PREMIER CUP SEMI-FINAL
FIONA SCOTT reports from Malleny Park
IF Excitement was what weary club rugby fans were looking for at the end of a long, hard season then they needed look no further than Malleny Park on Saturday.
For two of Scotland’s strongest sides went head-to-head in the national cup competition with all the experience of their British and Irish Cup stint on show to all present.
Even when Melrose were 15 ahead with only 10 minutes remaining the large crowd at the Balerno venue were still unsure which way the game was going to swing – such had been the pendular pattern of play throughout.
Player/coach John Dalziel was delighted his club had made it through to the Murrayfield final for the fourth consecutive year, but he, too, admitted that there had been moments of doubt during the match.
“I was a bit worried after we had went 15-0 up and then they came back into it,” he told TheSouthern. “That’s happened before up here and they were really on top of things at that point.
“Things got a bit panicky, but we showed for about 20 minutes there at the end what we are capable of and demonstrated the kind of character within the team.
“It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, but to come out here and win with 43 points is really pleasing and it has given us our fourth cup final which is great.”
A nervy start saw Melrose give away a scrum from the kick-off and it wasn’t long before Hayden Abercrombie had a chance to put his side ahead with a penalty. His kick sailed wide, however, and Melrose were let off the hook.
Currie continued to surge forward, but this time Melrose were ready and a sudden interception break by Fraser Thomson sent Alan Dodds in for the opening try. Scott Wight missed the difficult conversion, but made amends four minutes later with a sweetly-struck penalty.
A surprisingly speedy break by the Melrose forwards led to the next try by Callum Anderson, who finished the move with a searing run down the middle of the park to dot down beneath the posts, giving Wight a simple conversion.
A spell of pressure in the Melrose 22 saw numerous penalty awards going the way of the hosts, eventually leading to a try from Ross Weston, converted by Abercrombie, just after the half-hour.
It didn’t take nearly as long for Currie to secure the next points as stand-off Matthew Scott set off on a jinky run which was finished off by Andy McMahon only four minutes later.
Melrose found themselves a man short when Anderson was sent to the sin-bin after referee Neil Paterson lost patience following a string of team offences, and a successful penalty from Abercrombie saw the scores levelled, but a similar effort from Wight allowed Melrose to pull away again right on the half-time whistle, with the score standing at 15-18.
Currie were quick to redress the balance after the restart and a miskick gave Scott the opportunity to carve a clean path to the try line with Abercrombie adding the extras.
Wight closed the gap to a single point with his third penalty of the match before Anderson returned to the fray, but shortly afterwards Abercrombie slotted another to pull his side away again.
Melrose responded with gusto and it was former Hawick player Nicky Little who gave the Greenyards outfit the lift they were looking for when, on finding himself out on his own, the plucky prop forged ahead to cross the whitewash.
Wight’s conversion hardly had time to land before the visitors were off on a run again, Fraser Thomson crossing in the corner, and minutes later Dodds added another, with Wight converting, and suddenly there was quite a bit daylight between the teams.
Wight added a penalty with just five minutes remaining, putting some uncertainty to rest, but still the hosts pushed towards the Melrose line in an attempt to make their first Cup Final appearance.
Their efforts were in vain, however, and the game ended with the visitors resolutely defending their own lines.
Melrose: F. Thomson; C. Anderson, J. Murray, J. Helps, A. Dodds; S. Wight, R. Chrystie; N. Beavon, W. Mitchell, G. Holborn, G. Elder, R. Miller, J. Dalziel, G. Runciman, G. Dodds. Subs: R. Ferguson, N. Little, H. Mitchell, S. McCormick and C. Murray.