Melrose came and Melrose conquered. The visitors held the upper hand in the set scrum and, while there wasn’t a chasm separating these two teams elsewhere, the Borderers were worthy winners, especially in light of call offs and injuries.
Watsonians lost Ally Davidson in the first quarter after the full-back spilled the ball in the act of scoring and injured himself in the process. He wasn’t the only one to miss an open goal because Melrose breakaway Iain Moody did the same thing just after the half hour mark to even things up.
Watsonians huffed and puffed and scored one good try without ever looking like they could win this one. The final score flattered them a little since they spent much of this match on the back foot, partly due to Melrose squeezing the life out of them and partly due to some unforced errors in the contact zone, especially before the visitors’ third try.
Melrose looked at their most dangerous when they put the ball through the hands of Jason Baggott and Craig Jackson, the best brains on the field, pulling the strings from 15 and ten respectively.
Instead, the visitors took a sledgehammer to crack the Watsonian nut, with an over- reliance on forwards hitting the line but at least they have the personnel to do it well.
The big men carried hard with Lewis Carmichael showing up well after making a brief appearance off the bench for Edinburgh on Friday night. He had able help from fellow forwards Moody and Ruaridh Knott; the latter scoring his side’s opening two tries.
The first of them arrived at the tail end of the first quarter. Flanker Knott received the congratulations but much of the credit goes to centre Richard Taylor, who split the opposition defence with a couple of tidy steps off his right foot.
Neil Irvine-Ness was on his shoulder to carry the move on but the flanker was stopped short in a thudding tackle which ended his afternoon. Melrose recycled the ball with men over on the right and a canny lofted pass from stand-off Baggot found his flanker lurking on the wing.
The same man was at it again before the half-time break. Full-back Craig Jackson delayed his pass to Baggott to allow the stand-off to ghost through a gap in the home defence. Jackson looped Baggott, got the return pass and moved the ball onto Knott for the flanker’s second score.
Watsonians had already proved dangerous and they opened their account in between those two Melrose touchdowns. An attack up the left flank was finished off by centre Scott McLeod after it looked like Sean Crombie would claim the five points.
Melrose took a 12-7 lead into the break but extended it just five minutes into the second half after Jackson earned them high field position with a great canter up the left flank. To add to their troubles, Watsonians coughed up possession inside their own red zone not once but twice.
The home team lost their own throw at the sidelines and, having won the ball back, they spilled it in contact. A couple of long passes later McCann was over in the left-hand corner.
It looked that that would be the final score as this match sank into a stalemate only for Jackson to grab the bonus point try for the visitors at the very death.