Stirling County 12, Melrose 45
Ross McCann weighed in with four tries as Melrose struck gold on Silver Saturday.
The BT Premiership champions made it a league and cup double at BT Murrayfield for the first time since 1997 as they won the BT Cup for the second successive year.
Having defeated Ayr in last year’s final, they retained the trophy with a deserved win over league counterparts Stirling County.
Stirling made a sprigthly start but Melrose opened the scoring after nine minutes, following a long boot to touch by Jason Baggott. Pressure on the County line by several drives froward from Melrose hinted that a try was coming and McCann touched down in the corner. Craig Jackson missed the extras from a difficult anlge.
A superb sweeping crossfield move at speed from Melrose brought their second try four minutes later, with McCann on target again and Jackson posting the conversion this time to make it 12-0 in Melrose’s favour.
Many sides might have wilted even more once they sensed the Greenyards men were taking command but Stirling creditably hit back with a try of their own, credited to Gary Holburn, after a tangled mass of bodies spilled over the Melrose line. Jonny Hope pulled the conversion attempt wide of the left-hand upright, so the score remained at 5-12.
More slick work in midfield from Melrose on the half hour saw a deft chip forward being chased by Baggott and Ian Moody, with Moody touching down for another try. Jackson converted it to give the Borders side a 19-5 advantage at half time.
The second half was flat by comparison in its early stages, with County looking marginally the more dangerous side. It sparked into life with some promising-looking attacking moves by both sides which possibly deserved better.
County chose a long shot at goal from a penalty award but the kick fell short – and then they found themselves even further behind as Ruairidh Knott scored a non-converted a try for Melrose on the left side.
In 66 minutes came another flash of Borders brilliance with a try evolving from a breakout move under their own posts. Baggott transferred to George #Taylor Taylor, whose superb run put McCann in the clear for his hat-trick. Jackson’s conversion made it 5-31.
County’s last flourish came with a try from Craig Robertson, with the conversion from player-coach Peter Jericevich taking their tally into double figures.
But, in the dying minutes, McCann collected a long pass from Baggott to charge through for his fourth try, while more clever Melrose handling enabled George Taylor to break clear and score their seventh try of the contest. Both were converted by Jackson.
Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie said afterwards this was the best bunch of players he had ever been associated with at the club, as a player and coach.
“They are pretty special,” he said. “They spend a lot of time together, they enjoy each others’ company and enjoy working hard for each other – now they have their just rewards. It has taken a lot of building to get there.”
Of the game, he said: “It took a bit of work they– Stirling chucked quite a lot at us and kept the ball for quite long periods of time. We struggled quite a bit early on to get territory and, as soon as you can’t get territory, it puts you under pressure.
“Once we started playing the way we can, we are tough to defend and some of the accuracy there, once the game eventually did open up, was quite impressive, I think.
“We worked hard in our defence, hopefully to create opportunities to atttack. Our bench players came on in the last 20 minutes and they played really well .”
Chrystie added that Melrose would continue working hard and try to bring on their younger players for the future, with Super 6 on the horizon.
Captain Grant Runciman said the delight of the double was still sinking in but there was a bit of relief that a long season was now over.
“There have been a lot of big games, play-offs and semi-finals,” he said. “It’s been a tough few mothnhs – each game just builds up the pressure,” Runciman added Melrose’s first-half performance on Saturday had ben a bit shaky, with too many mistakes.
“But, in the second half, we really pulled away,” he added. “We wore Stirling down and our defence was cracking as well,”
County had some great players in their side, so to hold them to only two tries was very good, said Runciman.
Stirling County: J. Hope; N. Matawalu, E. MacGarvie, L. Bonar, K. Gossman; R. Curle, P. Jericevich; R. Chies, R. Kennedy, G. Holburn, J. Beech, H. Burr, L. Wynne, S. Macdonald, R. Leishman. Subs: M. Emmison, A. Nicol, J. Pow, S. Yarrow, G. Gilliland, C. Robertson, A. McLean.
Melrose: Fraser Thomson; Austin Lockington, George Taylor, Craig Jackson, Ross McCann; Jason Baggott, MurdoMcAndrew; Grant Shiells, Russell Anderson, Nick Beavon, James Head, Angus Runciman, Ruairidh Knott, Grant Runciman, Ian Moody. Subs: Richard Ferguson, Dan Elkington, Ruairi McLeod, Ali Grieve, Bruce Colvine, Gavin Wood, Patrick Anderson.
Referee: D. Sutherland.