ALAN LORIMER @ Riverside Park
AFTER focusing on sevens earlier this month Jed-Forest and Melrose finally dipped their toes into fifteens waters with a Bookers Border League match at Riverside. And because it was a meaningful league match it will have been all the more valuable an experience for both teams.
At national level, Jed and Melrose will play in different tiers, Jed in the Premiership and Melrose dropping into what will be a tough National One League as part of the Super6 reshuffle of Scottish club rugby. Of the two sides, Melrose, despite losing, will probably be the happier, especially so given the youthful profile of their squad.
“There were five boys who came up from last season’s Under-18s,” said Melrose coach Stuart Johnson, pleased that he had identified a number of positives from his side’s performance. “Our defence was spot on at times and the forwards were outstanding particularly in the driving mauls. The result was disappointing, though. The game was there for the taking.”
Impressive for Melrose were back-rows Chris Raymond and Tristan Andrews, while in the back line stand-off Donald Crawford controlled the game well and at full-back teenager Kieran Clarke, a star of the spring sevens circuit, again showed why he is a player to track.
For Jed, the performance of the backline was encouraging but hardly surprising given the way they lit up the two sevens tournaments earlier this month. Jed too will be happy at the showing of the forwards even if they did suffer a mid-match slump.
“Our performance today was a bit like a doughnut: we started well and finished well but in the middle we tried to pace ourselves,” admitted Jed’s head coach Kevin Barrie. “We gave seven new boys an opportunity today. So that was 20 boys given a run and that’s the first time this season.
“We’ve certainly benefitted from the sevens this month. The backs, when they had the ball, showed a bit of confidence. In the forwards, I thought we scrummed pretty well and some of the line-outs were pretty good – we stole some of their balls early on. But when fatigue hit and the forwards struggled. So, we have to keep looking at the fitness. It was a win but we’ve got a long way to go. A pleasing exercise. It’s a young team. Gregor Law at 24 was the oldest player in the pack.”
Jed looked set for a big win as they built a 15-0 lead with a try and conversion by Gary Munro from a break by Othello Heka, followed by a penalty by Munro, and then a touch-down in the corner by the impressive second-row Gregor Law from a cross-field kick by Monty Mitchell.
But Jed were unable to sustain this early pace and when Melrose drove a line-out, a penalty try ensued. Minutes later Crawford broke clean through the Jed defence to score under the posts leaving David Colvine with an easy conversion and a half-time score of 15-14.
Melrose looked the more positive side at the beginning of the second half, confirmation coming from another driven line-out and a try for flanker Raymond.
A Colvine penalty then extended the Melrose lead to 22-15, triggering an energetic response from Jed, who levelled the scores with a break-out try by Lewis Young, which was converted by his brother Calum to set up an exciting finale.
And it was Jed who prevailed, their pressure on the Melrose line allowing Gregor Young to side-step through a disorganised defence for the winning score, converted by Munro.
Jed-Forest: L Young; R Marshall, G Young, M Mitchell, R Shirra-Gibb; R Yourston, G Munro; G Paxton, K Lamont, H Meadows, G Young, G Law, D Wardrop, J Howe, O Heka. Subs: C Lothian, F Campbell, A Keeler, E Lauder, N Stingl, C Young, J Laing.
Melrose: K Clarke; L Mallin, D Colvine, G McWilliam, J Brown; D Crawford, F Broomfield; M Wilson, B McLean, C Crookshank, T Brown, G Lindsay, C Raymond, H Morris, G Runciman. Subs: R Ferguson, S Fisher, C Fairbairn, T Andrews, C Wilde, T Klein, C Meager.
Referee: D Young
Jed-Forest: Tries: Munro, Law, L Young ,G Young; Cons Munro 2, C Young; Pen: Munro.
Melrose: Tries: Penalty Try, Crawford, Raymond; Con: Colvine; Pen: Colvine.
Scoring sequence (Jed-Forest first): 5-0; 7-0; 10-0; 15-0; 15-7; 15-12,;15-14 (h-t) 15-19; 15-22; 20-22; 22-22; 27-22; 29-22.
Yellow cards –
Jed-Forest: E Lauder
Man-of-the-Match: He is not everyone’s idea of a stand-off but when Monty Mitchell, after starting at inside-centre, moved to the ten position in the final quarter, he supplied the creativity to win the match.
Talking point: Always useful to have a full-on match to test players and from this Border League game at Riverside both coaches will have derived much information about the readiness of their charges ahead of 7th September. What the Melrose performance illustrated is that while the Greenyards club are working hard to get ready for Super 6, they still have ambitions in the ‘amateur’ sphere. For Jed, their prospects in the Premiership seem sound but that will be tested when they play Marr in the opening round.