DAVID BARNES @ Myreside
JOB done for the visitors, with a bonus point win secured from a potentially troublesome trip to the capital, but they made hard work of it. Melrose dominated possession, had the better of the territory and on a few notable occasions ripped the opposition open with some lively attacking play – but there was also an awful lot of coughed up possession and missed opportunities meaning they did not get over for that important fourth score until the final play of the match.
“We got there in the end. There was some really good stuff but we just coughed up possession at the wrong time and made a few silly errors, which is slightly frustrating. Having said that, to come up here and get a bonus point win at this time of year – I’m pretty happy with that,” said visiting coach Rob Chrystie.
This was Watsonians’ second defeat on the bounce, and it is perhaps dawning on some of them that life in the BT Premiership – after promotion from National One last year – is going to be a bumpier ride than their early season successes perhaps suggested. Not that their head coach Marcus Di Rollo is looking at it that way.
“We want to win every game. Big team, small team, it doesn’t really matter – when you lose it is very disappointing. I think if we play as well as we can and we have all our boys available then we should be looking to beat anyone,” he said.
“We couldn’t get any momentum in the second half today and that was basically it. The guys put in an awful lot of hard work defensively but when you can’t get into the game and impose yourself on the opposition you are going to struggle,” the former Scotland centre added.
A magical jinking run took home full-back Ally Davidson all the way to the line, but he lost control as he dived for glory and injured himself in the process, and it was Melrose who drew first blood instead with Richard Taylor making the telling break before feeding Neil Irvine-Hess, who was stopped just short of the line. The ball was recycled quickly and an overhead miss pass from Jason Baggott gave Ruaridh Knott an easy stroll over the whitewash.
Irvine-Hess was injured in the move and had to come off, which was a set-back for the visitors because he has been one of their most impressive performers this season. At least that was off-set by the availability of Lewis Carmichael, who has been away on Edinburgh duty in recent weeks, while Knott was clearly enjoying his break from the boiler-house to play at openside flanker as cover for the recuperating Grant Runciman
Watsonians have been accused in recent weeks of being over reliant on their pack, with head coach Marcus Di Rollo making five changes to his backline this week in an effort to find a more enterprising blend behind the scrum.
His tinkering was a qualified success during the first half because with the home eight under serious pressure – especially at scrum and line-out – there was a need to mix the game up with whatever possession they could salvage, and their 24th minute try was a fine demonstration of this, with outside centre Scott McLeod eventually getting over after a series of high-tempo phases. Ewan Scott slotted the conversion.
It looked like Melrose had recaptured the lead when Iain Moody bumped his way over the line, but Andrew Chalmers managed to dislodge the ball at the last moment, and Watsonians were off the hook.
But it was only a temporary reprieve, with Knott going over for his second try just before the break after some crisp interplay from Craig Jackson and Jason Baggott.
Melrose grabbed try number three at the start of the second half through an incisive break from the excellent Jackson and a powerful finish from Ross McCann. It was reminiscent of the sharp shooting rugby the Borderers were producing when tearing through the early part of the season, but with several key men injured and their confidence perhaps slightly dented by their defeat to Ayr a fortnight ago, they struggled to really throw off the shackles.
And it wasn’t until the final play of the match, when good line-out ball followed by a wonderful dummy and change of pace from the Jackson grabbed that vital bonus point.
Watsonians: A Davidson; K Young, S McLeod, T Hart, M McFarland; A Chalmers, R Cullen; M Christie©, D Miller, N Borel, F Morrison, C Borthwick, S Crombie, A Duckett, E Dods. Subs: K Beattie, M Poole, E McKirdy, E Scott.
Melrose: C Jackson; N Godsmark, R Taylor, G Taylor, R McCann; J Baggott, M McAndrew; J Bhatti, R Anderson, R McLeod, J Head, L Carmichael, N Irvine-Hess, R Knott, I Moody. Subs: R Ferguson, D Elkington, A Grieve, D Colvine, G Wood.
Watsonians: Try: McLeod; Con: Scott.
Melrose: Try: Knott 2, McCann, Jackson; Con: Baggott 2.
Scoring Sequence (Melrose first): 0-5, 5-5, 7-5, 7-10, 7-12 (h-t) 7-17, 7-22, 7-24
Referee: Dan Jones (WRU)
Man-of-the-Match: Playing out of position at full-back, and filling in as captain, Craig Jackson was a stand-out with several telling interventions and a wonderfully taken try at the death.
Talking Point: Can Melrose really be accused of being off colour after grabbing a bonus point win away to the league’s fourth placed team?