Melrose hold on for ninth straight win after second-half Hawick fightback

Ian Moody feeds the ball out for Melrose (picture by Douglas Hardie)
Ian Moody feeds the ball out for Melrose (picture by Douglas Hardie)

Melrose 30, Hawick 20

Melrose were pushed to the limit by a surprisingly resilient Hawick side on Saturday, before eventually pulling away late to maintain their unbeaten BT Premiership record with a 30-20 victory at the Greenyards.

In a typically feisty Borders derby, which saw Stuart Graham and Angus Ruciman both spending time in the sin-bin following an early fight, Melrose, who had made a number of changes following last weekend’s win over Heriot’s, claimed a commanding 24-6 half time lead.

Tries from Richard Ferguson, Fraser Thompson, Murdo McAndrew and Grant Sheils, with Craig Jackson adding two conversions, established the home side’s advantage, while Ali Weir chipped over two penalties in reply for Hawick.

After the break, the expected tidal wave of Melrose dominance, which has left Premiership sides with nightmares this season, was subdued. The Robbie Dyes snuffed out their hosts and were playing unlike that of relegation candidates, shifting play from sideline-to-sideline, attacking with tempo and defending with vigour.

Hawick had thought they’d started their second-half fightback early when a charged-down kick landed over the home try line, with Teri hands

touching down. But, following a long debate between the referee and touch judges, the score was chalked off.

The Greens, however, did break through when winger Gary Munro cruised over on the right wing, converted by Weir, midway through the half to pull Hawick within 11 points. This was before the more experienced Melrose managed to slow the game down and re-establish their dominance with two penalties from Jackson.

Munro gave Teri supporters hope, after Grant Ruciman was sin-binned for the hosts, for a possible losing or try -bonus point when he grabbed his second score, with Weir converting, but it proved too late to change the outcome, as the hosts managed to hold on to maintain their unbeaten Premiership record.

“They came at us in the second half,” said a relieved Melrose head coach, Rob Chrystie. “In all, we made seven changes for the match against Hawick but we had quality players to come in (if needed). As a result, I thought we managed the first half pretty well and were clinical when we had the ball. I thought Hawick played very well in the second half.”

Saturday’s victory was Melrose’s ninth in succession and comfortably sees the Greenyards side top of the Premiership, as the league moves into the second half of the season.

Hawick, meanwhile, are continuing their search for a first win. Head coach Geroge Graham admitted that, , despite watching his side suffer yet another agonising defeat, he liked what he saw from his charges and insists they are inching ever closer to breaking their winless duck.

“I’m about as pleased as I can be, despite losing the game,” he said. ““We let them play a bit too much in the first half and, defensively, we weren’t challenging them enough.

“They scored some easy tries and we didn’t make them work for their points, which was disappointing. But, in the second half, we definitely changed that.

“We got ourselves into the game with some good scores. Some things, however, didn’t go our way. The charge-down score was surprisingly disallowed, but these things happen. We made a few tactical decisions that weren’t great but, overall, we are on an upward trend and getting

closer to a win.

“To hold Melrose, who have been averaging 40-points a game this season, to just 30 points is a great sign.”

Melrose – Thomson, Wood, Anderson, Jackson, Chalmers, Baggott, McAndrew, Shiels, Ferguson, Beaven, Head, A. Runciman, Irvine-Hess, Knott, Moody. Subs: Elkington, McLeod, G. Ruciman, Hutchison, Taylor.

Hawick – Weir, Munro, Johnstone, Buckley, Ferguson, Armstrong, Cottrell, Muir, Carryer, Little, Hamilton, Redpath, G. Graham, S. Graham, McNeil. Subs: Renwick, Sutherland, Davies, Tait, Baillie.