Champions are there to be knocked down and that certainly was the aim of Edinburgh Accies against Melrose at The Greenyards, writes Alan Lorimer.
But in the event, despite playing well below par, last season’s Premiership winners Melrose survived the challenge of the city side to emerge winners from what coach John Dalziel described as a “horrible” game.
It certainly was from the point of view of Melrose who lacked their characteristic intensity and who came off second best in the share of both territory and possession.
“Our discipline killed us in the first half,” said Dalziel, adding: “We were constantly being penalised. What it did was to slow the game and, I think, to their advantage.
“They got territory from the penalties. We didn’t win the possession battle and so we had to defend for too long and that tires a side.
“But Accies are a reasonable side. They’re always a tricky team to play against. Simon Cross a few years ago instilled a hard edge in them defensively and they still have that,” observed Dalziel.
“Alex Glashan at scrum half really made them tick. We got out of jail in the middle part – I thought all along that we had too much quality and a dominant scrum. But we have to understand how we can marry that together a bit better. I thought we kicked away a lot of ball.
“Last week we played quite well and were beaten. This week we didn’t quite click and won. So we can build on this,” predicted the Melrose coach.
Dalziel will have Neil Irvine-Hess back in the squad for Saturday’s game against Stirling County at Bridgehaugh and may still be tempted to look at younger players challenging for senior honours.
Speaking of the youthful brigade, Dalziel must be satisfied with the progress of man-of-the-match and flanker Ruaridh Knott, described by the Melrose coach as a “real workhorse”.
For another promising youngster, Rory Tolland, there was the disappointment of having to make way for Edinburgh EDP Damien Hoyland with no game time.
Somewhat against the run of play, Melrose opened the scoring with a Richard Mill penalty goal and then, from a wide move, winger Damien Hoyland supported well for the opening try converted by Mill.
But after a rash of yellow cards that made the game 14 against 13, Accies took advantage of the decluttered pitch for lock Ed Stuart to score a try, converted by Chisholm.
Accies’ second-half pressure brought an opportunist try for Scotland under-20 wing Sam Pecquer, converted by Chisholm. But a James Head try, converted by Mill, and a penalty from the stand-off restored the Melrose lead before Austin Lockington touched down for a converted try to deny Accies a deserved bonus point.