Currie Chieftains 31
GARY HEATLY @ Malleny Park
MELROSE dug deep at Malleny Park to win this cracking match which delivered 10 tries and was played with real pace and intensity. Seven of the tries were scored in a breathless first 40 minutes and in the second period Melrose showed better game management to get the victory after coming back from 14-0 and 26-17 down.
“I thought that the longer the game went on the more we settled into it and looked a bit more composed,” said Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie. “If you look at that first half we knew it was going to be difficult for our midfield because they had never played together and you cannot replicate playing games in training.
“I think we asked a lot of questions of Currie in the first half and as the second half went on we grew in confidence and I thought our game management was pretty good to be fair.”
Melrose were forced into a change in the lead-up to the game with second-row Angus Runciman pulling out due to a broken hand suffered in raining on Thursday night. That meant that Iain Moody moved forward from the back-row with 37-year-old Scott Lawson, usually a hooker, coming in to play blindside flanker.
And the disruption may have had something to do with their slow start, although credit to Chieftains for coming out of the blocks flying.
Within two minutes they had taken the lead, a nice inside pass from centre partner Joe Reynolds putting captain Robbie Nelson in for a try, stand-off Gregor Hunter converting. The hosts stayed on the front foot and after seven minutes they made it 14-0 when, after a number of phases near to the Melrose line, scrum-half Charlie Shiel stepped inside opposite number Murdo McAndrew and went over for try number two.
This Melrose team are too experienced to get flustered when they go behind and by the 15th minute they had scored two tries of their own to make it 14-12. The first try came from stand-off Struan Hutchison and then centre Jason Baggott, released by Edinburgh Rugby for the game, intercepted a wayward Chieftains pass in his own 22 and outpaced the defence to score from all of 80 metres.
Those tries gave Melrose confidence and just before the 20-minute mark, full-back Fraser Thomson set-up winger Michael Muelace-Julyan, but he was just hauled into touch a few metres short of the try-line.
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The pace and intensity of this game remained high and by the time the half hour mark came both sides had scored their third tries. Melrose took the lead for the first time when a good driving maul proved hard to stop and McAndrew took advantage to dive over for the score, and Chieftains responded with a really well worked team try which culminated in Thomas Gordon, the former age-grade cap who is having a fine campaign, diving in at the corner.
Then, in the last play before half-time, Chieftains secured their bonus point fourth try. It owed much to the work of Hunter who fed Reynolds to go over from short range. Hunter converted to make it 26-17 at the interval.
Three minutes after the restart, Melrose had a bonus point try themselves. Again their driving maul caused Chieftains some problems and hooker Russell Anderson was the man credited with the score. Baggott missed a relatively simple conversion to leave things at 26-22.
Melrose were dealt a blow in the 55th minute when try scorer Anderson was forced off with injury, but had a readymade international replacement in Lawson, who moved forward in the pack to the number two role.
At that stage, Chieftains were searching hard for try number five, but the visiting defence stood firm when home second-row Marc Kelly was stopped just short of the try-line and penalised for holding on.
The second half, perhaps understandably, was not being played at the same speed as the first and was, generally, a bit stop-start with injury delays on both sides.
With 15 minutes to go, Melrose closed the gap to one point with a Baggott penalty to set-up a fascinating finale. And with nine minutes to go they got their fifth try of the afternoon, once again from their driving maul causing all sorts of issues, before replacement scrum-half Bruce Colvine picked the ball up from the base to find a way over the line. Baggott’s conversion made it was 32-26 to the reigning champions.
With six minutes remaining, home winger Ben Robbins had a great run from his own half and although he was hauled down the Melrose defence was stretched. That chance came to nothing, but with three minutes to go Reynolds hacked ahead and managed to dive on the ball in the corner for his side’s fifth try.
With Hunter now off the pitch, Reynolds himself took the conversion from the touchline, and it fell well short. Melrose held on by the skin of their teeth to gain a full haul of five points from the match, and Chieftain made do with two bonus points from a great advert for the Tennent’s Premiership.
“We are really disappointed with that result,” said Currie head coach Ben Cairns. “We got off to a flying start because we kept the ball really well and played at tempo. Melrose are a good side and they were always going to come back at us, but in the second half we had three chances when we were within inches of their line and could not convert them into tries. That ultimately cost us the game.”
Currie Chieftains: A Hall; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson, S Hamilton; G Hunter, C Shiel; A McWilliam, G Carson, F Watt, M Kelly, M Vernel, T Tameilau, T Gordon, S McGinley. Subs: C Wilson, R Patterson, M Agiro, R Frostwick, M Hooks.
Melrose: F Thomson; G Wood, P Anderson, J Baggott, M Muelace-Julyan; S Hutchison, M McAndrew; G Shiels, R Anderson, C Young, J Head, I Moody R Darge, S Lawson, R Darge, G Runciman, R Darge. Subs: S Cruikshank, R McLeod, T Brown, B Colvine, A Jardine.
Referee: J Castanede.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Nelson, Shiel, Gordon, Reynolds 2. Cons: Hunter 3.
Melrose: Tries: Hutchison, Baggott, McAndrew, R Anderson, Colvine. Pen: Baggott. Cons: Baggott 2.
Scoring sequence (Currie Chieftains first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 14-0, 14-5, 14-10, 14-12, 14-17, 19-17, 24-17, 26-17 half-time, 26-22, 26-25, 26-30, 26-32, 31-32.
Man of the Match: On a day when 10 tries were scored you might think a back would be the pick of the players, but for sheer work-rate and determination Iain Moody, the Melrose second-row, gets the nod.
Talking Point: Who could fail to be impressed by these two teams going toe-to-toe? They are two of the best attacking sides in the country and if this kind of entertainment doesn’t get people along to watch club rugby then nothing will.
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