For a second successive season Melrose will contest the final of the Premiership play-offs after reaching the last stage of the competition with a sizeable win over Watsonians at the Greenyards.
Melrose scored five tries, including a hat-trick from Ross McCann, pictured, but it was Watsonians who had the greater share of possession and the higher number of passes executed. Where Melrose were supreme was in defence, which, despite Watsonians’ efforts, was for the most part unpicked.
The other area in which Melrose were ahead was physicality, both in the set-piece and around the fringes, contributing to a performance that pleased their coach, Rob Chrystie. “We weren’t sure of just where we were because the group has been so split up over the past two months,” he said. “We’re happy with what we did but the boys can still get better in a number of areas.”
For Watsonians the play-off game provided a foretaste of what they can expect next Saturday when the two sides meet again in the semi-final of the BT Cup. Whether Watsonians can effect a turnaround remains to be seen but their coach, Steve Lawrie, believes lessons will have been absorbed. He said: “We learnt a lot in terms of their game management and the sheer physicality of their play, Melrose were the better team today, they were more streetwise today and more accurate in what they did. I firmly believe that if we tidy up on three key areas then we can compete next week.”
Melrose cruised into a 17-0 lead from a driving maul try by Russell Anderson, an interception score from McCann and two conversions and a penalty by Craig Jackson before Ali Harris kicked three points for Watsonians.
Then with the second half barely started, Fraser Thomson profited from turnover ball to scorch through the Watsonians’ splintered defence for a solo try but three minutes later the Melrose fullback was dispossessed on his own line for Ewan Miller to score the visitors’ sole try.
Watsonians tried desperately to add to their points total but to no avail and it was Melrose who finished strongly with two further tries from McCann and a penalty and conversion from Jackson.