Melrose 14 - 47 Munster A: Too easy for Munster as Melrose run out of steam in cup mismatch

IF TRUE competition is at the heart of all meaningful sport, then the British and Irish Cup is still a work in progress as, to the surprise of no-one, Munster A, with 12 full-time professionals (including two Test players) in their starting XV, proved too strong for a spirited Melrose side that ran out of puff at half-time.

All across the field there were physical mismatches, although none was so apparent as Munster's scrum-half Connor Murray, who towered over Rob Chrystie for the home team, standing at least a foot taller.

Melrose made light of the disparity in the first-half, with the back row of Netani Telei, John Dalziel and Grant Runciman working away against the odds. The diminutive Runciman won several turnovers at the breakdown, a feather in his cap, but even the breakaways' bite lacked any real aggression in a disappointing second half.

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"The first half I thought was outstanding," said coach Craig Chalmers after watching his side share the honours with the match tied 14 apiece at the break. I went into the dressing-room at half-time and looked around, and honestly the guys were breathing every which way.

"We played too long without the ball but we could have gone in at half-time 14-7 up, we just tried to play too much rugby in wrong areas of the field.

''Things that you get away with in Premier One, you get punished by an organised side like Munster. You can't fault the effort, I thought the effort was outstanding, but the physicality, the tempo and the intensity that Munster brought just took over but you sort of expect that. I think it was a good experience for the boys so long as they learn something from the game. We have to look after the ball a lot better than we did today, but that will probably be the hardest game that we play in this group."

After snatching an unexpected lead thanks to tries by Edinburgh import Talei and lock Garry Elder, Melrose then gifted Munster an attacking position when Test winger Barry Murphy intercepted a loose pass from what looked like one of the front row union and centre Ivan Dineen dragged his side level with Munster's second try just minutes before the break. Up to that point the match had been competitive even if the visitors butchered numerous scoring opportunities with some woeful handling in admittedly tricky conditions.

In the second half, the heavy traffic was all headed towards the Melrose line as the Irish province ran in an additional five tries to go with the two they scored in the first 40.The home side had tackled themselves to a standstill in the opening half, although they will admit that too often after the break the would-be tackler went too high on professional players who simply shrugged off the challenge with ever-increasing ease.

There are few sports in the world where professionals play amateurs in any meaningful competition. Wales and Scotland both agreed that this British and Irish Cup was to be a vehicle for their clubs to enjoy cross-border competition, with England entering Championship teams that are usually far from full strength; only the Irish have insisted that it remain the preserve of the provinces to give their dirt trackers some much-needed match practice. Isn't it time for Ireland to enter their clubs to keep the matches competitive?

"We've played Championship sides before and beaten them," said Chalmers. "We know we are competitive against them. If we are playing Munster's academy perhaps that makes more sense than fielding full professionals against guys who don't play and train every day.

''The club option may be something to look at but the Irish want an avenue for their back-up players and they probably don't have that over there. I don't know how much they play?"

Not enough, is the obvious answer, if a scratchy first half is anything to go by.

Scorers: Melrose: Tries: Talei, Elder. Cons: Wight 2. Munster A: Tries: O'Callaghan, Dineen, Gleeson, Borlese, Barnes, Essex 2. Cons: Cusak 6.

Melrose: F Thomson; C Anderson, J Murray, J Helps, D McColl; S Wight, R Chrystie; N Little, G Innes, N Beavon, G Dodds, G Elder, J Dalziel, G Runciman, N Talei. Subs used: Shaw, C Jackson, S McCormick, R Ferguson, G Holborn, W Mitchell, R Miller.

Munster A: S Deasy; D Barnes, T Gleeson, I Dineen, B Murphy; D Cusak, C Murray; D Ryan, S Henry, P Borlase, B Holland, Dave Ryan, D O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell, P Butler. Subs used: S Scanlon, T Smith, C Sheridan, D Casey, D Foley, S Archer, K Essex.

Referee: I Tempest.