ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
MELROSE marched on to their seventh successive win in the 2017-18 BT Premiership with a bonus point win over Marr that stretches the Borderers’ lead at the top of the championship table to 11 points.
Victory over the Premiership new boys, Marr, was almost guaranteed such has been the dominance of Melrose this season. Indeed, failure to achieve a bonus point win would almost qualify for cries of ‘sack the coach’ such is the high level of expectation among The Greenyards fans.
Only joking, of course! The Melrose coach, Rob Chrystie, deserves huge plaudits for what he has achieved with his team already this season and against Marr for the way he encouraged his Melrose side to adopt the New Zealand approach of playing to the final whistle.
“I was pleased that the boys pressed on after half time. It would have been very easy for them at 33-3 to switch off. Psychologically it’s difficult to keep going. But I thought our boys stayed very focused,” said Chrystie afterwards.
“Marr are not a bad side. They had a lot of possession and kept the ball for long periods of time, but we defended very well. When the opportunities came to strike from turn-over ball we were pretty clinical.”
“We work hard on using the ball in the wider channels. It’s about having the right eyes when the opportunities pop up,” added Chrystie, who, for the Marr game, was able to rotate a few players in the squad.
The principal beneficiary was scrum half Bruce Colvine, who started in place of Murdo McAndrew.
“There is little between them. Perhaps a contrast in styles. They both add massive value to the squad. But the competition is what makes players better,” explained the coach. “The good thing with this squad is that they all understand what we’re trying to do and they’re all positive about it.”
Certainly that understanding showed through against Marr, and perhaps above all in defence, where Melrose completely frustrated their opponents, denying them the chance to attack with what was a reasonable share of ball.
Repeatedly the Melrose tackling, often two defenders on one attacker, forced turnovers and with ball to use the Greenyards men did not squander chances.
That of course is all about having the players to turn possession into points. And Melrose are not short of talent in this department with players like Craig Jackson, who again showed professional potential in midfield, and Fraser Thomson having the vision and skill to create scores from turnover ball, while on the wings the Greenyards side had the pace of finishers, Gavin Wood and Sam Pecqueur.
Marr’s opening pressure earned them a penalty converted into three points by stand-off Craig Kolarik but thereafter the Melrose machine scythed their way to a 33-3 interval lead, from an opening touchdown by Ruairdh Knott, a Jason Baggot interception score, and, after good handling skills from Thomson and Jackson, two tries by winger Gavin Wood and one by Sam Pecqueur. Jackson kicked four conversions.
The visitors started the second half with a sense of purpose but a wayward kick allowed Jackson to counter attack from deep and with Thomson lending a helping hand, centre Nyle Godsmark scorched in for try number six, converted by Jackson.
Then from a set-scrum, Melrose worked a training ground move involving replacement Ben Chalmers, and ending with Godsmark claiming his second try, this time converted by Baggott.
The agony for Marr continued as Baggott used turnover ball to grab his second try and his second conversion and then they conceded a penalty try. Fortunately for the game Marr showed fighting spirit rewarded by a James Malcolm try and a Kolarik conversion. But, inevitably, Melrose had the final say as Pecqueur finished a tap penalty move to seal his side’s biggest win of the season.
Melrose: F Thomson; S Pecqueur, N Godsmark, C Jackson, G Wood; J Baggot, B Colvine; G Shiells, R Anderson, N Beavon, J Head, A Runciman, I Moody, R Knott, A MIller Subs used R Ferguson, R McLeod, N Irvine-Hess, M McAndrew, B Chalmers.
Marr: D Steele; T Buchanan, R Dalgeish, C Bickerstaff, T Steven; C Kolarik, K Barreto; G Jackson, J Malcolm W Farquhar, E Bulger, G Petersen, M Pearce, A Johnston, F Grant. Subs used S Adair, C Nisbet, R Jackson, G Ness, M Freydell
Referee: V Praderie
Melrose: Tries Wood 2, Pecqueur 2, Knott, Baggott 2, Godsmark 2, Penalty Try; Cons: Jackson 5, Baggott 2.
Marr: Try: Malcolm; Con: Kolarik; Pen: Kolaric.
Scoring Sequence (Melrose first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 12-3; 14-3; 19-3; 24-3; 26-3; 31-3; 33-3 (h-t) 38-3; 40-3; 45-3; 47-3; 52-3; 54-3; 59-3; 61-3; 61-8; 61-10; 66-10.
Yellow cards –
Marr: Malcolm (23mins)
Man-of-the-Match: Full-back Fraser Thomson had a hand in most of the Melrose tries because of his ability to counter attack at pace together with excellent vision and accurate handling skills
Talking point: Are Melrose unstoppable? The Greenyards men have collected a try bonus point from all seven of their matches thus far. Heriot’s at Goldenacre could pose problems for the all-conquering Melrose team in round eigh of the Premiership but don’t bet against another win by the Borderers.
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