effectiveness in carrying ball frequently put his side on the front foot. Behind the scrum, just about all the Melrose backs could have been given the award but Craig Jackson despite a difficult day off the tee was the grand orchestrator.
Talking point: Melrose have set a scorching pace in the BT Premiership to underline their title credentials. But they have yet to be tested and their next match at Millbrae will tell us how good they really are. Meanwhile, Boroughmuir will struggle until their top flight players return. Their match at The Greenyards was a set back but don’t write them off just yet.