COLIN RENTON @ Myreside
MELROSE remain in contention for a league and cup double (to go with the double they picked up last year) after emerging with a victory in a hard fought and sometimes tousy affair at The Greenyards. The well-drilled Borderers deserved the win for their greater cohesion and ability to control proceedings. For Watsonians, it was a case of what might have been. They had plenty of possession and looked more dangerous for much of the game. But they will look back and rue the wasted opportunities.
Melrose opened the scoring in seven minutes. Two penalty awards were booted into touch close to the Watsonians line. The first came to nothing but the second provided a breakthrough when several pick-and-go attempts ended with James Head crashing over. Craig Jackson added the extra two points.
Ten minutes later came a refereeing decision that gave the visitors an opportunity to fight their way back into the game. Melrose lock Angus Runciman landed a punch on Craig Borthwick and, while their personal tussle continued on the ground, play moved on with a high kick that saw home stand-off Jason Baggott challenge Josh Rowland in the air. The match official showed yellow cards to both Runciman and Baggott.
That duo had barely left the field when Borthwick flung out a pass to Lee Millar, who sent Rowland in at the corner for an unconverted score.
The visitors continued to press but paid the price for a lack of composure and the gap remained at two points when Melrose were restored to full strength. However, although the Borderers had opportunities, they failed to capitalise and it was Watsonians who added to their tally with a Millar penalty that sent the visitors in at the break with a slender lead.
Scottish Cup: Quarter-finals
Within a minute of the restart the hosts had regained the lead. Ross McCann charged down a clearance kick and pounced on the ricochet, gathering the ball and plunging over. Jackson’s conversion attempt struck a post and the same fate befell a penalty by Millar at the other end for a deliberate knock on by Ruaridh Knott, who escaped a yellow card for the offence.
However, Jackson was back on target after 50 minutes when he banged over a penalty after the Watsonians defenders failed to roll away.
Melrose gradually gained the upper hand and, although the visitors had chances to score, they lacked the patience and control of the home side. They were also guilty of failing to win their own lineout ball on several occasions. The task became even tougher for Watsonians when, with around 10 minutes to play, skipper Borthwick was shown a yellow-card for a tackle off the ball.
There was no change to the scoreline by the time he returned to the fray in injury time. But Melrose added gloss when Mike Mvelase-Julyan took a scoring pass from Jackson and sprinted over to dot down and leave the creator the simple task of stroking over the conversion.
Melrose coach Rob Chrystie conceded that his men had not quite hit top form. But he was delighted that they had achieved their objective.
“It was about getting into the next round of the Cup and ultimately we managed to get there,” he said. “It was an ugly first half but it’s kind of difficult when you are down to 13 men for 10 minutes playing into a strong wind. To go in at half time 8-7 down wasn’t that bad. There are some bits and bobs that we need to get clicking. It’s there. But we now have two semis so it’s all on.”
In the away camp, there was an acknowledgement of the shortcomings that led to the defeat.
“There was a little bit of naivete and we allowed the game to get away from us,”said Watsonians coach Steve Lawrie. “I thought we played some smashing rugby. But that doesn’t win you games of rugby. We lacked a little bit of edge.”
Melrose: C Jackson; R McCann, P Anderson, G Taylor, M Mvelase-Julyan; J Baggott, M McAndrew; G Shiells, R Anderson, C Young, A Runciman, J Head, A Runciman, R Knott, P Eccles, I Moody. Subs: R Ferguson, C Crookshanks, M Wilson, C Wilde, S Hutchison, G Wood, I Sim.
Watsonians: J Rowland; M Bartram, A Chalmers, L Millar, R Steele; E Fox, A Harris; F Hobbis, C Fenton, J Stanley, F Simpson, C Borthwick©, C McKill, R Graham, M Fedo. Subs: F Renwick, J Gibson, D Ferguson, H Fisher, M Scott, C Bell, P Cunningham.
Referee: S Grove-White
Melrose: Tries: Head, McCann, Mvelase-Julyan; Cons: Jackson 2; Pens: Jackson 2.
Watsonians: Try; Rowland; Pen: Millar.
Scoring sequence (Melrose first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-8 (h-t) 12-8; 15-8; 18-8; 23-8; 25-8.
Yellow Cards –
Melrose: Runciman, Baggott
Man-of-the-match: Melrose had control for much of the second half and that was largely due to the contribution of Murdo McAndrew, who raised the pace and kept the opposition under pressure with a string of clever decisions.
Talking point: Melrose didn’t quite click into gear but, despite being below par in recent weeks, they have reached two semi-finals and when they do eventually hit form, they will be a real handful.