BRITISH AND IRISH CUP
PETER SKED reports from Carmarthen Park
THE rain-drenched fields of Carmarthen was like coming home for Melrose.
The announcer pelted out The Proclaimers at the interval, there were pipes and drums as skipper Scott Wight split the posts with three penalties, and even told “our Scottish fans” that Celtic had beaten Hibs 3-0.
But Melrose had not travelled to the Welsh valleys to be entertained – they had gone to entertain. And only a stuttering opening 15 minutes and a late try denied Melrose, the closest yet, a British and Irish Cup win on the road.
“We thought that we had played well and we did – after a nervous start. Maybe we were a bit naive, but we will learn from that,” said Wight.
Rugby director Mike Dalgetty believes that Scottish club rugby can live with the best. The potential Scottish champions showed too much respect for their Welsh opponents in the opening 20 minutes while playing into a gale and driving rain, and were chasing the game by 10-3 after eight minutes.
But Wight could have won the game after the interval.
“It showed what we can achieve and the final late try flattered them,” he added.
Melrose battled competitively in the horrendous conditions, handled well and were well worth their three Wight penalties despite losing the try count 3-0.
Melrose are closing the gap, but with only one professional, David Denton, allocated to the squad, they have to rely heavily on their home-grown players.
Llanelli used the gale to full advantage with a penalty by Steve Shingler, who also converted Matt Gilbert’s try in the opening eight minutes.
Wight cut the deficit before Graeme Dodds and Aaron Shingler were sin-binned after a bout of fisticuffs.
With three minutes to half-time Aaron Shingler went over from close range and Steve Shingler converted.
Melrose had the wind in the second half and Wight added his second penalty, and converted his third to keep Melrose in the hunt, but Liam Williams’ try, converted by Steven Shingler, ended the brave Borders challenge.
Melrose: F. Thomson; C. Anderson, J. Murray, J. Helps, C. Hardie; S. Wight, R. Chrystie; N. Little, W. Mitchell, G. Holborn, J, Dalziel, G. Elder, D. Denton, G. Dodds, G. Runciman. Subs: R. Higgins, G. Innes, R. Miller, S. Johnson, S. McCormick, C. Jackson, E. Ford.