Melrose 24

Heriot’s 17

Atholl Innes

at The Greenyards

MELROSE reached the inevitable top spot in the Premiership with a win at The Greenyards on Saturday.

But the title challenge will have to wait until Spring when the the play-offs commence.

It was not a total performance this week, but after a dominating first half, they battled against a tough Heriot’s side, who gained a vital losing bonus point with the last kick of the game to retain hope of their own play-off place.

The hosts missed a handful of chances in the first half as well as gifting Heriot’s one of their two tries.

But they still had enough in the tank to withstand late pressure.

Coach Rob Chrystie praised his players for a sterling performance.

He said: “We created a lot of chances in the first half and some of the stuff we played was pretty good.

“These are always really tough games and Heriot’s added a lot to the game and they pressurised us at times. We got the result and that confirmed us as finishing top of the table, and that was the goal at the beginning of the season.”

Heriot’s counted the cost of a yellow card to Michael Liness as Melrose added two tries while he was off the field, and a late penalty from Craig Jackson made it difficult for the visitors.

“I was frustrated that we let the first half slip away from us,” said Heriot’s coach Phil Smith.

“We had the elements, but did not get a position to put any pressure on. I feel we are not given much of a break and things have not gone our way, but they will change.

“We scored a perfectly good try that was not given at nil-nil. Now we have to win our last two games with a bonus against Currie and Boroughmuir. It will be tight, but we are still there.”

Murdo McAndrew gave Melrose an early lead from a scrum close to the line, Jackson converting.

And they scored either side of half-time with a penalty try in injury time and Russell Anderson being driven over three minutes after the interval.

Jackson added the conversions for a 21-0 lead.

Heriot’s showed fighting spirit and resilience as both sides made changes Martin Bouab and Jack McLean scoring and Jones converting both before Jackson and Jones exchanged penalties to end an absorbing and competitive contest.

Melrose: F. Thomson; A. Lockington, N. Godsmark, C. Jackson, G. Taylor; J. Baggott, M. McAndrew; G. Shiels, R. Anderson, N. Beavon, J. Head, A. Runciman, I. Moody, R. Knott, A. Miller. Replacements: R. Ferguson, R. McLeod, A. Grieve, R. McCann, B. Colvine.