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Melrose :17 - Currie : 10
A View from the Touchline – BT National Cup: 28.1.17

Melrose 17 pts (t 2, c 2, pg 1) v Currie 10 pts (t 1, c 1, pg 1)

Video highlights click here

As Currie’s travelling support encountered lying snow on their sojourn to the Borders, they must have wondered if this Cup tie would go ahead. But the Greenyards was in perfect condition after the cosy pitch covers had been removed. Although the bitter sleety rain continued to fall throughout the match, it was almost certain that the elements would influence the outcome; and so it proved. Before the ground conditions deteriorated, Melrose got off to a flier and registered all their points in the first half, but the resilient visitors kept in touch with a score on halftime, and they could have snatched the win if luck and warmer fingers had accompanied their attacking second half performance.

With national representative matches imminent, both teams were minus a number of their regular elite players. This was more noticeable in the Currie line-up, as the bulky home team appeared to have a weight and height advantage that disrupted the visitors’ set piece, particularly during the first quarter. Gradually Currie mastered their deficiencies and exerted more control at both lineout, and scrum, but the first 30 minutes were a torrid time and the young visitors did well to hang in and prevent more Melrose scores.

Currie had a couple of early opportunities, but the lineout ball was regularly turned over and the danger cleared. On twelve minutes, following a penalty lineout in Currie’s 22, the big ‘rose pack edged towards the goal line in a very similar fashion to the Heriots approach two weeks earlier. If executed well, this almost mechanical operation is very difficult to stop legally; lock forward, Aaron Welsh drove from the back of the maul for the try. Jason Baggott converted and a few minutes later he landed a long range penalty goal to give the home side a comfortable foundation from which they could build.

Whenever possible, the home team were always looking to move the ball wide and the Currie defence was kept on its toes; Rhys Davies, Scott McGinley, Thomas Gordon, Robby Nelson and Matthew Hooks were up to the job. Unfortunately one slipped tackle allowed half a gap to appear down the left, and Melrose grabbed their chance with some speedy exceptional handling. Thomas Klein scored in the corner and Jason Baggott converted from the touchline. At this point it looked as if Currie could be in for a long afternoon. They were having little luck and things were just not going their way. However, the visitors’ spirit was not diminished, and towards the end of the half they started to get things rolling deep in ‘Rose territory. Captain, Ross Weston made the hard yards before he was pulled down, but a fine off-load saw Fergus Scott over for the try. Jamie Forbes converted as the whistle went for the break.
Halftime score – Melrose 17 pts, Currie 7 pts
Currie started the second half in determined style which involved both forwards and backs. With ball in hand they repeatedly edged deeper into opposition territory, but the wintry conditions were not helpful, and the home defence was harder than an igloo wall. The positive approach did garner a penalty goal when the home defence strayed offside, but for all their continuing efforts Currie could not add to their total.

Jamie Forbes kept the pressure on Melrose with some fine positional kicking that looked likely to bring reward. From a penalty lineout in the ‘Rose 22, Michael Vernel secured possession and the Currie pack organised an effective drive which was illegally felled just short of the line; another penalty ensued. When there appeared to be a repeat of the earlier infringement a few minutes later, the Currie team and their supporters were rightly disappointed that no action was taken; the relieved Melrose defence was thankful to see the ball thumped down the pitch. A score at this juncture could have produced an interesting finale. As it was, Currie continued to attack but could never get beyond the ‘Rose 22, and it was similar at the other end when the home team made an occasional romp into Currie’s half. The couple of times that looked as if a break was on, those cold fingers and the increasingly slippery conditions halted progress; the match became a bit of an old fashioned slog as was common twenty seasons ago. Melrose now moves to the quarter-finals of the National Cup, and Currie have just two more games before their season draws to a ridiculously early end. What a disastrous state of affairs for Currie RFC and some other Scottish clubs. No wonder the game is becoming even more of a minority sport when there are no organised fixtures and the season is over at the end of February! Away to Boroughmuir in two weeks time - KO 3.00pm. IJS, 29.1.17

Updated 31/01/2017 by Ian Gidney