HAWICK’S second-half fightback was to be in vain as Melrose secured a 30 points to 20 victory in Saturday’s RBS Borders Regional Cup clash at The Greenyards.
Flawless kicking from the home side’s Joe Helps, along with scintillating attacking play led by captain Fraser Thomson, proved pivotal, as Hawick left it too late to pull off the win.
Melrose started the better of the two sides, controlling possession and territory with hard, powerful running and slick passing. Hawick did well to soak up the pressure, but it was Thomson who drew first blood, collecting a well-placed pass from Blair Hutchison, who had made a break down the line, to open the scoring.
Throughout the remainder of the first period, the Melrose backs showed greater invention but basic errors and resolute defence from the visitors were preventing them from adding to their tally.
Helps got the scoreboard ticking over again with a penalty following some ill-discipline from the Hawick defence, whose last-ditch tackling was the only thing stopping the hosts running away with the game.
A great break down the wing by Melrose’s Damien Hoyland, during which he sidestepped several of the Hawick defence, gave the home side their second touchdown, with Helps adding the extra points.
Hawick managed to close out the half on top and some sustained pressure yielded a penalty following several off-the-ball incidents.
Melrose went in 17-3 ahead at the break, but were in for a rude awakening as Hawick then launched an attacking blitzkrieg.
Hawick flanker Nick Mactaggart began the fightback by going over in the corner after the home side’s influential second row Ross Ovens had been sin-binned for a professional foul.
Hawick were now in the ascendancy, but against the run of play, turnover ball by Melrose saw the home side relieving the pressure with a huge kick downfield that found touch inside the Greens’ 22. The resultant lineout was stolen by Melrose and yet more ill-discipline from Hawick gifted the homesters a penalty in front of the posts.
Melrose started to regain some possession and Thomson again found himself bursting down the wing, before offloading to debutant Ruaridh Knotts, who ran in Melrose’s third try.
Hawick remained undaunted but the Melrose defence held firm in the face of wave after wave of Hawick attacks.
It was only when the Greens decided to play it tight, led by Kieran Willison who crashed over in the corner following some strong forward play, that the visitors started to convert their superior pressure into points.
Hawick continued to dominate possession in the closing minutes, creating a thrilling end to the match as they exploited the slow reactions of the Melrose defence. Indeed, Hawick had the final word when Lee Armstrong found himself racing down the wing only to be cynically taken high by Knott, giving the referee no option but to show another yellow card. Renwick kicked to touch, with the resultant lineout secured by Willison who crossed for his second try of the game.
The cheers from the Melrose players at the final whistle was a clear indication of just how hard Hawick had made it for them. Another positive for the Greens was the performance of talismanic captain Greg Cottrell who managed to get more important game time under his belt as he makes his comeback from a shoulder injury.