Melrose leave with points but Hawick take the credit

Melrose number 12 Richard Taylor make a charge against Hawick at Mansfield Park (picture by Brian Sutherland)
Melrose number 12 Richard Taylor make a charge against Hawick at Mansfield Park (picture by Brian Sutherland)

Hawick 3

Melrose 14

At the halfway stage in the championship, Melrose sit at the top of the BT Premiership, while Hawick are situated at the other polar extremity.

But, despite this maximum-sized gulf of first to last, only a comparatively small margin separated the two clubs at Mansfield Park, suggesting that, for both sides, the party is not yet over.

Given their lofty status, Melrose should have seen this match as a bonus point banker. But their head coach, Rob Chrystie, himself a son of Mansfield Park, knows only too well that Border derbies have their own dynamic.

“I wasn’t expecting to come here and get a bonus point but I did expect to get a win,” he said. “They’re fighting for their lives and they’re always going to be pretty sticky.

“Their last performance down here against Currie was exactly the same. They were down 14-3 and and then went on to win the game.

“We were really disappointed with our performance,” stated Chrystie.

Of concern for the Melrose coaching team must be their charges’ failure to add to their 14-3 interval advantage.

“The second half was not so good. If you keep making mistakes, you won’t succeed. We had chances in the second half but were just not getting it right,” mused Chrystie.

The other side of the story was that Hawick put in a battling second-half performance that put pressure on Melrose and which forced the visitors into mistakes.

Moreover, Hawick’s second-half pressure created three clear scoring chances which could have won the match for the Greens.

“We had a performance that was admirable but, ultimately, I would rather have played badly and won,” admitted Hawick skipper, Bruce McNeil, adding: “Full credit to Melrose. It’s a really good Melrose side but we were able to step up to the mark.”

Hawick’s performance was all the more creditable given the loss of key front five player, Michael Robertson, who suffered a neck injury and was stretchered off following an 18-minute break in the game while on-field medical care was administered.

By then, Melrose had built a 7-3 lead from a mauling try by Neil Irvine-Hess and the conversion by Jason Baggot, to a penalty goal by Neil Renwick.

Then, when the game resumed with a set scrum close to the Hawick line, the Melrose pack applied massive power to supply quick ball that gave winger Ross McCann an easy try. Baggot again added the extras.

But that was to be the end of the scoring as the second half became a stalemate – although one in which Hawick took the honours for a heroic performance both in defence and attack that should give the Greens a psychological lift in their fight to fend off relegation.