MELROSE turned up the heat in the second half to comfortably beat an out-of-sorts Hawks and maintain their toe-hold in the title battle and the race for next season’s British & Irish Cup places.
The visitors were the better team throughout the match, but they took a long time to turn their territorial and possession advantage into points on the board, but, in the end, class told.
Hawks, who produced, in the opinion of their fans, their worst display of the season, made too many handling errors and were guilty of playing too much across rather than down the pitch and too often their dangerous-looking outside backs ran into a wall of Melrose defenders.
The Melrose start was a statement of intent, the forwards going through seven phases within five metres of the home line, but Hawks stood firm and, when Rose mishandled, they made good their escape, with young Gavin Lowe sprinting clear to take play into the Rose half.
Jack Steele then kicked the opening penalty, in 11 minutes, before he and Joe Helps exchanged misses.
Hawks then comfortably survived a ten-minute sin bin spell for prop Brendan Cullinane before extending their lead in 32 minutes.
Number eight Andy Kirkland was prominent in keeping Melrose hemmed into their 22 and when Hawks moved the ball wide, Warriors’ Fijian forward Leone Nakawara burst through for an unconverted try and an 8-0 lead for the home side.
They might have extended it, but winger Haddon McPherson ran into Nakawara on his way over the line and Melrose survived, before cutting the deficit right on half-time with a simple 20-metre penalty.
Melrose came storming out after the break and two further Helps penalties, in 43 and 48 minutes, the second coming in the wake of Andy Linton’s yellow-carding, put the visitors into the lead for the first time.
With Hawks wilting, other than the odd flash of inspiration from their backs, Melrose made the game safe in 57 minutes, when, after a good charge by lock James Head, flanker Peter Eccles was on-hand to crash over between the sticks; Helps converted, then added a 64th minute penalty and it was, effectively, game over.
Former Rose captain Scott Wight then pulled Hawks closer with a 66th minute penalty, but, ten minutes later, following some good inter-passing between backs and forwards, Melrose number eight Graham Dodds iced the cake between the posts, Helps added the minor and although, at the death, Angus Hamilton crashed over from close-range and Dan Smart added a snap dropped-goal conversion, time ran-out on Hawks’ hopes of salvaging a losing bonus point.
“I sensed as we got on the bus, the attitude was right today,” said Melrose coach John Dalziel.
“After two successive losses, we had to get back on track today, and thankfully, we did.”
Opposite number Jamie Dempsey was naturally downcast. “Penalties and yellow cards are killing us this season”, he said, with a rueful shake of the head.