Matches between Melrose and Currie are always entertainingly feisty, but the fact that both sides suffered morale-denting losses last week lent this encounter at Malleny Park a palpable edge.
In the arm-wrestle that ensued, it was Currie who emerged as inarguably the stronger in a result that may yet have a bearing on this season’s title.
At times during the opening exchanges, Melrose looked as if they’d been taking lessons from recent Edinburgh games as they missed tackle after tackle, coughed up the ball at every other breakdown and basically behaved like the perfect guests. Currie, on the other hand, started with a genuine sense of purpose, crashing into contact, recycling with a commendable rapidity and running straight and hard out in the three-quarters.
The result was a gangbusters start from Ally Donaldson’s men during an opening five minutes when they could easily have found themselves almost out of sight. Within seconds of the start the Malleny backs cut through the Melrose defensive line, with Jamie Forbes looking like he had applied the coup de grace when he scythed through in front of the posts, only for James Johnstone to fail to hold the scoring pass.
Not that it took Currie long to get off the mark. Forbes knocked over a penalty moments later and then late stand-in wing Alex Fiskin arced over in the corner for a try on his debut after some good work from No.8 Ross Weston.
Melrose aren’t champions for no reason and to their credit that they quickly steadied the ship. Even though they were still regularly under the cosh, they tightened up their defence and began to compete more effectively at the breakdown, with referee David Changleng awarding them a series of penalties, of which two were kickable, with Andrew Skeen kicking one.
Yet just as a game which was never less than highly competitive appeared to be settling down into a fairly predictable rhythm, Forbes kicked Currie into an 11-3 lead, which became 18-3 moments before half time when impressive outside centre Johnstone took the ball at pace and broke two tackles to scoot over in the corner, with Forbes converting.
Once again, Melrose dug deep and soon after the break they dragged themselves back into contention when prop Gary Holborn was driven over. Skeen’s touchline conversion made it 18-10.
That was almost a lightbulb moment for the home side. With Melrose threatening to force their way back into the reckoning, however, Currie reverted to type for long enough to drive a lineout towards the Melrose line, with Richie Gray’s not-so-little 18-year-old brother Johnny prominent in proceedings. As so often, the drive ended up with old faithful, No.8 Ross Weston, emerging from the bottom of a pile of players to claim the try and give Currie a 13-point cushion.
With the result effectively now beyond doubt, the only matter left to be decided was whether or not Currie were able to collect the bonus point by scoring the fourth try that their dominance so richly merited. Despite all of their pressure, however, they were frustrated time and again at the breakdown where referee Changleng awarded Melrose a succession of hotly-contested penalties for failing to release in the tackle.It was nevertheless an emphatic and welcome win that sets Currie back on course, while champions Melrose will have to regroup quickly if they are to maintain any ambitions of holding on to their hard-won title.
Scorers: Currie: Tries: Fiskin, Johnstone, Weston. Conversion: Forbes. Pens: Forbes (2). Melrose: Tries: Holborn. Conversion: Skeen. Pen: Skeen.
Currie: L Draycott; A Fiskin, J Johnstone, S James, A Whittinghame; J Forbes, R Snedden; J Cox, F Scott, F Watts, S Marcell, J Gray, M Cairns (capt), M Entwhistle, R Weston.
Melrose: S Chalmers; B Colvine, B Dick, J Helps, U Kalamafoni; A Skeen, S McCormick, N Little, W Mitchell, G Holborn, R Ovens, P Miller, A Walker, G Runciman, A Nagle.
Referee: D Changleng.