Tight Accies knock loose Melrose off their perch

The Raeburn Place men knocked the early pace-setters off the top of the table with this surprise victory and, in the process, underlined their own championship credentials.
John Dalziel: Physical challenge. Picture: Ian RutherfordJohn Dalziel: Physical challenge. Picture: Ian Rutherford
John Dalziel: Physical challenge. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Edinburgh Accies 29-21 Melrose

Scorers: Edinburgh Accies – Tries: Campbell, Blair, Stuart, Godsmark. Cons: Bonner (4.) Pen: Bonner. Melrose – Tries: Walker Lockington. Con: Helps. Pens: Helps (3).

But head coach Jonny Else is determined that his young side will keep their feet on the ground as they try to build on their current third place in the Premiership table.

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“We were disciplined and we attacked well but really it all came down to our defensive effort, especially in the first half,” he said.

“We knew they would come back in the second half but, in the last ten to 15 minutes, we upped the pace again and the bench made a real impact.

“But this is only one win and we’re still in September. We have Heriot’s next week, which is another huge challenge – so we’ll enjoy the moment but put it to bed on Tuesday night and move on again.”

Having swaggered through their first four matches of the season, Melrose were firm favourites to take the points from this encounter but Accies showed that the Borderers can be just as vulnerable as any other team in this league when put under real pressure.

“They are definitely the most physical defensive side we have faced so far this year,” conceded Melrose coach John Dalziel.

“We had enough character in the team to get ourselves ahead after being a good few points behind but poor game management after that let us down and I thought we played a bit too much as individuals.

“Perhaps we had believed a bit too much of our own hype because we moved away from the gameplan and, if you gift a team like Accies 14 points from two interceptions, then you are always going to be up against it.”

A Joe Helps penalty gave the visitors the lead after less than a minute of play but Accies were unperturbed and Iain Berthinussen issued an early declaration of intent with a piercing break. Ruaridh Bonner missed a penalty, a driven line-out was held up over the line, and Robin Snape couldn’t quite keep hold of the ball with the scoring zone at his mercy as the home side piled on the pressure.

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But it wasn’t all one-way traffic, and it took a thumping last-ditch tackle from the impressive Nyle Godsmark to dislodge the ball from Andrew Skeen’s grasp as the Melrose centre dived for the corner.

Accies finally got their noses in front when inspirational captain Greg Campbell barged over from close range and Alex Blair intercepted and ran home from 45 yards on the stroke of half-time to make it 14-6 to the hosts.

Melrose came out with all guns blazing after the break. Alun Walker touched down after a well driven line-out, and Austin Lockington romped home from a full 60 yards out after Jamie Farndale had coughed the ball up in contact.

That put the Borderers 21-17 ahead with 13 minutes to go and they looked ready to press home their advantage. But it all went wrong for them when Tom Stuart charged down Lockington’s sloppy clearance for an easy run-in, and a sweeping attack involving Farndale, Blair and finally Godsmark secured the bonus point for Accies with two minutes left on the clock – while simultaneously depriving Melrose of even that small consolation.

Edinburgh Accies: N Godsmark; J Farndale, E Campbell, I Berthinussen (J Houston 55), S Pecqueur; A Blair, R Bonner; A Allan (D Morrison 50), M Liness, P Cringle (S Strudwick 67), G Campbell, J McCarthy (T Stuart 57), R Snape, A Findlater, N Aitken.

Melrose: NA Lockington; D Hoyland, A Skeen (T Wilson 67), J Helps, A Dodds (A Skeen 72); R Mill, B Colvine; N Little (G Holborn 79), A Walker (R Ferguson 65), N Beavon (G Holborn 30-65), J Head, R Ovens (R Miller 57), P Eccles (C Keen 79), G Runciman, G Dodds.