Hawick’s hopes of securing their place in the BT Premiership play-offs were dealt a severe blow at The Greenyards on Saturday.
The Greens looked a shadow of the side who had won their last four matches in what was a dismal display – and defended without the nerve and conviction that had been so evident in recent league and cup performances
Down 13-0 after 15 minutes, Hawick rallied through a Rory Hutton try and Neil Renwick penalty but Melrose’s outstanding spirit saw them take full advantage of the Robbie Dyes’ sloppy play to win comfortably in the end.
Hawick slipped to their second heaviest defeat of the season with a careless opening quarter during which they conceded 13 unanswered points. There was a dishevelled look about the Mansfield Park men, who were outrun and outthought by a team that sailed into the lead inside the opening two minutes when Richard Mill kicked a simple penalty after referee Graham Wells spotted a Hawick infringement in the ruck.
Six minutes later, Melrose added to their lead through Nick Beaven, who finished off a well-worked move started by Graham Dodds after the No.8 took advantage of woeful Hawick tackling in midfield.
The Greens added to their own downfall in the 13th minute when captain Hutton was yellow carded for an off-the-ball altercation and from the resulting penalty Mill added to his tally with n easy three points to stretch the host side’s lead to 13-0.
Matt Landels joined Hutton in the sin-bin eight minutes later after a late hit on Mill to leave the Greens down to 13 men. However, and albeit briefly, there were some encouraging signs for Hawick late in the first-half and another possible feat of escapology was on the cards.
In the 34th minute, using a well-worked set-piece move, Hawick sucked Melrose’s defence into the ruck area. Scrum-half Greg Cottrell spread quick ball to Hutton who managed to dance past two Melrose defenders before wriggling over in the corner.
Renwick missed the conversion with a poor attempt at goal as Melrose went in 13-5 at the break.
Hawick moved to within five points of their hosts shortly after the interval through a Renwick penalty but Melrose soon doused any hope the Robbie Dyes had of igniting a second-half flurry.
On 64 minutes, Mill, who had delivered a master class all afternoon, launched a telling cross-field kick to Damian Hoyland, who rounded a pair of Hawick defenders before releasing Fraser Thompson for the simplest of touchdowns, which was converted by Mill.
Melrose killed the game as a contest in the 78th minute when Hugh Blake picked up a wayward offload from Hutton and the openside flanker split Hawick’s defence before passing to Thompson who glided home to score, with Mill adding the extras.
Melrose played with a level of wit and gumption which proved far too much for Hawick and secured their bonus-point try in injury time when Callum Anderson motored down the wing, exploiting a tired and weary Hawick defence to conclude the scoring.
Hawick: L. Armstrong, N. Walker, J. Coutts, N. Renwick, S. McLeod, R. Hutton, G. Cottrel, S. Muir, R. Graham, M. Landels, M. McKee, B. McNeil, N. Mactaggart, R. Gibson, M. Robertson. Replacements: L. Gibson, W. Blacklock, K. Davies, S. Goodfellow, M. Douglas.