Heriot’s 14 - 18 Melrose: Visitors just hold out

Liam Steele of Heriot's is tackled by Melrose pair ''Sam Pecquer and Fraser Thomson. Picture: Jon Savage

Liam Steele of Heriot's is tackled by Melrose pair ''Sam Pecquer and Fraser Thomson. Picture: Jon Savage

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Melrose moved above Heriot’s into second place in the BT Premiership as the home side slumped to their third defeat in a row.

There was no dramatic twist in the tail as there was in last season’s play-off final on this same pitch when Heriot’s went 100 metres in injury time for the late try that won the title at the death.

Melrose had learned their lesson from that disappointment and they closed out the game with ruthless efficiency so that Heriot’s were always kept at arm’s length and never really looked capable of overhauling the visitors.

The Borders club opened the scoring with a Joe Helps penalty inside ten minutes. And it was Helps again on the right wing who grabbed the first try after No.8 Ally Miller picked up at the rear of a scrum and shrugged off tackles before delivering the scoring pass.

Heriot’s threw the ball about a bit but butchered a perfect chance to get on the scoreboard when centre Liam Steele got over the line but couldn’t ground the ball. The attack, however, led to a spell of sustained pressure that culminated in Heriot’s scrum half Graham Wilson stepping round the side of a ruck to get the try and then converting it himself.

Within a minute, as Heriot’s concentration wandered and Melrose restored their advantage with a runaway try by fullback Fraser Thomson, converted from the touchline by Helps.

In the third quarter Wilson, normally the most reliable of kickers, missed a mid-range attempt with the wind at his back and then another two that seemed eminently kickable.

The Melrose defence was proving a hard nut to crack but crack it did as winger Max Learmonth went over on the right and Wilson, putting his misses behind him, banged over the conversion from the touchline to drag his team to within a single point.

Helps also showed nerves by missing one comparatively simple penalty before harvesting three points at the next time of asking to establish the four-point lead with ten minutes on the clock.

The lead could have been overturned by a try and there was a brief moment when history looked as if it might be repeated as Heriot’s fought their way into the Melrose 22.

However, it was not to be and the remaining time was soaked up by a series of reset scrums as the rival packs battled each other to a standstill.

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