It might be unwanted pressure for the Greenyards men but Melrose have set themselves up for a league and cup double this season.
Already assured of a home semi-final in the Premiership play-off, Melrose qualified for the BT Cup semi-finals by demolishing the defending champions, Heriot’s, with a first-half display built around rigid defence and thrilling attacking rugby that had the game won by the interval.
“We played some really good stuff. It was up a level from where we’ve been recently,” said the Melrose coach Rob Chrystie, whose side was bolstered by the presence of the Edinburgh second row Lewis Carmichael.
Carmichael, who came off the bench for Edinburgh against the Ospreys, played with the same intensity he showed at Myreside and his hardness and commitment undoubtedly rubbed off on the Melrose forwards, who for the most part, had the better of the Goldenacre men.
Behind the scrum Melrose were also much stronger and inventive, helped by inspirational play by their full-back Fraser Thomson, who repeatedly was able to attack from deep, cutting through the Heriot’s defence with comparative ease. Outstanding too for Melrose was their inside centre George Taylor, who outshone his opposite number Junior Rasolea by some margin.
For their part Heriot’s, who scored the opening try, improved in the second half, Rory Carmichael’s presence at stand-off giving the visitors much greater direction and helping the title holders win the second half.
“They were stronger than us,” conceded Phil Smith, the Heriot’s coach. “When we scored first we thought we had a bit of momentum but they scored almost straight from the restart.”
Heriot’s had reason to be confident of victory when they opened the scoring with a try by hooker Mike Liness from a clever move round the front of a five-metre lineout.
But from the restart, Rory Carmichael gathered cleanly before Taylor broke through the Heriot’s defence supported by his midfield partner Nyle Godsmark. When the move was halted the ball was moved quickly for Austin Lockington to go over in the corner, stand-off Jason Baggott converting. Three minutes later it was Austin Lockington again after Thomson had shredded the Heriot’s defence and before the break Melrose added two further scores by Carmichael from an Ian Moody break and Taylor joining the forwards for a pushover try, both scores converted by Baggott who also added a penalty goal.
It was left to Heriot’s to provide the only points after the break with a try by Rasolea from a cross-field run by replacement Gavin Parker and the conversion by John Semple.