BT Premiership play-off semi-final: Melrose 42-15 Currie


MELROSE will host Ayr in the BT Premiership Grand Final after an emphatic display of robust, incisive rugby saw them prevail over a Currie side, who will be disappointed with their final league showing, following an impressive run of form which saw them sneak into the play-offs on the last day of the season. 

Although the capital side did temporarily hold an early following a penalty from Jamie Forbes, it was, for the most part, one way traffic for the remainder of the encounter, and when Austin Lockington scored just after the break, the nail was well and truly driven into the Currie coffin. Melrose adopted a more physical style of play for this clash, which Currie struggled to deal with. With the hosts holding the upper hand at both the set-piece and in the loose, the match was at times a sluggish one-sided affair.

“We knew Currie were going to give us a tough game, but in the end we really executed, and to be honest we didn’t give them a sniff. I was really pleased with how we reacted to last weekend’s cup match against Stirling, where we weren’t able to put the tie to bed,” said Melrose head coach, Rob Chrystie.

“It was a little bit different from the style you’ve perhaps seen us play in the last few weeks. We wanted to put a marker down early doors, and we did that when we were able to drive over with our first attack of the game.”

“Its going to take a decent side to beat us, and Ayr are a decent side. It’s going to be a cracker of the game. I firmly believe ourselves and Ayr have been the best two teams in the league, so it’s great that it’s going to come down to this. We’re really happy to be at home, as we have obviously had to travel through to Ayr the last few times, and hopefully that will give us a slight edge.”

Whilst Currie will undoubtably be disappointed in the way that they fell short, especially when there was a chance to play in Scottish amateur rugby’s showcase event on the line, the capital club will take heart from a campaign in which they climbed from bottom to fourth place. Ben Cairn’s side have gained a reputation of playing attractive, flee-flowing rugby, and whilst it wasn’t on show this afternoon, they will go into next season with every confidence that they can return to the play-offs.

Currie’s captain – Ross Weston – was playing in his final game for the capital club before retiring, and although the number eight was proud of his side’s effort, he was disappointed in the final scoreline.

“It obviously wasn’t a great way to finish the season, but full credit to Melrose – they played really well. They had a 20 minute spell in the first-half that blew us away, and we were always chasing the game after that,” admitted the 33-year-old.

“In October we were sitting at the bottom of the league, and talking about getting relegated, so to make a late charge into the play-off showed how much character we have as a side.”

“I’ve had twelve seasons with Currie and loved every one of them. Obviously winning the league twice in 2007 and 2010 were highlights, but that’s me now: my boots are in the bin!”

Despite the obvious feeling of tension around the Greenyards prior to kick-off, the match began at a surprisingly lacklustre pace, as both sides’ full-backs – Harvey Elms and Fraser Thomson – traded aimless kicks. It was the hosts, however, who did eventually grab the early advantage, via a lengthy penalty from their stand-off, Jamie Forbes.

With both sides donning black and yellow strips, it was difficult at times to judge which player belonged to which side, however, there was no confusion surrounding Melrose’s first try of the afternoon when they combined brute force with precision from an attacking lineout to barrel over the line. With Neil Irvine-Hess securing the ball at the tail, the Border’s side quickly formed a tight rolling maul, manipulating the visitor’s pack side-to-side as they inched towards the whitewash, and when Ruaridh Knott eventually broke free, there was no stopping the former Loretto School second-row from such a short distance.

Currie came into this game fully aware of just how ruthless Melrose can be, having conceded 52 points in their visit to the Greenyards back in September. If the capital side were to have any chance of winning this match, they were going to have to keep mistakes to a minimum, however, when Ruaridh Smith’s poor clearance went out on the full – gifting Melrose excellent field possession – the Malleny Park outfit were made to pay. With the lineout secured, the ball was played short to George Taylor, before it was recycled and played up the blind-side channel to Grant Runciman, who made significant ground. With the visitors committing too many men to the breakdown, Melrose swiftly played the ball wide to Nyle Godsmark, who handed off his opposite number and crashed over the line.

