by GARY HEATLY
MELROSE head coach Rob Chrystie praised his side’s ability to stay calm under pressure as the holders battled back to defeat Boroughmuir 36-28 in a cracking Scottish Cup first round tie at Meggetland on Friday night. On a chilly evening there were also wins for last year’s losing finalists Stirling County and Jed-Forest, defeating Glasgow Hawks and Selkirk respectively.
At Meggetland, Melrose were behind at half-time and were 28-22 down heading into the final 15 minutes, but the battling qualities that won them the double in 2017-18 once again shone through.
“It was a really great cup tie, a ding-dong battle, and we knew that Boroughmuir would be right up for it because they had beaten Currie Chieftains in their last home game and were going to throw everything at us,” said Chrystie.
“They have some dangerous backs with a lot of pace and at times they caused us problems, but we have a good mix of experience and young talent in our team and the good thing about them is they seldom panic.
“After losing scores they regroup and get on with the next job and although we were down at the 65 minute mark they had belief that they could come back.
“We scored two good tries from then on to get us over the line and while the pack did some great work in this game I think what is really pleasing for me is that young players like Struan Hutchison and Gavin Wood in the backs are making themselves first team regulars and stepping up to the plate, while David Colvine also did well when he came on.”
Melrose were dealt a blow before kick-off when full-back Fraser Thomson failed a fitness test, mean Iain Sim started on the wing with Bruce Colvine shifted to 15.
Early on, a good break by the in-form Paddy Anderson caused the Boroughmuir defence problems and from the resultant phases the Melrose forwards rumbled over for the opening try. It was converted by Jason Baggott.
Boroughmuir then found their stride to get right back into things. Penalties in the 18th and 28th minutes from Gavin Parker made it 7-6 and then they scored an interception try from their own half through Kerr Gossman to go ahead.
A penalty by Hutchison narrowed the gap to 11-10 at the interval, before the hosts got off to a dream start to the second half with a penalty being followed up by a converted try to make it 21-10.
Melrose got it back to 21-17 through a converted Anderson try, but with 15 minutes to go they were trailing 28-22 and in danger of falling at the first hurdle.
However, a try from Edinburgh Rugby man Baggott – converted by Hutchison – put the Borderers one point up and a converted Iain Moody effort at the death made sure of the victory.
At Bridgehaugh, Stirling County were down 7-3 to Hawks at half-time, but three second half tries in a 13 minute burst put them 22-7 up. The teams then traded late tries as it finished 27-12 to County.
Meanwhile, at Riverside Park, Jed-Forest led Tennent’s National League Division One rivals Selkirk 6-5 at the break, and after the interval the hosts managed to score tries through Rory Marshall and then Paulo Ferreira, with Garry Munro adding one conversion to secure an 18-10 success.
The three sides join Ayr in the second round, the Millbrae men progressing after Dundee HSFP could not raise a side for Saturday’s tie.
Four ties do go ahead on Saturday lunchtime with Heriot’s taking on Edinburgh Accies, Hawick welcoming Border rivals Gala to Mansfield Park, Marr making the trip to Myreside to play Watsonians and GHA hosting Currie Chieftains at Braidholm.