Melrose 30- 20 Hawick: Rose machine rolls on
The Greenyards men, having trampled over most teams this season, did just that to Hawick in the first half with a display of dominant mauling that allowed Melrose to score their vital fourth try five minutes before the break.
But Hawick, with Edinburgh prop Rory Sutherland coming off the bench, took the honours after the interval, winning the second 40 minutes by 14-6 to give a hint that they are certainly not dead and certainly not buried.
“The second half was a lot better. The first half we just never turned up,” said the Hawick coach George Graham.
“We stood and watched them and let them do what they wanted to do. But in the second half we showed that when we have our hands on the ball we’re dangerous.”
Outstanding for Hawick in the second half were flanker Guy Graham, No.8 Bruce McNeil and stand-off Lee Armstrong, whose contributions helped Hawick stage a psychologically important fightback in the second half.
But by then Melrose had done the damage with their first-half dominance.
“We managed the first half very well and were clinical with the ball,” stated Rob Chrystie, the Melrose coach.
“We had to make seven changes to our team but I thought the boys who came in did very well.”
For the Melrose fans, fed on a diet of flamboyant running rugby this season, the fayre on offer yesterday was perhaps not so digestible, three of the first half tries coming from ferocious driving mauls and and close range pick-and-drive play that produced tries for hooker Richard Ferguson and prop Grant Shiels.
The other short-distance try was scored by scrum half Murdo McAndrew who finished off a succession of five metre line-out drives with a snipe round the blind side.
Melrose did, however, show their backline flair when prolific try scorer Fraser Thomson showed fine footwork to pick his way through the Hawick wider channels before scorching to the line.
The other Melrose points in the first half came from the boot of Craig Jackson with two conversions.
Hawick, turning round 24-6 down at the break with only two penalty goals by Ally Weir to show for their efforts, were a transformed team in the second half, their running with ball in hand producing two classic tries for wing Gary Munro, both converted by Weir, only for the Greens to be denied the bonus point they fully deserved by two Jackson penalty goals.