Hawks claimed a bonus point, but were worth more from a display that had Melrose defending desperately from a final-quarter surge by the Glasgow men but which, in the end, just failed to deliver what would have been a just win.
“I’m very proud of this side. If we keep playing like this we’ll do well in this league,” said Hawks coach Jamie Dempsey. He added: “We had eight changes in the squad from last week and fielded two debutants. We’ll now look to improve in every game.”
Hawks will consider themselves a tad unfortunate to have picked up two yellow cards which left them down to 13 men for a period either side of half-time. First Ally MacLay was sent to the bin, closely followed by fellow centre Jack Steele, both offences being “accumulated” team fouls.
It proved costly for Hawks who conceded ten points, but given that is the norm for one yellow card then a ten-point penalty for two sin-binnings perhaps was a positive that the Glasgow side could take from the situation.
The Anniesland men certainly looked potential winners as they roared into the lead after just three minutes with a try made by a finely-judged grubber kick by Steele that forced Melrose to carry the ball over their own line and then two attacks from the subsequent five metre scrum.
Mike Adamson, who was a controlling influence at stand-off, added the conversion but an exchange of penalties by Joe Helps and Adamson kept Hawks’ lead at seven points. Melrose, however, were showing their attacking game and when skipper Graham Dodds fed Bruce Colvine from the base of a scrum, the Melrose scrum-half put winger Damien Hoyland over in the corner.
A further penalty flurry, Steele goaling for Hawks and Helps twice for Melrose, gave the home side the lead for the first time, then just on half-time Steel’s dismissal allowed Helps to kick his fourth for a 17-13 interval advantage to Melrose. With Hawks’ defence reduced, Melrose ran in their second try.
Full-back Austin Lockington, who was a genuine attacking threat throughout, broke clear to give Scotland sevens cap Mark Robertson a try in the corner, Helps converted from the touchline.
Restored to their full complement, Hawks showed what might have been but for the yellow cards. A run by full-back Jack Gormley was halted a metre short of the line but when the ball was recycled scrum-half Haddon McPherson shot over for a try converted by Adamson to bring the scoreline to 24-20 in favour of Melrose.
Hawks looked certain to capitalise on their growing momentum, but a turnover allowed Melrose to counter-attack, Lockington racing through a gap before Andrew Skeen provided the scoring pass for Hoyland’s second try. It seemed a killer blow for Hawks, but the Glasgow men refused to capitulate and immediately applied pressure on Melrose.
Replacement utility back, Robert Beattie, a cousin of Scotland back row Johnny Beattie, was held up over the line. In the scramble for possession, McPherson got hands on the ball before capping a hugely impressive performance with his second try of the game, Adamson converting from wide out, to bring Hawks tantalising close to defeating the championship leaders.
Scorers: Melrose: Tries: Hoyland (2), Robertson. Con: Helps. Pens: Helps 4. Hawks: Tries: McPherson (2), Gillies. Cons: Adamson (3). Pens: Adamson, Steele.
Melrose: A Lockington; D Hoyland, A Skeen, J Helps, M Robertson; R Mill, B Colvine; N Little, R Ferguson, N Beavon, R Miller, R Ovens, P Eccles, G Runciman, G Dodds. Subs used: A Walker, G Holborn, S Dewar, A Dodds.
Hawks: J Gormley; T Steven, A MacLay, J Steele, R McLymont; M Adamson, H McPherson; S Findlay, F Gillies, J Welsh, A Linton, R McKay, A Kirkland, S Leckie, P Redmayne. Subs used: C Kerr, J Lohoar, K Beattie, D Milne, R Beattie.
Referee: A McMenemy. Attendance: 450