MOST eyes might have been firmly fixed upon the Heineken quarter-finals, but these two Edinburgh rivals were both eyeing up the last remaining slot in next season’s RBS Premiership and it was Accies who claimed it.
They will see this result as vindication for having shown coach Jonny Else the door only recently, but in truth they were far from convincing.
“We took the decision to remove the coaches because we believed that it was the right time to do so,” said Accies director of rugby Bob Easson. “I would just like to acknowledge the mountain of work that they did for the club.
“I thought that at 16-6 up the game was over, but you must remember that there was always going to be a lot of emotional and mental pressure on players who haven’t won a match since 2 November last year.”
Early in the second half it looked like Accies would run away with it but Stewart’s Melville proved no pushover. Despite playing into the second half wind they fought back, scored a good try and might have done even better had they been able to keep all 15 men on the field. Instead they lost Jonathan Hamlin to the sin bin approximately 30 seconds after the second row replacement had entered the fray.
Accies took advantage of the extra man to score seven crucial points, No.8 Stuart Reid eventually muscled the ball over the line while Hamlin was watching rugby instead of playing the game.
The top-flight club fielded just a little too much muscle, nous and class for their National League rivals who came second in most of the important collisions.
This had nothing to do with attitude, as time and again the Stewart’s Melville forwards threw bodies into the breakdown with almost reckless abandon.
They competed bravely but they completed illegally, at least too often, and the referee hauled them up time and time again. With a stiff wind at their backs Stewart’s Melville failed to make best use of it, kicking dead at least twice and having to come all the way back for a scrum deep inside their own half.
Accies opened the scoring through Iain Berthinussen. Jamie Farndale made the break after coming off his right wing to take a pop pass from Alex Blair in the number ten channel. Blair himself was a little unlucky to see what looked like a good early try wiped off for a double movement.
Still, he added one first half penalty, compared to two for his opposite number Nick McCashin, to give Accies an 8-6 advantage at half time.
Another penalty early in the second half and another try for Accies, from winger Nyle Godsmark, gave Accies a 16-6 advantage that looked more than enough in what was a low scoring game.
Stewart’s Melville had other ideas. Their Kiwi stand-off McCashin orchestrated play beautifully from ten and the same man then scored a neat solo try: stopped dead in his tracks by two muckle Accies forwards, the stand-off slipped to the ground cartoon style to find himself on the try line. After converting his own try the gap was down to just three points and it was game on.
That was as close as the challengers got. Hamlin saw yellow, Reid scored Accies third try and Stewart’s Melville had neither the time not the wherewithal to mount a second comeback.