ATHOLL INNES reports from The Greenyards
MELROSE gambled and hit the jackpot after Andrew Skeen played the winning card in a dramatic finale on Saturday.
The Scottish champions led only 21-19 after an amazing Boroughmuir fightback when referee Peter Allan awarded Melrose not one, but two penalties.
With the crowd shouting, and even coach Craig Chalmers calling, for Skeen to kick at goal and ease the pressure, the No. 10 ignored the home support and put the ball in the right-hand corner for Alun Walker to go over – and the referee got a hand from touch judge Iain Bruce to award the score.
However, the final result was tempered when Chalmers revealed that winger Greg White was heading home for family reasons and that Kiwi centre Nick McGrath was expected to be out for months after damaging finger tendons in the game at Aberdeen a week earlier.
But Chalmers, perky as ever after his side had picked up a bonus point, said, with a twinkle in his eye: “We could be bringing in someone else.”
On the game, the coach added: “We played our best for 25 minutes and then fell asleep, and I was happy to get the points as Skeen took control. They came back at us [from 21-0 to 21-19[” – and Melrose knew that they had a game on their hands.
Tries from Grant Runciman, Ross Ovens and Fraser Thomson, along with Skeen’s kicking, seemed to have put Melrose out of sight. In the space of just over 10 minutes, however, Sep Visser, Johnny Swanson, Alex Henderson and Harry Leonard had closed the gap.
More clinical finishing could have brought more scores. “It is a game that we could have won,” said Boroughmuir coach Fergus Pringle.
Melrose were on the back foot, sometimes at sixes and sevens, and the home faithful could see the probable win slipping away until Skeen grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
Wayne Mitchell, who had replaced Richard Ferguson, seemed to have burrowed over, followed by Walker. The referee said that the ball had been held up before the touch judge indicated that it was a score from Walker. Skeen booted over the conversion.
Too late, therefore, for Boroughmuir to respond and they went back up the A7 empty-handed, despite all their strenuous efforts.
Melrose: F. Thomson; L. Mallin, B. Dick, J. Helps, G. White; A. Skeen, B. Colvine; N. Little, R. Ferguson, G. Holborn, R. Ovens, R. Miller, J. Dalziel, G. Runciman, A. Nagle. Subs: W. Mitchell, C. Arthur, S. Johnson, A. Walker, S. Chalmers.