BRITISH & IRISH CUP
ALAN LORIMER reports from The Greenyards
THIS tie between the reigning Scottish club champions and the current leaders in the Welsh Principality Premiership always had the makings of a tasty clash and in the event the game did not disappoint ... even if the result was a blow to Melrose pride.
Llandovery top the Premiership with six straight wins and against Melrose the visitors showed why they are in that position by putting on an all-round display of rugby that showcased many of the traditional skills of the Welsh game.
Melrose attempted to match them, but the home side’s execution of skills, missed tackles and poor decision-making at crucial times meant that the Borderers finished second-best to a side that had class in a number of positions.
“We weren’t sharp enough and tended to give them the ball back after turnovers. I think we were guilty of poor decision-making and too many forward passes,” said Melrose coach, Craig Chalmers.
He added: “We were a bit inaccurate at times, but we tried to play rugby – as they did. What was disappointing for us was soft scores from poor tackling”.
“We knew they would be a good side and they showed their intentions from the off in the way they attacked. We played pretty well, but in the first half when we had turnover ball we didn’t make the most of it. They made mistakes, too, but they deserved their lead at half-time.
“We lost a bit of patience at times and perhaps kicked the ball away. They were sharp and sharp-witted, and good with the ball. But our guys performed well today against a side that’s at the top of its game. It’s good for the guys to play against a side that’s so positive. I think we’ll take a lot from this and hopefully put together some results in the next few weeks.”
For Melrose, scrum half Bruce Colvine again impressed – and was unlucky not to score early in the first half from a pre-planned line-out move – while up front, props Nicky Little and Gary Holburn got the better of their opponents in the scrums. Wider out, Joe Helps looked effective when he moved to the wing, while newcomer Junior Kalamfoni showed glimpses of his powerful running.
Outstanding for Llandovery was their 19-year-old scrum half Rhodri Williams, a potential future Wales cap, and centre Jack Roberts, who had pace, superb distribution skills and the traditional Welsh side-stepping ability.
But as their coach Lyndon Lewis suggested, Llandovery’s win was on the back of great ball-carrying from their big forwards.
“We kept possession of the ball for long periods and when you do that the gaps will open up,” he said.
It was Roberts who created the opening score after breaking from his own 22m area and initiating a move that finished with winger Chris Knight touching down and stand-off James Garland converting. Melrose countered in equally impressive manner with an attack that twice involved Roddy Grant, ending with Andrew Skeen touching down and then converting.
Then just before the break, a wayward pass by Alun Walker resulted in a scrum five metres out for Llandovery. The Welsh eight made muscle count for tighthead Dean Howells to score, Garland converting for a 14-7 half time advantage.
Llandovery looked the more dynamic side at the beginning of the second half and confirmed this view with a try in the left corner by winger Jake Randall. Melrose had a chance to recover, but their efforts from a five-metre scrum were clumsy.
In the event, it was Llandovery who kicked on as Rhodri Williams made Melrose tackling look feeble before racing in for a solo try. Melrose hit back with a try by Grant, converted by Skeen from the stand-off’s half-break, but Llandovery emphasised their superiority with a fifth and final try by Roberts for an impressive win.
Melrose: F. Thomson; L. Mallin, B. Dick, J. Helps, U. Kalamfoni Jnr; A. Skeen, B. Colvine; N. Little, A. Walker, G. Holburn, J. Dalziel, R. Miller, R. Grant, G. Runciman, A. Nagle. Subs: W. Mitchell, C. Arthur, S. Johnson, R. Ovens, S. McCormick, R. Mill, S. Chalmers.