On A seasonally cold winter’s day Melrose turned up the heat on Gala by moving to within one championship point of the league leaders.
Scorers: Melrose: Tries: Holburn, Thomson, Hoyland, Runciman. Cons: Helps (4). Edinburgh Accies: Try: Allan.
But their bonus win over Edinburgh Accies at the Greenyards came in a match shaped by wind, rain and ultimately semi- darkness.
The two Borders rivals meet in the next round of Premiership matches on the last Saturday of January in what could be a championship decider. Of course Gala, because of their enforced rest on Saturday, now have a game in hand, but, as coaches are fond of saying, they have it all to do.
But had Melrose suffered defeat against Accies then their championship prospects would have diminished.
“If we had lost today then that was it done. It would have been a huge task to try and pick the guys up for the games that are left when there’s an eleven points gap” said Melrose coach John Dalziel. “The boys were hungry today and they know the win puts a wee bit of pressure back on Gala”.
That hunger was exemplified by the Melrose forwards among which Scotland under-20 squad lock Lewis Carmichael did everything asked of him in his debut start for the Greenyards side.
Melrose, though, had to work hard against an Accies team that defended well and which had its own share of forward pressure. But Accies’ undoing was not utilising the advantage of the strong wind in the first half, and as a result not playing rugby in their opponents’ 22m area.
Moreover, Accies, sorely missing the nous of scrum-half Alex Black, the skills of Alex Blair and the clever running of Jamie Sole, rarely presented an attacking threat and may have been better using latest recruit, former Jed player Ian Chisholm, at stand-off rather than at full-back.
For Melrose their win was workmanlike but their tries at least lifted fans’ spirits on the shortest day of the year. Accies’ only winter solstice solace came from a try in the second half
Melrose looked winners in the opening phases as they piled pressure on Accies and inevitably a try ensued after a clever kick and chase by full-back Fraser Thomson, an encampment on the try line and then a short drive by prop Gary Holburn.
Joe Helps added the conversion before goaling the second Melrose try by Thomson from a charge down of Chisholm’s attempted clearance to give the Borderers a 14-0 interval advantage. Accies seemed livelier at the start of the second half but it was Melrose who got the first points from a pacy intrusion by Damien Hoyland that gave the wing a try under the posts and Helps an easy conversion.
A try by prop Alex Allan from a line-out brought Accies back in the game but Melrose finished strongly, scoring a bizarre interception try on the Accies line by their impressive flanker Grant Runciman to secure the bonus point, with Helps converting.
Melrose: F Thomson; D Hoyland, A Dodds, J Helps, A Lockington; R Mill, B Colvine; N Little, R Ferguson, G Holburn, J Head, L Carmichael, P Eccles, G Runciman, R Miller. Subs: T Pearce, L Niven, R Knott, C Anderson, A Skeen.
Edinburgh Accies: I Chisholm; L Jones, E Campbell, N Godsmark, J Farndale; R Bonner, M Campbell; A Allan, M Liness, P Cringle, A Toolis, J McCarthy, T Stuart, H Watson, C Reid. Subs: S Strudwick, C Lacour, R Sedak, J Pecqueur, S Pecqueur.
Referee: C Rudkin.
THE SCOTSMAN RUGBY SHOW IN ASSOCIATION WITH GINGER GROUSE