Melrose hit by poor start ... again

Melrose 29

Stirling County 35


STUART CAMERON reports from The Greenyards

Melrose had a first half they’ll want to forget at The Greenyards on Saturday.

They leaked four tries in the opening period against a Stirling County side which had been heavily beaten 87-10 the week before at Bedford.

The amount of mistakes made by Melrose was uncharacteristic. Even without the likes of Fraser Thomson and Bruce Dick in the backline, there were talented boys on the park wearing the black and yellow, but it just didn’t happen for them and when Stirling ended the first period 28-3 up, thanks to four tries from Sean Kennedy, two from Rory Hughes and one by Danny Gilmour, the alarm bells were ringing.

Brian Archibald converted all four touchdowns. Melrose’s only points came from a penalty by Richard Mill.

The second half saw Melrose getting their act together – it was a much better performance, and passes which went astray earlier in the game were finally going to hand. Their shape was better.

On 53 minutes, John Dalziel scored a try following a series of forward assaults on the County line. Andrew Skeen converted, but two minutes later, Hughes ran in for his hat-trick, and with Archibald bagging the extras, the 25-point deficit was restored.

On the hour, Tongan winger Usaia Kalamafoni Jr scored in the corner, but it never should have been awarded. The ball was dropped over the line and not even close to being grounded. There was a high tackle which prevented him from touching down, but in that case a penalty try should have been awarded, with the conversion being taken from in front of the posts. But Skeen took the kick from the touchline and hit the post. It was a big decision by referee Rob Dickson and one which would help Melrose get two bonus points.

Wayne Mitchell came off the bench to get his first try of the season – a typical “Mitchell Burrow” – and Nicky Little got the home team’s fourth. Both were converted by Skeen to get to within six points.

Despite a big effort at the finish, County’s defence held out and the delight among the Stirling players at the final whistle showed what it meant to them as they pulled off the shock of the day.

Worryingly, it was Melrose’s fourth home defeat of the season.

Greenyards stalwart Stuart Johnson said: “We weren’t clued in at the warm-up. It may have been in the back of our minds that Stirling had conceded 87 points the previous week, but we should have been up for this game following our own result against Llandovery.

“Too many missed tackles and errors from last week’s game carried over to the first half this week.”

Melrose: S. Chalmers; L. Mallin, R. Mill, J. Helps, U. Kalamafoni Jr; A. Skeen, B. Colvine; N. Little, A. Walker, G. Holborn, R. Ovens, R. Miller, J. Dalziel, G. Runciman and A. Nagle. Subs: W. Mitchell, C. Arthur, S. Johnson, S. McCormick and A. Jessop.