CURRIE needed to win this one to keep their title hopes alive and to peg back the league leaders, and they looked like they’d done just that with ten minutes of this match left.
Currie were defending a one-point lead when Joe Helps took a pass from Graeme Dodds in the shadow of Currie’s posts and dived over to score the winning try with six minutes left on the clock. One final penalty from Andrew Skeen gave the Melrose stand-off a 16 point haul on the day and a vital win to his team.
It was an exciting end to a match where the lead had changed hands several times. Melrose raced into a 16-3 lead in the first half. Currie responded with two converted tries to take a one-point advantage before Helps’ score settled this one in favour of the visitors.
Even then Currie scored a late, late touchdown by flanker Steve Burton to put the partisan crowd on the edge of their seats, but there was no last hurrah and there was no doubt who was to blame, at least among the Malleny faithful.
“Worst referee in the world!” was what one Currrie supporter hollered and certainly James Mathew ignored two Melrose players, Helps and Fraser Thomson, who both slapped down scoring passes – an automatic yellow in the professional game.
Melrose kicked off with the advantage of the first-half wind and made pretty good use of it despite the home side opening the scoring with a Forbes penalty in their very first trip into the visitors’ red zone. It was just about the last thing the little stand-off did. Forbes limped off a little later, hurt while challenging for a high ball, and it proved a costly injury. Currie never really looked comfortable attempting to play through his replacement Fraser Strachan who was unable to get the best from the dangerous midfield duo of Andy McMahon and Barry Mansfield and his kicking from hand was too short to take advantage of the second half wind.
His opposite number Skeen thumped over three well-judged penalties to edge his side ahead but the first try didn’t arrive until just after the half hour mark. Scrum-half Bruce Colvine had already gone close to the Currie line before Thomson went one better. The Melrose man has had a trial with Sale Sharks and when he shrugged off two tackles in the middle of the pitch there was no apparent danger but the classy fullback went through the gears, left the surrounding defenders for dead and rounded the last man like he was rooted to the ground.
Currie had a chance of clawing back at least some of the visitors’ lead immediately ahead of the half time break when two attacking lineouts led to two near misses. The first forward rumble was held up over the try line and when Currie regrouped and make another effort there was a nervous knock-on just inches short of the try line.
Currie needed to score first to give themselves any chance of winning this match and they duly delivered. The home team started where they left off with relentless pressure on the Melrose line. Eventually the outsized Tongan-born prop Loma Kivalu wriggled over from inches after a long series of pick and drives and the giant islander did the exact same trick 15 minutes later, with two conversions from Mansfield giving Currie a one point lead.
That is when the Dodds and Helps combined to snatch the win and, in all probability, bury Currie’s title challenge. With Dundee and Gala both losing yesterday, Craig Chamlers’s side are in the driving seat.
Scorers: Currie: Try: Kivalu (2), Strachan. Conv: Mansfield (2) Pen: Forbes. Melrose: Try: Thomson, Helps. Conv: Skeen (2). Pen: Skeen (4).
Currie: Whittingham, Neill, Mansfield, McMahon, Peacock; Forbes (Strachan 12 mins), Sneddon; Cox (Erskine 30 min), Scott (Elmslie 30 min), Kivalu, Marcell, Temple, Burton, Cairns, Weston.
Melrose: Thomson, A Dodds, Dick (White 40 min), Murray, Helps; Skeen, Colvine; Little, Ferguson, Holburn, Miller, Johnson, Ovens, Runciman, G Dodds.
Referee: J Mathew.