Doncaster Knights 17
BRITISH & IRISH CUP
LAING SPEIRS reports from the Greenyards
WITH progress in the British and Irish Cup out of the reach for both sides, there would have been widespread understanding if this final pool game had been an anticlimax.
But once they had a feel for the occasion, the teams turned on a winter warmer that produced some colourful tries. Their commitment to what was really a lost cause gave both of them a lot of credit.
Melrose took the prizes, deservedly, with a highly competitive team that brought back some familiar faces.
If Callum Anderson took much of the attention, the return of Graeme and Alan Dodds also cheered up the local support, and showed the team is on the way back just in time for the resumption of the Premiership.
So encouraging was the day for Melrose that post-match talk turned very rapidly to next year’s British & Irish Cup. On this form, it’s certainly a possibility for Melrose to qualify again.
Returning captain Graeme Dodds was a very happy man –not only at being back in the side himself, but on the way Melrose had played. “We’re getting where we want to be” he said, picking out the return of Anderson as significant.
“That was the Callum Anderson of old – it’s great to have him back. Hopefully, we can now kick on in the new year. That win today will have given us a lot of confidence for the next games.”
The Melrose performance was a bit erratic, with the line-out mishandled, especially in the first half, and it took a massive effort to hold the Doncaster driving mauls.
But the side’s fitness was impressive and they lasted the pace well on a heavy pitch.
Melrose overcame a strenuous effort by Doncaster in the opening minutes and Andrew Skeen collected a penalty after a quarter of an hour.
A couple of dashes by Fraser Thomson looked promising, but both sides were finding the pitch a bit slippy and the handling was initially often insecure.
It was no surprise when Doncaster used the strength of their forwards to collect a try through prop forward Brian McGovern after a good line-out take.
Joe Helps landed one of his long range penalties but Melrose were struggling to justify their half-time lead after some disappointing work at the throw-in.
But just before the turnaround, Melrose began to produce some style, and within seven minutes of the restart Anderson scored a good try, making something of very little and showing good control as he followed through a kick to the line.
The big visiting pack again took charge and scored through their other prop Tomas Francis after another successful line-out, James Lennard converting.
An easy penalty from Skeen put Melrose in front again, but a classy try down the right side by Douglas Flockhart turned the game against them once more.
Time was getting on if Melrose were to save the match, and it was Anderson again who did the business. With some neat footwork down the right touchline he found replacement Jamie Murray inside him and ready for the pass that brought the winning score, Skeen making it safe with the extras.
To be behind three times and still produce a win showed the spirit Melrose will be looking for in the rest of the season.
Melrose: F. Thomson; C. Anderson, B. Dick, J. Helps, A. Dodds; A. Skeen, S. McCormick; S. Lowe, A. Walker, G. Holborn, G. Dodds, P. Eccles, A. Nagle, G. Runcimanm, R. Miller. Subs: R. Ferguson, N. Little, C. Wilde, R. Ovens, B. Colvine, R. Mill, J. Murray.