Tennent’s Premiership: Penalty tries the only winner as Heriot’s and Melrose draw

Exchange referee awards three penalty tries in bizarre contest at Goldenacre

Rob Kay Heriot's
Robert Kay of Heriot's scores a breakaway try ***Image: Malcolm McKenzie***

Heriot’s 17

Melrose 17

ALAN LORIMER @ Goldenacre

IF nothing else, this match was something of collectors item with 21 of the 34 points scored coming through penalty tries. Players never particularly enjoy penalty try awards but Melrose will be grateful to the penchant of English referee Calum Howard to dish out seven pointers, notably in the last play of the match when Heriot’s brought down a maul, that gave the Borderers the points to level the scores. 

Overall this was a match between two sides that cancelled each other out, a triumph for the defence coaches but not a good day for those in charge of the attacking game. Melrose showed their greater cutting edge behind the scrum but their attack was blunted by the loss of their influential centre Craig Jackson in the opening quarter.

It was the second blow for Melrose following the loss of their key secon- row James Head, who was injured in the warm-up. In the circumstances Melrose were perhaps happy to have achieved a draw but Heriot’s, in truth, did not look like potential winners.

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“We didn’t deserve to win” admitted home head coach Phil Smith. “It wasn’t a great spectacle. For the purists it was two teams going at each other and not getting much out of it.”

Smith dismissed the suggestions that the wet underfoot conditions affected the game. “We can’t make excuses for the weather. We’re Scottish after all. We didn’t get any real field position and when we did we lost it. So we didn’t deserve to get much out of the game.

“We take the draw. We were up against one of the top teams. The disappointing thing was that we just didn’t perform.”

Heriot’s rarely used their backline attack and for the most part depended on the their kicking game, in which respect Stuart Edwards at stand-off performed well. Their main weapon was their driving maul but any success was cancelled out by the equally efficient opposition.

If Smith was left a tad speechless by events on the field then Rob Chrystie, the Melrose coach, was also muted in his response.

“Completely bizarre,” he said. :I’ve never seen a game like it – but for all the wrong reasons. The positive for us was that we managed the second half much better and got into the right areas. There’s been a lot of good teams come up to Heriot’s and left with nothing. We were worth the draw.”

Without mentioning the English referee in charge of the match, Chrystie echoed the thoughts of spectators who were at times baffled by the decisions. “I think the players didn’t know where they stood in the game and that made it difficult for them,” he suggested.

The Greeyards men will be without Craig Jackson, who dislocated his elbow, for a lengthy period, but Chrystie is not disconsolate.

“With Jacko going it gives others opportunities. Andrew Jardine had lot of game time there today. Also Thomas Brown [son of Greenyards favourite Robbie Brown] came on in the second row – he’s had a spell out in New Zealand playing for Waikato under-19s. In the bigger scheme of things it’s going to stand us in good stead.”

The opening points came after eight minutes when Melrose botched their attempt to escape from their own five metre area, the resultant scrum ending in a seven point score for Heriot’s after the visitors were deemed to have illegally prevented a try.

Minutes later, Stuart Edwards put over a drop-goal to give Heriot’s a 10-0 lead, only for Melrose to cash in on Howard’s penchant for the penalty try.

Then with half-time approaching, Edinburgh professional Jason Baggott landed a penalty goal for Melrose to draw the scores level at the break.

In a physical second half, Melrose seemed to be in control and came close to scoring when Jardine made a dash for the line only for the referee to rule that the ball had been held up.

Melrose missed another good chance after Gavin Wood showed fine footballing skills with a chip and gather but from the ensuing play the visitors knocked on.

Heriot’s did manage to put pressure on Melrose but were undone by poor work at the touchline. Then, against the run of play, Heriot’s pounced on a throwaway opportunity as Rob Kay intercepted a pass from Baggott before sprinting half the length of the pitch for a try under the posts converted by Ross Jones, to create a 17-10 lead.

Hopes of a Heriot’s win, however, were dashed in the last play of the game, and again it was a penalty try after the home forwards were ruled to have brought down the driving maul as Melrose were in the act of scoring.

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Teams –

Heriot’s: J Blain; R McMichael, R Jones, R Kay, C Robertson; S Edwards, A Simmers; J Scott, M Liness, S Cessford, R Leishman, C Marshall, M Hughes, J McLean, I Wilson©. Subs: A Johnstone, A McMIllan, C Bell, A Ball, D Steele.

Melrose: F Thomson; G Wood, P Anderson, C Jackson, M Muelace-Julyan; J Baggott, M McAndrew; G Shiels, R Anderson, C Young,, A Runciman, P Eccles, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman©, I Moody. Subs: F Scott, R McLeod, T Brown, B Colvine, A Jardine.

Referee: C Howard (RFU)

Scorers –

Heriot’s: Tries: Penalty Try, Kay; Con: Jones; DG: Edwards.

Melrose: Tries: Penalty Try 2; Pen: Baggott.

Scoring Sequence (Heriot’s first): 7-0, 10-0, 10-7, 10-10 (ht) 15-10, 17-10, 17-17

Yellow cards –

Heriot’s: Wilson
Melrose: Irvine-Hess

Man-of-the-Match: From the point of view of a player doing what was expected of him Jack McLean showed how an openside should play.

Talking point: A bizarre game indeed. The exchange referee has to take some blame having failed to show empathy with the players and having made some strange decisions.

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About Alan Lorimer 369 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.