GARY HEATLY @ Meggetland
A LAST minute try from captain Johnny Matthews and conversion by winger Gavin Parker gave Boroughmuir a dramatic win over Melrose, condemning the Borderers to a tricky play-off semi-final trip to Millbrae to take on top of the table on 23rd.
Boroughmuir wanted to end their season on a high and they did just that by showing patience at the end to go through the phases to build the pressure for that decisive score.
“The boys deserved that for their perseverance if nothing else,” said home head coach Peter Wright. “We had a lot of possession in the game, but lost a number of players to injury and had to use our full bench. I thought that Dan Winning was absolutely superb for us in his first match in 14 months following an ACL injury and the other boys backed him up.
“It was a sweet feeling when Gavin’s winning conversion went over. They are a great bunch and I have enjoyed coaching them for the last three years.”
The game got off to a slow start and the first incident of note was an injury to home full-back Craig Gossman after five minutes. He was replaced by his brother Kerr and in the ninth minute Winning was yellow- carded after a charge into the home 22 by Melrose second-row James Head. The visitors tried to turn the screw with a couple of scrums, but the home side won a penalty and managed to clear their lines.
Boroughmuir then lost their loose-head prop, too, Ross Dunbar being injured and Dale Robertson replacing him as they continued to play with 14 men.
With a man down the home side actually had the majority of the possession and their forward drives with hooker Matthews and back-row Aubrey Mncube led the way.
As the second quarter on the match got going with both teams now with 15 men, the Boroughmuir turnstile continued with Rory Drummond replacing the injured Matt Walker in the back-row.
Boroughmuir continued on the attack, but a needless illegal clearout by Robertson in the 25th minute saw Melrose earn a penalty which allowed them to clear the danger. Six minutes later, with the wind and rain getting worse, the visitors earned a kickable penalty chance, but in the tough conditions full-back Craig Jackson was off target.
Premiership match reports:
Melrose finally opened the scoring in the 37th minute when second-row Angus Runciman went over from short range, although Jackson was unable to convert.
Boroughmuir were not done for the half, though and, following a number of phases and a couple of penalty awards, scrum-half Tom Wilson darted over from close range after Drummond had gone close. Parker’s conversion made it 7-5 at the interval.
Melrose went back in front seven minutes after the break with a really well worked try, Jackson’s break up the middle from his own half setting up centre Patrick Anderson, who showed good pace and awareness to go in under the posts from 40 metres out. Jackson converted and it was 12-7 to the Borderers.
Ten minutes later, last season’s champions were dealt a blow which could have significant implications for their ambitions to repeat that feat in this campaign when influential back-row Ruaridh Knott was forced off with an injury, with young Harri Morris replacing him for a Premiership debut.
Like the first half, Boroughmuir had plenty of possession, but Melrose’s defence was standing firm and they remained 12-7 to the good heading into the last 10 minutes.
There was then a six minute stoppage as Drummond was treated for a leg issue and although they were still pushing to win the match Boroughmuir had been hit hard by injuries in this one, but they got a break when, with four minutes to go, Melrose replacement tight-head prop Callum Crookshank was yellow-carded for illegally stopping a Boroughuir forwards drive close to his own line.
Boroughmuir continued to push, and went close on a number of occasions, before Matthews finally managed to get over for his 19th try of the league season. The crowd held their breath before Parker knocked over the conversion to spark jubilant scenes in the home ranks.
“There were some good bits and some poor bits from us,” said Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie. “We know the things we have to work on before knock-out rugby comes around while it was great to see teenager Harri Morris get a chance off the bench.”
Boroughmuir: C Gossman; G Parker, A Russell, G Cannie, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw, T Wilson; R Dunbar, J Matthews, D Winning, C Atkinson, W Inglis, C Keddie, M Walker, R Drummond. Subs: D Robertson, R Montgomery, A Mncube, M Johnstone, K Gossman.
Melrose: C Jackson; I Sim, P Anderson, G Wood, M Muelace-Julyan; S Hutchison, M McAndrew; G Shiells, R Anderson, C Young, J Head, A Runciman, R Knott, G Runciman, I Moody. Subs: R Ferguson, C Crookshank, M Wilson, C Wilde, T Klein.
Referee: K Allen.
Boroughmuir: Tries: Wilson, Matthews; Cons: Parker 2.
Melrose: Tries: A Runciman, P Anderson; Con: Jackson.
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir first): 0-5; 5-5; 7-5 (h-t) 7-5; 7-10; 7-12; 12-12; 14-12.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: It was not pretty, but it was a compelling 80 minutes and although Johnny Matthews grabbed the winning try, Boroughmuir tighthead prop Dan Winning gets the award for such a great performance in his first match in over a year.
Talking Point: Patience, patience, patience. There were so many stoppages in this game while the Melrose defence was looking strong, but the way Boroughmuir worked through the phases at the end meant they deserved this win.