Melrose supremacy reigns as top two face off
Melrose 27, Ayr 10
After gaining revenge for the earlier defeat to Ayr at Millbrae, Melrose tightened their grip on the championship to suggest Rob Chrystie’s side are heading for a home tie in the play-offs.
Of course, these play-offs are a long way off and there are still four rounds of the Premiership remaining, two in January and two in February, during which fortunes could change.
But, at the moment, Melrose appear to be reigning supreme, their imperious performance against Ayr last weekend underlining their all-round strength and the depth they have in their squad.
Melrose were unluckly to lose their outstanding back row Neil Irvine-Hess, who sustained a concussion injury in the tackle. But, no doubt to Ayr’s dismay, Melrose were able to bring Edinburgh professional Lewis Carmichael off the bench.
Not that Ayr were without their pros. The Millbrae side fielded Scotland caps Adam Ashe and Pat MacArthur in their forward pack, making the contest an even tougher battle.
“It was full on – a real physical game of rugby. Both teams chucked a lot at it,” said the Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie.
Ultimately, what separated the sides and allowed Melrose to add 14 points in the last quarter, was discipline. While Melrose were squeaky clean, Ayr were hit with three yellow cards.
Flanker Will Bordill was binned early in the game for a late tackle on Craig Jackson and then collected a second, which became an automatic red, 15 minutes from time for dropping the maul.
Moreover, Ayr stand-off Ross Curle went to the sideline minutes from full time for a ‘no-arms’ tackle.
Melrose took advantage of Ayr’s depletion by working two ties in the last quarter from what is an efficient rolling maul, with hooker Russell Anderson and replacement prop Ruairi McLeod the scorers.
But even before Ayr’s discipline imploded, Melrose looked winners and the manner of their opening try, even if there was a suspicion of a forward pass in the move, deserved the reward of victory for both its audacity and the skill of execution.
Fraser Thomson triggered the score by running a penalty from his own line. When the ball was recycled, Craig Jackson put George Taylor into space before the inside centre released Austin Lockington for the try.
While Thomson deserves massive credit for having the vision to run from his own line, it was the skilful pass by Jackson that did the damage. It was just one of several priceless contributions from the Melrose stand-off, confirming that Jackson, who kicked five from five off the tee, is hitting top form at the right time.
“Craig Jackson was outstanding. He’s surely put his hand up for the club international, although he’s not in the squad right now.” We shall see,” added the coach.