Currie 10 - 30 Melrose: League leaders victory

John Dalziel, Melrose coach. Picture: Ian Rutherford
John Dalziel, Melrose coach. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE smart money was on the visiting Borderers cruising to victory in this top versus bottom Premiership clash and although Currie never stopped trying, they never really looked like upsetting the odds either.

This weekend, the same smart cash will be on Melrose doing the same again as they front up to Heriot’s, who will be looking to bounce back after ­Hawick ruined their winning streak and left a seven-point gap between first and second in the league.

The four British & Irish Cup contenders, all of them having a torrid time in the competition, will also be back in the mix and looking to claw back the lead that Melrose have established. “We are annoyed we aren’t in the British & Irish Cup but it is our own fault for not ­qualifying last season,” said Melrose coach John Dalziel.

“But, from the experience of the previous four seasons, there is no doubt it takes a toll on playing squads. We spread ourselves too thin when we were in the cup and we paid for it in the league. It has certainly been good for us to play in the Premiership these last two weeks and keep the momentum going, but teams like Gala will now be coming back determined to catch us up.”

In fact, Gala are next up at Malleny Park where things don’t get any easier for Currie, whose record shows they have scored the fewest points in the Premiership while ­conceding the most. They have played nine and lost eight, with the solitary victory achieved in Aberdeen two weeks ago proving to be a false dawn as they seek to turn round a dismal season so far. They are seven points adrift at the bottom of the table.

Currie coach Ally Donaldson said: “It is frustrating to come out of another game with nothing. We put Melrose under a lot of pressure, we created the opportunities, especially in the first half, but we didn’t take them and we let Melrose score too easily. I don’t think there was very much between the teams, so to lose by 20 points is very ­disappointing.”

It might have been a different story if Currie had crossed the line in an ­initial assault in which No 8 Ross Weston punched a big hole in the Melrose defence before being brought down inside the 22. Minutes later, it was Mike Vernal on the charge and the ball went left only for Currie to be squeezed out at the ­corner.

On 15 minutes, Melrose opened the scoring with a 40-metre penalty by inside centre Joe Helps, who lost his footing on contact and watched with his backside in the mud as the ball flew over the bar.

Currie immediately tried to wind it up again, but it was a case of too much grunt and not enough guile, which eventually led to Damien Hoyland breaking out to sprint 60 metres up the right wing, judging an inside pass perfectly so that openside flanker Grant Runciman had no-one in front of him as he strolled in for the try. Helps converted. Currie could have quickly cancelled out that try but full-back ­Ruaridh Smith was too eager and dropped a simple pass with the line beckoning. But Melrose had gone offside and Currie stand-off George Horne kicked a penalty for three points.

Three points was a poor return for the effort being expended by ­Currie, who several times had to scramble back when they lost possession.

There was nothing they could do about it, though, when Hoyland got the ball in his hands and again made space with some elusive running on the right ­before passing to stand-off Richard Mill to run under the posts unopposed.

Helps converted to make it 3-17 at the break.

Currie again came on strong and, within ten minutes, got their reward when Callum Kerr, a half-time replacement, finished off a series of phases with a try. Horne converted before the referee went to his pocket to sin bin Melrose lock Stuart Johnson for a high tackle that had failed to prevent the try.

Weston was still doing damage with his ball carries but Melrose just about had the measure of the Currie attackers by now and were stopping them well before the red zone. Helps added a second penalty and, in the final quarter, Melrose applied the pressure and, when full-back Austin Lockington found himself in the scrum-half position behind a ruck five metres out, he slipped round the edge to score.

After that the only thing to be settled was whether Melrose would get the fourth try and the bonus to secure maximum points. Currie strained every sinew to prevent them but Melrose pressed relentlessly until, at least four minutes into injury time, prop Gary Holburn, although trapped in a heap of bodies, was still able to reach out and slam the ball down over the line to complete the home side’s misery.