Melrose were now in complete control of the match and with their pack dominating at both scrum and line-out, their back-line had excellent ball with which to attack. From another lineout deep inside the visitors’ 22, Iain Moody – who missed last weekend’s cup clash against Stirling County with an ankle injury – was secured the ball popped it to Taylor, who’s blunt force approach to running was integral to the capital the hosts made from their physical approach all afternoon. With the inside-centre piercing Currie’s defensive line, Godsmark was on hand to collect a neat offload before breezing over the try-line for his second score of the afternoon. During a 20 minute spell of powerful, precise rugby from the hosts, Currie’s game-plan had unravelled at a rapid rate, and the capital side found themselves 19-3 down with only 17 minutes on the clock.

Jason Baggott added a penalty, to go along with his two conversions, to stretch the scoreline further, whilst the visitors struggled to capitalise on the few occasions they ventured into the Melrose half; and when the usually ultra-reliable Weston comically hit the deck whilst attempting a sidestep, it was perhaps a sign that it wasn’t to be the Malleny Park outfit’s afternoon. As the referee brought the first-half to a close, Melrose held all the cards.

With a comfortable lead, the hosts rung the changes at the break. Bruce Colvine replaced Murdo McAndrew, while Craig Jackson came on for the impressive Taylor at inside-centre; and almost immediately the replacements found themselves in the thick of the action from an imaginative set-piece move. From a scrum on the half-way line, the Colvine played a flat pass to Jackson, who threw a delicate inside pop to Lockington. With the visitor’s rushing line caught unawares, the South-African winger found himself in enough space to see off the frantic cover defence of Ben Robbins.

As Lockington dived over in the corner, for his side’s fourth try of the afternoon to make it 29-3, there was a feeling that it was curtains for Currie’s hopes of an unlikely comeback. Despite this, Currie started to play their best rugby of the afternoon, and when Weston trundled over there was at least evidence that the capital side were not going down with a whimper. It was fitting that Weston – making his last appearance in a Currie strip – was the man to touch down for the visitors, and as every member of side congratulated him on the score, it was obvious just how popular a figure he is in the club.

Melrose had little time for sentimental moments, however, and they soon reinforced their lead thanks to a further penalty from Baggott, and a lineout drive score from replacement second-row Ally Grieve.

Robbie Nelson did provide a late consolation score for the visitors, via a beautifully deft pass from Forbes, but the final outcome of the match was never in doubt.

Teams –

Melrose: F Thomson; A Lockington, N Godsmark, G Taylor, S Pecqueur; J Baggott, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Anderson, R McLeod, J Head, R Knott, N Irvine-Hess, G Runcimen (c), I Moody. Subs: C MacKay, D Elkington, N Beavon, A Grieve, P Eccles, B Colvine, C Jackson.

Currie: H Elms; R Smith, R Tagive, R Nelson, B Robbins; J Forbes, C Shiel; J Cox, G Carson, AP McWilliam, H Bain, S Ainslie, L Crosbie, R Davies, R Weston (c). Subs: P Mundell, R Patterson, M Vernel, S McGinley, M ONeil, M Hooks, C Gray.

Scorers –

Melrose: Tries: Knott, Godsmark 2, Lockington, Grieve; Pens: Baggott 3; Cons: Baggott 4

Currie: Tries: Weston, Nelson; Pens: Forbes; Cons: Forbes

Yellow cards –

Melrose: Jackson

Currie: Patterson


Referee: Graeme Wells


Man-of-the-Match: Melrose back-row Neil Irvine-Hess put in an industrious performance; laying his body on the line several times in defence. A force at the line-out, the flanker was one over several impressive Melrose performers.

Talking point: Whilst Melrose were fully worthy of their victory, it was unfortunate that we didn’t get to see Currie play in the manner in which we have grown accustomed to. Usual danger man Harvey Elms was kept quiet for the majority of the afternoon, and chances were few and far between for the capital side. Did Currie, in the end, just fly too close to the sun?

About Stuart Rutherford 50 Articles
Stuart hails from the Borders town of Selkirk and has been around rugby all his life, largely thanks to the influence of his father, John. Not only a fan of the modern game, he is a keen rugby historian, and produces a regular 'Throwback Thursday Column' for The Offside Line.