Melrose are locked together with Glasgow Hawks at the top of the Premiership after a bonus-point victory over a lacklustre Watsonians team who suffered their second defeat in as many weeks.
The Borders club walked away with the win in the end and, though they may not be as free-scoring as Hawks, they have about them the aura of getting better all the time.
Melrose coach Rob Chrystie said: “We need to be a little more accurate once we have done the hard bit up front. To get the bonus point right at the very end was important because it showed we were sticking to it for the full 80 minutes and that served us well.”
Watsonians remain in fourth place in the table despite the defeat but coach Marcus Di Rollo admitted they had no answer to Melrose’s craft and guile.
The game started with some speculative kicking and scrappy play before Melrose lock Lewis Carmichael, who was a replacement in the Edinburgh v Treviso match the night before, fielded a high ball and shifted it quickly to allow blindside flanker Neil Irvine Hess to carry into the Watsonians 22 before the move petered out.
In reply, home full-back Ally Davidson broke several tackles in a run towards the line only to drop the ball before he could ground it. He had to go off injured and Watsonians, who started with five changes behind the scrum after losing to Gala the previous week, had to reshuffle their back-line as a result, stand off Andrew Chalmers going to full back and replacement Euan Scott coming into the 10 position.
It was Melrose who got points on the board after 20 minutes when centre George Taylor was tackled on the line before the ball was recycled and flashed wide right for openside Ruaridh Knott to stroll over for an unconverted try.
Within minutes Watsonians were level and then ahead as centre Scott McLeod touched down to finish a sustained passing move. Scott added the conversion.
Melrose thought they had a second try after Chalmers fumbled a through kick and No 8 Ian Moody barged his way over the line but was pulled back for a forward pass in the build-up. But the try came nevertheless and it was Knott again out on the right who muscled his way over. Jason Baggott converted to make it 7-12 at halftime.
It was a lead Melrose would not relinquish and, after the break, they quickly added to it when Watsonians tried to run the ball to safety and lost possession, giving full-back Craig Jackson the chance to pounce and pass it out wide before the defence could reorganise and create just enough space for winger Ross McCann to score. The conversion attempt was wide.
Melrose’s confidence was growing by the minute and Watsonians were having to scramble to contain them, helped by a high penalty count against Melrose that broke up the continuity of their play.
Watsonians had one last tilt, Number 8 Euan Dods running through a crowd of players to make a good 30 metres but Melrose snuffed out that attack and proceeded to close out the match without too much difficulty as Watsonians tired, rounding it off with the bonus-point try in injury time, scored by Jackson and converted by Baggot.