PREMIERSHIP leaders Melrose saved their best rugby until the last quarter before subduing an abrasive Aberdeen side to claim a bonus-point victory that keeps the Greenyards men at the top of the championship table.
Melrose were behind three times in the match, largely because of poor ball stewardship and untidy finishing in the first half, but when they did show their title-winning potential, the quality of their expansive rugby was impressive.
Both teams were hampered by yellow cards – two shown to each side – but it was Melrose who reacted better to the loss of a player, the Borderers scoring two tries after losing Grant Runciman for a ten-minute spell in the second half to turn the game decisively.
“I was very worried about playing against Aberdeen” admitted the Melrose coach, John Dalziel. “They were close to beating Heriot’s and should have. This was our best defensive display this season,” he added, before praising No.8 Andrew Nagle for an outstanding performance in his first game back from injury.
For Aberdeen, this result and scoreline was a disappointing outcome after a massive effort by the Grammar forwards, but their inability to move the ball to what is a dangerous back three meant they were always going to be limited in attacking options.
The visitors’ power pack helped Aberdeen score three penalties in the first half through the boot of stand-off Graeme Clow, but tries by prop Gary Holborn and winger Damien Hoyland and a conversion from Joe Helps gave Melrose a 12-9 advantage.
Aberdeen’s dynamic start to the second half resulted in a try from close range by their tighthead prop Struan Cessford, converted by Clow to give the visitors a 16-12 lead, but after Grant Runciman had walked to the sin-bin, Melrose stepped up their effort to score unconverted tries by replacement prop Nick Beavon and flanker Peter Eccles.
Then, with Runciman back on the field and Aberdeen’s lock Jamie Metcalfe taking his turn in the bin, Hoyland showed his skills with a clever try after Andrew Skeen had delayed his pass perfectly. Helps, who had an off-day in front of the posts, missed the conversion but a penalty from the centre put Melrose ahead 30-16.
The game then went to uncontested scrums after Struan Cessford suffered the double whammy of injury and a yellow card, allowing Melrose to run in two further scores by Helps and winger Callum Anderson and a conversion by Skeen for a sumptuous win.