Champions need to iron out faults

Melrose v Heriots at The Greenyards. Andrew Nagle with the ball for Melrose in their away strip.
Melrose v Heriots at The Greenyards. Andrew Nagle with the ball for Melrose in their away strip.

Melrose 28

Heriot’s 36

Melrose begin the defence of their Premiership title on Saturday, knowing that they need to sort out a few issues after losing to cup winners Heriot’s at The Greenyards in last weekend’s BT Scottish Rugby Charity Shield.

In an entertaining, but nevertheless full-on match, the Goldenacre men ended up on the better end of a 5-4 try count after Melrose struggled to come come to terms with injuries to prop Nick Beavon and flanker Neil Irvine-Hess.

“Nick fractured a finger in the opening minutes and Neil broke his nose,” said Melrose coach, John Dalziel. “We kind of lost our shape a bit with the changes we had to make.

“We’ve had bad luck with three fractures in two games.”

He added: “The positives were that we found out a lot about a number of players. We changed things around in the last half hour – we wanted a look at Austin Lockington at 10.

“I thought Andrew Nagle did really well as an experiment in the 12 position, while Ruraidh Knott at seven was outstanding. But credit to Heriot’s. They slowed our ball and they were pretty dynamic when they came at us and scored some good tries.

“The worrying thing for us was how easily we conceded scores. Overall, it was an excellent workout for this time of year and probably brings us back down to earth a bit.

“It was a Charity Shield match today, but the league’s the one to win. And that starts next Saturday.”

Elsewhere in the Melrose side, new signing Tito Muo, on the right wing, had a good debut game, despite the latent effects of jet-lag after his long flight from Australia at the beginning of the week.

Scrum halves Tom Wilson and Murdo McAndrew were astute in their reading of the game and winger Rory Tolland again impressed with his strong running. Still to appear for Melrose are winger Callum Anderson and former Gala prop Ewan McQuillan.

In a match where the lead changed several times, Melrose trailed 17-14 at the break, having scored excellent tries by Lockington and Nagle, both converted by Richard Mill.

Heriot’s points came from a Graham Wilson penalty and the scrum half’s conversions of a Jack Turley try and a penalty try.

In a dynamic start to the second half, Knott touched down twice and Mill added the extras to put his side into a 28-17 lead. But the advantage was soon eroded as Heriot’s hit back with tries from prop Struan Cessford and lock Russell Nimmo, and a conversion from Wilson to retake the lead, before victory was assured in the final minute with a late effort from replacement back Rory Carmichael and a touchline goal from Wilson.