If Hawick came away with lessons from their defeat to Melrose at the Greenyards last Saturday, then top of the list would surely be discipline.
The Greens were twice shown yellow in the first half on the back of a slew of penalties against them and in the end it proved costly to a Hawick side that had won against the Greenyards men earlier in the season.
“Giving away so many penalties and going down to 13 men counts in the end because guys become tired,” said Hawick’s player-coach, Nikki Walker, who had to watch first Rory Hutton and then Matt Landels being shown the yellow card in the space of two minutes.
Hutton was penalised for blocking in defence, but the yellow card appeared to be for Hawick’s accumulation of penalties.
In the event, the two yellow cards effectively killed off Hawick’s challenge, even if the effect did not kick in until the last quarter.
Much to the delight of Hawick supporters, Hutton, on his return to the field, scored a gem of a try to underline his natural running skills.
But that was to be the only five-pointer for a Hawick side whose indiscipline in the first half was punished by two penalty goals from Richard Mill and a free kick that led to a try by prop Nick Beavon, converted by the latter, leaving Melrose with a 13-5 advantage at the interval.
But the Melrose win was about much more than capitalising on Hawick’s lack of discipline.
This was a victory founded on teamwork and carrying out well-rehearsed moves.
“I thought we executed well in the second half,” suggested Melrose coach John Dalziel.
“All four tries were off the training ground from scrum or line-out attacks.
“We spent a lot of time [last week] working on moves from the set-piece.
“We had to make a few adjustments. We were without Joe Helps and early on we had to replace Peter Eccles. We moved Andrew Nagle to the flank and brought young Tom Galbraith off the bench and into the centre position. He’s never played there before for us, but I thought he defended really well.”
Melrose were bolstered by the presence of Edinburgh’s recent signing, Hugh Blake, and his Murrayfield colleague, Damien Hoyland.
Blake, recruited from Otago and who played for New Zealand under-20 in the 2012 Junior World Championship, looked sharp in attack and gritty in defence, and had a hand in two of the three Melrose second-half tries, the first against the run of play after Hawick had threatened to wipe out the home side’s lead.
A penalty goal early in the second half by Neil Renwick reduced the Melrose lead to just five points, but after having to defend fiercely, Melrose delivered a crushing blow from a finely-judged cross kick by the impressive Mill. Hoyland collected the ball before sending full back Fraser Thomson in for a try.
Then it was Blake’s turn to put Thomson on course for the line and a second score for the Melrose full back.
Mill added the extras to both tries to put Melrose into a commanding lead. All that was needed was a fourth try and it was replacement wing Callum Anderson who duly obliged with a score in the corner to grab the bonus point, making his side’s position in the top four all the more secure.