RBS BORDER REGIONAL CUP
ATHOLL INNES reports
from Riverside Park
BORDERS derbies are exciting and rumbustious affairs, and Riverside Park was no place for the faint-hearted on Saturday.
Seven tries, the first four in just 23 minutes; uncontested scrums; a whirlwind start by Melrose; two yellow cards; and the fightback that added to the ingredients of an absorbing and exhilarating contest.
Craig Chalmers, of Melrose, was probably the happier of the two coaches, but after Jed had been stunned by Melrose’s dramatic opening, home coach Darren Cunningham had nothing but praise for his players.
“We were just lacking a bit of self-belief,” he said. “That’s successive defeats in the cup, but this is good build-up for when the league resumes next month.
“We shot ourselves in the foot and then we had it all to do. It was like rabbits in the headlights and it was too big a gap to narrow after the interval.
“We spoke about it at half-time and we showed what we could do. We will learn from that. I am obviously not happy with the result, but the second-half performance was encouragement.
“We just need to get that self-belief back again.”
Jed were also without Lewis Young, who has a shoulder injury, and twin brother Gregor, who joined the Bowl-winning Scotland sevens squad in Dubai, while Robert Hogg is waiting for clearance after a cheekbone injury.
Not the best preparation to face a Melrose side oozing with the confidence for the first half-hour before losing their way after the break.
“We were happy with the first 40 minutes, the second half was dreadful,” said Chalmers.
“But all credit to Jed for a great performance. They are not a bad side and have experienced players.
“But we made basic mistakes and you cannot play for dropping the ball, etc.
“The forwards were never as dynamic and we have a lot to work on. Jed put in a big effort and possibly deserved another try and a bonus point.”
Melrose prop Nick Beavon pulled a hamstring in the warm-up and Chalmers hoped to use him off the bench.
He had to return when Chris Keen was injured – only to hirple off and be replaced by hooker Alun Walker.
The game then went to uncontested scrums, which favoured Jed, but did nothing to dilute their ambition in the second half.
“It did not help us and we would have preferred to have full scrums, especially against Jed,” said Chalmers.
“It is good to have our second win (in the RBS Cup), but it is the level of performance that we are looking for all of the time.”
Jed did have David Gobby playing his 100th game – and even he was caught up in Melrose’s whirlwind start.
The Jed deficiencies, with Darren Gillespie yellow-carded in the first two minutes, showed up as Andrew Skeen kicked the penalty and converted tries by Graeme Dodds, Fraser Thomson and his own touchdown.
And when Joe Helps went over for a 29-0 lead in 23 minutes, the writing was on the wall.
But Jed’s resilience saw an Iain Gillespie double and a try by Connor Hogg with one Andy McLean conversion which left Melrose breathless and Allan Dodds in the sinbin – but relieved to hear the final whistle.
Jed-Forest: R. Miller; I. Chisholm, E. Scott, A. Nagle, D. Gobby; A. McLean, R. Goodfellow; A. Ions, David Grieve, A. Croiuro, P. Hill, N. Cook, M. Weekley, Donald Grieve, D. Gillespie. Subs: C. Hogg, S. Raeburn, G. Taylor, C. Page, M. Chisholm.
Melrose: F. Thomson; A. Dodds, J. Murray, B. Dick, J. Helps; A. Skeen, B. Colvine; P. Tumba, R. Fergusson, N. Beavon, S. Johnston, R. Miller, P. Eccles, G. Runciman, G. Dodds. Subs: A. Walker, C. Keen, R. Ovens. C. Hardie, S. McCormick.