CHAMPIONS – The one word that sums up not only last night’s match, but a whole season of hard work from a Wanderers side that had grit and determination, combined with undoubted skill which deservedly won them the Borders Semi-junior League.
Having suffered two heavy defeats at the hands of Melrose already this year, a trip to the ‘House of Pain’ was going to be do-or-die for both clubs. Right from the kick off the home side took the game to the visitors, and only two minutes in, Wasps were penalised at the scrum for engaging early, and Matty Douglas opened the score from the 22m line.
It was all Hawick possession, with Melrose defending for their lives. A kick over the top from Darren Henderson saw Sam Bandeen winning the footrace only for an unlucky bounce to deny a certain score. A subsequent penalty for offside at the breakdown allowed Douglas to increase the lead with his trusty boot.
A storming run by Scott Anderson was stopped at the 5m line, where Bandeen was on hand to pick up, but Melrose managed to bundle him into touch right at the line. The lineout was stolen by Craig Kyle, and with panic in the Melrose ranks, Fergus Hislop was held back off the ball and their prop was yellow carded for preventing a clear opportunity to score. The resultant penalty was kicked by Douglas to increase the score to 9-0.
This spurred the Wasps on with their first real spell of possession, but a great tackle by Andrew Ford on the halfway line saw Scott Anderson pick up the loose ball and charge the distance uncontested. This time Matty Douglas pulled his kick wide.
Melrose were awarded a penalty deep in their own half, and opting to run, their wing knocked the ball forward which was gathered by Ryan Elliot who offloaded to Fergus Hislop, breaking two tackles to dive in at the corner, with the conversion fired low, hard and over by Douglas. Melrose were back to full strength and kept the ball in hand, rumbling up to the Wands 22, who were penalised for offside allowing the visitors to open their account.
With the half running down, one final opportunity to score went begging for the Wands. A poor clearing kick was collected by Ford who could have possibly went himself, but passed to Jordan Hyslop who looked to be in the clear. With Ryan Elliot outside him, Hyslop played the team game and fired out a pass that was a bit too high for Elliot to control, and knocked on with the line at his mercy. The home side were more than worthy of their half-time lead, though, but needed to keep up the energy levels in the second period.
Stern words from the Melrose coaches had the visitors pressing right from the restart, but a stolen ball and a chip-and-chase from Douglas relieved the pressure. Grant Huggan, Darren Henderson and Ryan Elliot were all on hand to get up into the Wasps 22, at which point the visitors killed the ball, and were probably happy to see Douglas kick the points rather than possibly conceding another try.
With Melrose still on the front foot, the Wanderers defended valiantly and a great clearing kick by Douglas had the Wasps struggling to run from deep. A soft turned over ball was then whipped out to Elliot who was not going to be denied this time, with a lightning burst of speed up the wing into the corner before the defence could get near him.
With time running down, Melrose chipped over the top of the advancing home defence, and with no full-back covering it looked like Elliot had the pace to get back. But with the ball hitting the post it dropped right on the line for Wasps to claim the converted try. Into injury time and Melrose had one last burst up the wing, with a try-saving tackle from Lewis Anderson to bring the game to a close.
The final whistle was met with scenes of jubilation from players, coaches and committee, much to the delight of the large support. The effort this team put in cannot be underestimated, and each and every player played their part, and put their body on the line for the cause. There might be have been some aches and pains afterwards, but the engraving on the trophy and winners’ medals will help ease the pain.