Tennent’s Premiership: Melrose reassert title credentials against disappointing Watsonians

Borderers overcome toughest test yet in quest to claim back-to-back titles

Watsonsians V Melrose
Image: John Williamson

Watsonians 7

Melrose 31


THE champions  came through their first real test in the Tennent’s Premiership with an A-star pass from a sizable win over Watsonians that maintains the Borderers’ position at the top of the table. With a performance built on a hard-working defence, Melrose rarely allowed their hosts chances to express themselves in attack. But the visitors task was made easier by a non-functioning Watsonians back-line that was lacking in subtlety with ball in hand. 

A despairing Watsonians coach, Steve Lawrie,  could barely contain his disdain for his side’s dismal showing. “Look, I’d like to congratulate Melrose on a really good performance today. We as a group – and I’m talking about everybody –  were a disgrace,” he said.

And with no more words added, it could be assumed that the more explicit and colourful comments were reserved for the players, who face a tough week in training ahead of their clash with Boroughmuir at Meggetland next Saturday.

SOHO Wealth watsonians
Soho Wealth supports Watsonians FC

Yet,  the Watsonians forwards got through a power of work, allowing the Myresiders to dominate territory for most of the second quarter. But Watsonians were unable to profit from their gains and will have to look for ways of being more inventive.

Watsonians’ lack of incision, of course, was very much due to the sharpness and tenacity of the Melrose defence, typified towards the end of the game by centre Patrick Anderson, who still had the energy left to make three successive tackles when Watsonians threatened to grab a late face-saving try.

Additionally Melrose made their forward power tell both in the set piece and in loose play, in which context the value of the second-row pairing of James Head and Angus Runciman was again in evidence. Runciman was eventually subbed after suffering from cramp but by that stage in the game he had done more than his share of work to ensure a Melrose victory.

Tennent’s Premiership: Robertson bags six as Heriot’s blow Accies away

Tennent’s Premiership: Boroughmuir’s dramatic finale breaks Hawks’ hearts

Tennent’s Premiership: Ayr stretch away after tense first half against County

Behind the scrum, Struan Hutchison had a tidy game at stand-off, Craig Jackson was the prime playmaker and Fraser Thomson showed how he can turn games. Melrose will be pleased too with the performance of their wing, Iain Sim, who showed up well in both attack and defence.

So, are Melrose back on top song?  “I’m really pleased with that performance,” admitted head coach Rob Chrystie. “We’ve been honest with ourselves  over the past three weeks and we’ve been nowhere near where we needed to be. We can build on today’s performance and go on from here.

“Today were pretty physical out there. That’s been lacking a bit. What’s most pleasing from today is the understanding of what we’re trying to do as a group. Defence was also pleasing today. They chucked a lot at us in the first half and for them not to get over our line was really good.”

Melrose, however, dominated the first fifteen minutes of the game and were rewarded with a trademark score, after Thomson had used his pace and guile to draw two defenders before putting Sim in for an unconverted try.

Watsonians were unfortunate to lose their scrum-half and top sevens exponent Ali Harris, but his departure allowed Paul Cunningham his chance to show that the youngster is ready for the senior game.

Having conceded an early try, Watsonians tested the Melrose defence and came to scoring only for full-back Josh Rowlands to be tackled into touch by Sim at the end of an attack, ignited by former Hawick wing Scott McLeod. Another chance went begging when Ross Graham raced up the right touchline from a line-out before being hunted down by Melrose skipper and flanker Grant Runciman.

Then from an attacking position Lee Millar opted to chip ahead. The ball was scooped out of the air by Patrick Anderson and shipped wide to Fraser Thomson, the full-back raced in from 80 metres for a game-turning try leaving Melrose going into the break with a 10-0 interval lead.

Playing with the wind in the second half, Melrose quickly took control of the game and, from short range, impact replacement Ruairidh Knott barged over for try number three, converted by Jackson.

It was now just a matter of time before Melrose collected the bonus point and it came courtesy of back-row Iain Moody, whose surge from a scrum after a tight-head strike produced the score, Jackson again converting.

Fortunately for the game Watsonians were able to achieve one try for their efforts, the score coming from a driven line-out augmented by a number of backs, the score, converted by Millar,  attributed to full back Josh Rowlands.

Melrose still had the energy and drive for one further score and it too came from a driving maul that ended with veteran hooker, Scott Lawson,  wrapped round the ball and crucially over the line, Jackson’s conversion completing his side’s satisfyingly large points tally.

Charlesfield Melrose
Delighted to sponsor Melrose RFC

Teams –

Watsonians: J Rowlands; A Guthrie, DJ Innes, L MIller, S McLeod; E Fox, A Harris; R Jackson, R Graham, J Stanley, J Hodgson, C Borthwick, F Simpson, G Nelson, J Miller Subs F Renwick, F Hobbs,A O’Neill,  A Bell, P Cunningham.

Melrose: F Thomson; M Mvelase-Julyan, P Anderson, C Jackson, I Sim; S Hutchison, M McAndrew; G Shiels, S Lawson, R McLeod, J Head, A Runciman, R Darge, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: B Mclean, C Young, R Knott, B Colvine G Wood.

Referee: C Evans

Scorers –

Watsonians: Try; Rowlands; Con: Millar.

Melrose: Tries: Sim, Thomson, Knott, Moody, Lawson; Cons Jackson 3.

Scoring Sequence (Watsonians first): 0-5, 0-10 (h-t) 0-15, 0-17, 0-22, 0-24, 5-24, 7-24, 7-29, 7-31

Yellow cards –

Melrose: Head

Man-of-the-Match: Melrose probably had fifteen candidates But having created one try and scored another Fraser Thomson underlined his value to the Greenyards men

Talking point:  While Melrose boosted their confidence considerablY, Watsonians were left a tad demoralised.  Their problem could be one of depth but in fielding teenager Paul Cunningham off the bench they perhaps pointed the way forward. Cunningham himself showed some good touches, enough surely to convince the Myreside club to stick with him.

Cockerill slams officials as Edinburgh record first win

About Alan Lorimer 274 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.