This has been a compelling BT Premiership season with many spectacular twists and turns along the way.
But no game has been won by a better try at the latest possible point than the one that broke Melrose hearts and settled the 2015 Premiership season at Goldenacre on Saturday.
Leading 20-17 with five minutes to go, Melrose believed they had all but secured their fourth Premiership title in five years, but Heriot’s – who had finished top of the regular season table before the play-offs began – No.8 Jason Hill would provide a dramatic grandstand finish.
Back row Jamie Ritchie broke free from a weak Melrose tackle and raced up the right flank before handing off to centre Keith Buchan, who charged towards the line.
Buchan was dragged inches short, but Hill, who was first to the breakdown, picked up the recycled possession and crashed over to clinch the match.
“Credit to Heriot’s for fighting till the end, but we’re very disappointed,” said dejected Melrose captain Fraser Thompson post-match.
“I felt we didn’t play brilliantly, but were close. Towards the end of the game we gave them possession 95m out. Credit to them, they managed to keep hold of the ball and kept coming.
“They managed to move forward and get over the line.”
Billed as a rugby prizefight between the two best club sides in Scotland, conditions couldn’t have been better with the sun out and the skies blue.
Melrose winger Joe Helps kicked over an eighth-minute penalty before Heriot’s Jack Turely used his considerable power to charge over for the game’s opening touchdown.
Graham Wilson added the conversion and 11 minutes later booted a penalty to put the home side 10-3 up.
Five minutes before half-time an excellent break, started and finished by full-back Thompson, saw ’Rose trail 10-8 at the interval.
Tito Mau kicked off the second half by scoring from 25m out to put Melrose 13-10 in front. Heriot’s cause was made worse when a late hit by Keith Buchan earned the centre 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
Wilson dragged a penalty wide on 60 minutes, but the hosts were soon back ahead when Glenn Bryce broke one tackle and weaved his way over to score. Wilson made up for his earlier miss by slotting the conversion that put Heriot’s up 17-13.
Andrew Nagle restored Melrose’s lead when the centre barged his way over, and with Richard Mill converting the Greenyards men were 20-17 up with the end in sight.
Both sides were guilty of basic handling errors all afternoon, but none will be more pivotal than when Mau knocked a wayward pass into touch to hand Heriot’s possession inside their own 22m in the dying moments.
An efficiently recycled ball saw the hosts edge slowly up the field. There followed a quick ball from Wilson to Ritchie who, courtesy of a wild sidestep, charged upfield and fed the onrushing Buchan.
He spotted a gap, but was stopped short, before Hill picked up and popped his nose home to seal victory.