GARY HEATLY @ Meggetland
Twenty points in the first 19 minutes set Melrose up for their 11th league win on the spin in this clash in Edinburgh, but that only tells half the story of this crazy encounter. The Borderers were 20-7 up at the break, but the second half was end to end, with the visitors adding 22 more points and Boroughmuir getting 26 – and earning a potentially precious bonus point.
Melrose have had far easier afternoons in their victorious run from the start of the season, but the main point that Rob Chrystie took from the match was the continuation of winning ways after a couple of weeks off. “We started really well and came out quickly, but Boroughmuir are a good side with good individual players and the try just before half-time gave them a sniff,” the winning coach said.
“They kept coming at us, but we kept our composure and took our chances when they came, and it’s good to get a win after the mini-break. We have plenty to work on, but it was a good day for guys like Gavin Wood, Patrick Anderson, Ruairi Campbell and Rory Darge to show what they can do at this level.”
It promised to be plain sailing for Melrose at first, as they took the lead in the third minute thanks to a Craig Jackson penalty, then stretched their advantage with an unconverted try by scrum-half Bruce Colvine, who burrowed over after a couple of good lineout drives from a penalty kicked to touch.
As much as Melrose’s great season to date has been based on their sharp attacking play, their defence has been top notch too, as they proved by forcing Boroughmuir into errors in contact as the Edinburgh side tried to get back into things in the next 10 minutes or so. Then, just before the first quarter ended, the visitors showed their clinical edge twice to go 20-0 up.
The first try of the duo came after a flowing team move which started in their own half and saw No 8 Iain Moody nearly score on the right wing. The ball was recycled quickly left, though, and winger Gavin Wood went over. Jackson converted from wide out.
Then a loose ball around the halfway line was pounced on by a wave of yellow and black, and some neat hands and then a crossfield kick into acres of space from stand-off Jason Baggott saw centre George Taylor go over for the unconverted effort.
The game then entered a period of relative calm before an incident in the 32nd minute. Two Boroughmuir players, tighthead prop Tom Gracie and back-row Archie Erskine, clashed heads and went down. The club doctor was soon on the pitch to assess them both and after a lengthy period Gracie was retired injured to be replaced by Paul Richards. Erskine stayed on. Melrose then lost key back-row Neil Irvine-Hess to injury, Ruairi Campbell replacing him.
Boroughmuir gave themselves a lifeline two minutes before the interval, as a great line run by Greg Cannie saw second-row Callum Atkinson go over for a try which Ciaran Whyte converted. Melrose were first to score in the second half, however, when Jackson was again on target with a penalty.
The next 14 minutes were certainly end to end. Scrums went uncontested due to injuries in the home front row before Melrose secured the bonus point with a try by winger Patrick Anderson.
Boroughmuir were certainly not done though, and 28-7 became 28-19 after two quick tries and a conversion. The tries came from No 8 Craig Keddie and winger Jordan Edmunds, with Whyte kicking a conversion.
However, two quick-fire tries of their own by Melrose soon after killed off any hopes of a comeback. The first came after some poor defending which allowed Jackson to pounce on a loose ball and go over, and then Baggott ghosted through. Jackson converted both and it was 42-19.
Boroughmuir know that any bonus points they collect could be key in their fight to avoid relegation, and their vital fourth try came through McKirdy. His fellow-replacement Mark Hare added a fifth just after Erskine had been yellow-carded, but Boroughmuir ran out of time in their bid to get a second bonus point for a narrow defeat.
“You can’t give a team like Melrose a 20-point head start and then chase the game, but we had to,” home captain Chris Laidlaw said. “Credit to the boys, who really fronted up in the second half especially, but it’s the same old story for us of being good in patches, but not for 80 minutes.”
Boroughmuir: C Whyte; G McConnell, R Kerr, G Cannie, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw, J Adams; D Robertson, A Nethery, T Gracie, F Field, C Atkinson, A Erskine, T Drennan, C Keddie. Subs used: A Mncube, P Richards, M Walker, E McKirdy, M Hare.
Melrose: A Lockington; P Anderson, G Taylor, C Jackson, G Wood; J Baggott, B Colvine; G Shiels, R Anderson, N Beavon, R Knott, A Runciman, N Irvine-Hess, G Runciman, I Moody. Subs used: R Ferguson, R McLeod, R Campbell, R Darge, S Hutchison.
Boroughmuir: Tries: Atkinson, Keddie, Edmunds, McKirdy, Hare. Cons: Whyte 3, Hare.
Melrose: Tries: Colvine, Wood, Taylor, Anderson, Jackson, Baggott. Pens: Jackson 2. Cons: Jackson 3.
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir first): 0-3, 0-8, 0-13, 0-15, 0-20, 5-20, 7-20 half-time, 7-23, 7-28, 12-28, 14-28, 19-28, 19-33, 19-35, 19-40, 19-42, 24-42, 26-42, 31-42, 33-42.
Yellow card: Boroughmuir: Erskine.
Referee: L Linton.
Man of the match: It really was a game where all players involved got stuck in, so hard to pick out just one. Atkinson and Keddie carried well for Muir and McKirdy did well, while for Melrose Knott and Moody put in good shifts, but Craig Jackson just shades it.
Talking point: The second half was everything that is good about the BT Premiership: players having a go from everywhere and both sides keen to score points. Defence coaches may be tearing their hair out, but this league certainly delivers entertainment.