ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
MELROSE have made a habit of scoring a sizable sum of points against Boroughmuir at The Greenyards and this season’s edition was no different as the defending champions ran in seven tries to record their seventh victory of the Premiership campaign. But what made this game more viewable was that Boroughmuir, seemingly hopelessly adrift at half-time, regrouped in the second period to end the game with a five try tally and a bonus point
Just why Boroughmuir exhibit such contrasts in their first and second half performances is difficult to fathom – they showed a similar trait against Heriot’s last week. Whatever the technical or psychological reason, it undoubtedly has much to do with the absence of key personnel, either through injury or promotion to the Edinburgh side.
“We’re missing players like Kerr Gossman, Archie Russell, Ronan Kerr, Johnny Matthews and Callum Atkinson, and of course Chris Laidlaw,” explained the Boroughmuir coach, Peter Wright. “We should have a few players back from injury for next week. It’s unfortunate that you get injuries when you’re playing the best teams.”.
Wright, however, refused to put his side’s defeat, and the manner of it, down solely to absent personnel. “You can’t turnover ball like that against a quality side who are also suffering a bit from injuries. To play like we did in the first half is disappointing,” he said.
“We came out in the second half and got a bit of pride back. Five tries against Melrose is not bad. We know we can score tries, but we concede tries too easily. That hardness to keep the opposition out is lacking at the moment.
“There were basic errors today that cost us. It’s the unforced errors and decision-making that ruins us. Skill-set is also wanting in a few areas. It’s about them finding out about themselves,” suggested Wright.
The other explanation, of course, is that when Melrose are on song they pretty unstoppable and especially so in their use of the driving maul.
“We know that we’ve got a decent weapon there and a clear understanding of what to do in the maul situation,” stated Rob Chrystie, the Melrose coach, who was less happy about a few lapses in what has been throughout the first half of the championship a mean defence. “To be honest, there were too many tries against us,” he conceded.
Melrose have had to overcome the loss of the midfield mastermind Craig Jackson but the formation that faced Boroughmuir performed pleasingly well. Struan Hutchison at stand-off has come out of the shadow of Jason Baggott and is now playing confidently, notably in his kicking from hand, while Patrick Anderson is improving with every game at outside-centre.
The Greenyards side also have a flyer in Fraser Thomson and yet again the full-back proved hugely influential with his running out of defence. HE igniting the first try after collecting a loose kick and setting up an attack that ended with Hutchison cutting through to lay on a try for Murdo McAndrew.
A driving maul and a break by Gavin Wood gave co-centre Anderson his side’s second try, Hutchison kicking his second conversion, and when another rumbling maul was taken down Melrose collected a penalty try while Boroughmuir’s flanker, Matt Walker, picked up a yellow card.
The visitors were rewarded for inventive work at the line-out that gave Rory Drummond a run to the line, leading to a try from close range by prop Dale Robertson, which was converted by stand-off Robin Weersma.
Boroughmuir had barely time to celebrate when Melrose struck again with another maul driving into the heart of the visitors’ defence and giving Micheal Mvelesa-Julyan a touchdown in the corner.
Two minutes later Anderson added an interception try converted by Hutchison, countered by a converted try by Walker leaving Boroughuir trailing 33-14 at half time.
After the break, Gavin Parker dotted down for Boroughmuir after a defence-splitting run by Craig Gossman but almost immediately Melrose replied with a Finlay Scott try from a driven line-out. A deserved try by Boroughmuir’s hard-working back-row Drummond for the bonus point preceded a second touchdown for McAndrew, before visiting centre Willie Wardlaw completed the scoring spree with a try laid on by Greig Cannie.
Melrose: F Thomson; B Colvine, P Anderson, G Wood, M Muelace-Julyan; S Hutchison, M McAndrew; G Shiels, F Scott, C Young, J Head, I Moody, N Irvine-Hess, S Lawson, G Runciman. Subs: R Ferguson, R McLeod, T Brown, I Sim, A Jardine.
Boroughmuir: G Parker; R Arthur, W Wardlaw, G Cannie, J Edmunds; R Weersma, J Hamilton; D Marfo, L Robinson, D Robertson, S Smith, W Inglis, T Drennan, M Walker, R Drummond. Subs: R Dunbar, T Gracie, J Troxler, M Hare, C Gossman.
Referee: Ben Blain
Melrose: Tries McAndrew 2, Anderson 2, Penalty Try, Mvelesa-Julyan, Scott; Cons Hutchison 4.
Boroughmuir: Tries: Robertson, Walker, Parker, Drummond, Wardlaw; Cons: Weersma 2.
Scoring Sequence (Melrose first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0. 14-0, 21-0, 21-5, 21-7, 26-7, 31-7, 33-7, 33-12, 33-14 (ht) 33-19, 38-19, 40-19, 40-24, 45-24, 45-29.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Melrose used forward power and technique to impose themselves on the game and at the centre of their driving maul was second-row James Head. The big lock also had one outstanding tackle on Boroughmuir’s high-scoring wing Jordan Edmunds.
Talking point: Boroughmuir, as Peter Wright pointed out, have had injuries at the wrong times. Against Melrose they could ill-afford to be without a number of leading players but even with a depleted side they showed that they can still score tries. For Melrose the season is working to plan, even if they, too, are without several star names. But coach Rob Chrystie will be pleased that fringe players have stepped up to the standard expected of last season’s champions.