The second-placed side beat the league leaders at Goldenacre yesterday but Melrose remain in pole position today even after this sobering set-back.
Heriot’s were stung by criticism after coming second to Hawick last week but they should have won this one more easily than they did, only the Borderers’ tenacity keeping them competitive. The match was only decided in the final quarter but five tries to two tells its own story.
The match was won by big men from Heriot’s who put in a full shift. The breakaway duo of Michael Maltman and Jack Turley carried tirelessly and were ably helped by hooker George Turner who is a real dynamo in the loose, making huge inroads every time he got hands on the ball. The Melrose lineout and set scrum both stuttered badly – they have work to do.
Melrose kicked off but Heriot’s kicked on, taking an 8-0 lead before the Borderers had had time to settle. They home team played keep-ball for the opening minutes, applying some pressure on the visitors’ line before centre Cammy Ferguson picked a diagonal angle. The defenders stood off him and an over-the-top pass found Max Learmonth lurking on the left wing. The clock registered just four minutes and it wasn’t long before Graham Wilson added a penalty from dead in front of the posts to extend the Heriot’s advantage.
Rose responded as you expect them to do. Twice they found themselves battering away at the home line. The first time Heriot’s won a crucial turnover but the second time prop Nick Beavon found a gap in the defensive ball and barrelled his way over the line from short-range. Joe Helps made good the extras but hit the post with a penalty attempt from wide on the left.
The two teams appeared to have some sort of agreement to take it in turns to enjoy the upper hand, with the action alternating from one 22 to the other with almost nothing happening in the middle of the field.
The Melrose score meant it was the turn of Heriot’s to dominate and they duly pounded at the visitors’ line to good effect although the referee could have been a little stricter at the breakdown where both teams were adept at slowing the ball. After numerous attacks, the Heriot’s No.8 and skipper Jack Turley wriggled over the line only to drop the ball in the act of scoring.
Heriot’s took their 8-7 lead into the half time break and Edinburgh professional Sean Kennedy taking the field for the second 40 with Wilson stepping back into the stand-off role to accommodate him.
Just as they had done in the first half, Heriot’s scored within minutes of the restart. Damien Hoyland failed to secure an up and under, Learmonth pounced on the loose ball and Heriot’s hooker Turner showed a great turn of pace to score from fully 20 metres out. Two minutes later the same man was winning a crucial turnover two metres from his own try line.
Helps kicked a penalty for Melrose but Heriot’s grabbed their third try from centre Keith Buchan after good approach work from Maltman.
Melrose responded with a try from winger Hoyland who had the pace to round his defender and stretch for the line.
Helps’ conversion threatened the Goldenacre men’s lead but Buchan and Learmonth both grabbed their second scores of the afternoon and Heriot’s had a bonus point to go with their convincing win.