Stirling County 15
MARTIN LAING reports from Bridgehaugh
MELROSE coach Craig Chalmers was clearly ecstatic at the conclusion of a thrilling encounter that saw his team earn a bonus point last weekend.
“I’ve been coaching Melrose for six years now and I’ve never had five points from a visit to County,” he said. “I’m delighted with the win as this is never an easy place to come.
“We’ve got off to a good start this season and that’s really important.
“Both teams were a bit scrappy. It was a typical first league game that could have gone either way. But we were more positive in the last 15 or 20 minutes and did a few things better than them in that last quarter.”
If truth be told, Melrose had pulled off their own version of the great escape when they came from behind to edge a contest they should never have won.
Indeed, had Stirling not jettisoned a whole series of scoring opportunities, it would have been County fans celebrating. The men from the Greenyards displayed an uncharacteristic frailty in midfield that would have been their undoing had Stirling shown greater composure in attack.
That was, in fairness, a point acknowledged by Chalmers.
“It was the first game of the season,” he told TheSouthern, “and we had new combinations and new players, so it was far from perfect, but the important thing today was to win and we’ve done that with four tries. so that shows we are positive. We put our chances away.
“We’ve got competition for places in the team and a few players still to come back, so we can work on improving in the next week or two, but it was a very good start.”
It was the home side who had been first to put points on the board, centre Brian Archibald nudging over a penalty in the 39th minute, but Melrose hit back on the stroke of half-time when full back Greg White punished a sloppy home defence to nip in for a try that Andrew Skeen converted.
County had dominated territory and possession and their pressure was quick to tell after the restart when lock Craig Deacons went over, Archibald adding the extra points with the boot.
Stirling then stretched their lead when Deacons again bulled his way over the line, though Archibald missed the conversion.
Melrose hauled themselves back into the contest after 57 minutes, and against the run of play, when Peter Eccles touched down, but the momentum was still with County.
Archibald fluffed a penalty attempt in 61 minutes and then squandered a splendid try-scoring chance four minutes later when he breached the Melrose midfield, but failed to utilise his winger.
Three minutes later, Stirling stand-off Stuart Edwards knocked on 15m out when faced with a clear run-in and shortly after, County threw away yet another excellent opening when bursting through the Melrose defence, only for poor handling to let them down.
Man of the match Skeen, however, was less profligate and, with 10 minutes left, he nipped in for a try that he converted himself for a narrow lead, and then Andrew Nagle iced the cake with an injury-time try that secured an all-important bonus point.
Melrose: G. White, L. Mallin, N. McGrath, R. Mill, J. Helps, A. Skeen, B. Colvine, N. Little, R. Ferguson, G. Holborn, R. Ovens, R. Miller, J. Dalziel, A. Nagle, G. Runciman. Reps: W. Mitchell, C. Arthur, P. Eccles, S. McCormick, S. Chalmers.