FOR eight clubs on Saturday, the question of whether a Scottish Cup and its various subsidiary competitions should continue, ranked alongside asking Rangers fans if they were unhappy at the manner in which their team reached the Uefa Cup final.
For some who failed to keep their season running to this great Murrayfield finale, it remains a point for debate. The SRU is to propose at next month's AGM putting the cup into hibernation for a year to consider how to incorporate it into a new seasonal structure.
However, Craig Chalmers, the buoyant Melrose coach, insisted there was an obvious new structure that would ensure another group of players and supporters – nearly 6,000 trooped in to Saturday's jamboree – savoured the sheer joy his did next year.
"Yes, we do need change I think to help the club game, but not at the expense of the cup," he said. "This was great to win as a player in 1997 and feels just as good now as a coach, maybe even better.
"You just look around Murrayfield at the experience these players have had, from all eight clubs, and the women in the finals on the back pitches, and then ask: 'Should we scrap this?' I've heard a few ideas for how we could improve the club season and there are ways of doing that and keeping this great day out. We are playing Jed in a play-off on Tuesday night to get into the Border League final, which is huge for our club as well, and that's maybe the answer.
"We could play the league championships through to January or whenever, and then the clubs split into regional leagues – the Border League, Glasgow League, Edinburgh League and Caledonia League. They would be great for clubs, cutting down on travel costs, getting back the great rivalries each area has and then the top clubs, maybe the top two in each league, meet for the knock-out stages of the cup.
"That could run through the lower leagues as well to keep the shield, bowl and plate and, crucially, this great day out at the end of the season. That's a possible way forward, but whatever clubs support it would be ridiculous to take the Scottish Cup away from the game."
There was much talk before Saturday's cup final kicked off that if it could match the enterprise and finale of the shield, immediately before it, it would be a cracking game. It did end with the same scoreline, and was a bizarre game of two halves, more so because Melrose most definitely had it wrapped up by half-time.
Displaying the confidence generated in a great winning run in the second part of the season, the scrum was solid, the lineout imperious, defence almost impregnable and finishing clinical. Heriot's were 14-0 down inside 15 minutes, with Jordan Macey and David Whiteford scoring for Rose, and as Heriot's struggled to knit as a side – with a clutch of players returning for the final – Callum Anderson and Wayne Mitchell finished them off in the six minutes before half-time.
All four tries were superbly converted by Scott Wight, a young stand-off who seemed totally at home on the Murrayfield expanse and the unsurprising man-of-the-match. His entire pack bristled with intent, providing the quality of set-piece and ruck possession that allowed Scott McCormack and Wight to pull the strings for most of the game.
The proud 'Nails' found a point to their play in the final 25 minutes of the match to haul themselves back to the final scoreline, but the great forward effort and tries from Cammy Goodall, Innes Brown, Oliver Brown and Jim Thompson, their stand-out attacker, came too late – the final score was deep in injury-time – to hold back a Melrose party in full flow in the West Stand.
Rob McKillop, the Heriot's coach, said afterwards: "I said to our guys at half-time 'Melrose scored four tries in a half, and so can we' and the boys did it, so although we're bitterly disappointed I was pleased to see that fightback from them. But the better team won and you have to take your hat off to Melrose."
Scorers: Melrose: Tries: Macey, Whiteford, Anderson, Mitchell. Pen: Wight. Cons: Wight 4. Heriot's: Tries: Goodall, I Brown, O Brown, Thompson. Cons: Wilson 2.
Melrose: J Murphy; C Anderson, J Murray, G Stewart, D Whiteford; S Wight, S McCormack; A Gillie, W Mitchell, R Higgins, G Dodds, A Clark, S Johnson, R Miller, B Wallace. Subs: G Innes, N Beavon, R Ovens, S Ruthven, B Watson, A Jessop, S Renton.
Heriot's: C Goudie; M Teague, J Thompson, R Mill, C Goodall; M Strang, G Wilson; B McNeil, N Meikle, W Blacklock, P Eccles, G Noonan, T McVie, C Simmonds, C Fusaro. Subs: S Mustard, I Brown, G Anderson, J Parker, R Gray, O Brown, J Alston.
Referee: J Steele (Dumfries).