MELROSE cantered to a stunning Premiership victory at Mansfield Park that never appeared to be on the cards with the hosts leading at half-time.
Hawick came flying out of the traps with some scintillating, ambitious rugby in the opening quarter, stand-off Rory Hutton the architect for a team desperate to show that they deserved their place back in the top flight.
They were rewarded with fine tries finished by Scott McLeod and James Johnstone and, with Graeme Dodds yellow-carded, the picture was looking good for the home side.
But Melrose centre Joe Helps kept his side in the game with excellent goal-kicking, converting three penalties before they finally found some width and scored a try in the 27th minute. Damien Hoyland outstripped Hawick on the right flank and he had Andrew Skeen inside to finish off.
Still, however, maintaining the exciting ebb and flow of the first half Hawick hit back, Johnston picking a terrific line to rip through the Melrose defence and pop up again after a few phases to apply the finishing touch and with Neil Renwick’s conversion, send Hawick into the break 24-19 ahead.
But the game turned in the first ten minutes of the second half with Rory Hutton being harshly yellow-carded after ending a storming Lewis Niven break from the restart at the Hawick line, by tackling and holding up the prop, only to be penalised for not releasing.
Melrose duly posted ten points in the time he was off, Graeme Dodds driving over from the resultant scrum and Helps converting and adding a penalty.
With their bench making a difference in the second half and the pack dominating Hawick in the scrum, Melrose began to grip the game but squandered chances to put it away in the second quarter with Pete Eccles tossing away possession with the boot and risky passing, and Struan Dewar taking contact when he had a three-man overlap to his left in the Hawick 22.
Helps moved the Rose lead to eight points with his sixth penalty, as Hawick’s penalty count spiralled, and winger Mark Robertson then did finish the contest, first applying the final touch to a flowing attack and then breaking away on the left and setting up Allan Dodds for with a sublime pass inside.
Hawick played with ambition to the end but, where they lacked the support, Melrose had plenty and, although denied another free-flowing score when a last-minute scrum collapsed, referee Lloyd Linton awarded a penalty try. Helps converted to finish with a personal tally of 28 points, that took Melrose to a rare half-century at Mansfield Park.
Scorers: Hawick: Tries: McLeod, Johnstone 2. Cons: Renwick 3. Pens: Renwick. Melrose: Tries: Skeen, G Dodds, Robertson, A Dodds, penalty try. Cons: Helps 5. Pens: Helps 8.
Hawick: N Renwick; S McLeod, J Johnstone, L Armstrong, G Anderson; R Hutton, J Evens; S Muir, L Gibson, L Launders, B McNeil, R McAlpine, N Mactaggart, R Scott, K Davies (capt).
Subs used: H Scammell, K Willison, J Parker, M Landels.
Melrose: N A Lockington; D Hoyland, M Robertson, J Helps, A Dodds; A Skeen, B Colvine; N Little, R Ferguson, G Holborn, J Head, R Ovens, P Eccles, S Dewar, G Dodds. Subs used: A Walker, N Beavon, L Niven, G Runciman, T Wilson.
Referee: L Linton.