Assured display puts Melrose on top

Fraser Thomson on a surge for Melrose (picture by Douglas Hardie)
Fraser Thomson on a surge for Melrose (picture by Douglas Hardie)

Stirling County 7, Melrose 30

Melrose surged away in the second half at Bridgehaugh to ensure they finished their BT Premiership campaign in pole position.

The Greenyards side will enjoy home advantage for the play-offs to come, setting up a meeting with Currie on April 1.

This final match of the 2016-17 campaign, rearranged from a snowbound Saturday in mid-January, was played on a dull, damp afternoon, with the nearby Ochil peaks shrouded in mist and the ground-level conditions extremely sticky.

Jason Baggott opened the scoring with a penalty after four minutes, a feat which he failed to mimic on 21 minutes.

Melrose didn’t quite have it all their own way, however – in 11 minutes, Stirling put in a rolling maul, having won a penalty line-out in the right corner, letting Mark Hunter crash over for the opening try which Jonny Hope converted. On 27 minutes Stirling, while attacking, dropped the ball on the Melrose side of halfway.

Bruce Colvine gave the ball a monumental hoof down the park and Nyle Godsmark, playing soccer, guided the ball over the line for Baggott to dive on it to score an opportunist try between the posts.

The attempted conversion bounced back off the upright and Melrose led 7-8 at half time.

Six minutes into the second half, Melrose won a penalty line-out in the left corner and, after several plays going right, Ali Grieve scored in the right corner.

Passing out of defence, on 53 minutes, Stirling allowed Godsmark to steal the ball from them to run, unopposed, for a try in the left corner.

Four minutes later, Russell Anderson completed a rolling maul from a penalty line-out in the right corner. This bonus point try was sufficient for Melrose to overtake Ayr to lead the Premiership table.

With 64 minutes played, Melrose won a scrum in the right corner and, after a series of picks and drives going left, Austin Lockington scampered in for a try to the left of the posts, with Baggott kicking his first successful conversion of the match.

At this point, Stirling ran out of fit front-row players, ensuring the match was completed with uncontested scrums and a 30-7 scoreline in the visitors’ favour.

Melrose - Fraser Thomson, Austin Lockington, Nyle Godsmark, George Taylor, Gavin Wood, Jason Baggott, Bruce Colvine, Dan Elkington, Russell Anderson, Ruairi McLeod, Ali Grieve, Anton Bresler, Ruaridh Knott, Grant Runciman, Iain Moody. Replacements - Cammy Mackay, Calum Crookshanks, Aaron Welsh, David Colvine, Murdo McAndrew.

Referee - Cammy Rudkin.