Melrose made their position in the top four of the BT Premiership a degree stronger after emerging winners by the meanest of margins at the Greenyards last Saturday.
But for fans hoping that Melrose would sign off in style before the Premiership festive break, there was little satisfaction and instead the match became a nervous experience for the Greenyards faithful.
John Dalziel, the Melrose coach, admitted that he had expected Hawks to be difficult opponents.
“Hawks are the best defensive team in the league and you have to win in different ways against them,” he told TheSouthern.
“Our attack couldn’t get going, not because we weren’t sharp, but because they were so good defensively. It was a cup final today, points wise, so it was just about getting a win.”
The win by a single point brought relief rather than joy to Melrose, but there will surely be disappointment that they were unable to take a much greater advantage of Hawks’ loss of three players to the sin-bin.
An early yellow card for visiting centre Davie Milne allowed the hosts to exploit unguarded space, resulting in a try for winger Tito Mua, but almost immediately 14-man Hawks replied with a skilful try by stand-off George Horne, Jack Steele’s conversion giving the Glasgow side a narrow lead.
Then when prop Ian Findlay was sent to the sidelines for a 10-minute rest, Melrose again failed to take full advantage of Hawks’ depleted complement, their scant reward being a Joe Helps penalty that gave the Greenyards men a 8-7 interval advantage.
Hawks again saw yellow when winger Paul Ramsay was pinged for use of the boot (the only one of the three sin-binnings that seemed deserved) in a second half that was a procession of penalty kicks. In the event Jack Steele appeared to have put Hawks in sight of victory with two successful shots at goal, only for Helps to spoil the party with a similar effort in injury time to give Melrose a victory that appeared to have slipped from their grasp.
Melrose will have a free weekend at the end of this week before facing Gala in the annual holiday match. But on January 3 Dalziel’s men will again square up to Hawks, this time in the BT Cup. For this game Hawks will have home advantage and moreover they must be confident that they are unlikely to again suffer a hat-trick of yellow cards.
In the wake of this narrow win over the Glasgow outfit, Melrose will have to assess how they can break down Hawks’ defence and bring their fast runners into the game. In which context Dalziel will want to bring skipper Fraser Thomson much more into the game and use the talents of Bruce Colvine, who was the most impressive of the Melrose backs.
Among the forwards, Ewan McQuillan gained a few points on the Glasgow Warriors tighthead Zander Fagerson, Lewis Carmichael showed excellent consistency in the lineout and fellow lock James Head was admirably mobile around the field. Add in valuable contributions from Peter Eccles and Dalziel can be pretty pleased with the performance of the pack.
But for now the Greenyard’s coach will enjoy the win and begin to think about the derby game against his club’s rivals from Netherdale. “We can enjoy our turkey and look forward to the Gala game,” he added.