Friday saw the late postponement of the Raptors away game at Aberdeen Wanderers due to a waterlogged pitch. We were also advised that Perthshire RFC U18 Boys couldn’t raise a team for their National Youth Cup tie at Canal Park.
This left us with only one match involving a senior team – the headliner Highland v Melrose, in National League Division 1.
The amber weather warning didn’t deter Melrose who made the lengthy trip from the borders with no issues.
Both teams turned up to play rugby and the ball was moved quickly by both teams who showed lots of ambition, but the weather was always going the be an issue. Sure enough the slippery ball was being lost in the tackle in the dreich conditions.
This was evident in Highlands first try on around 14 mins. Melrose made an exit from their half, with the ball landing in the arms of Adriu Muritoki he returned the favour and set of in pursuit of his own kick.
Whilst the ball was fielded safely, the Melrose full back lost the ball in the tackle when the chasing Muritoki arrived. Hugo Crush reacted quickly to move the ball left where Highland had numbers. A swift interchange of passes on the left wing saw co-captain Callum Carson go in for the score. Scott Fraser landed the extras.
Open play was often broken up by fumbled balls, and regular penalties for high tackles. The only thing of note here through the rest of the half was the dominance of the Highland scrum.
Nearing half time Melrose launched an attack of a line out on the Half Way line. As play moved into the Highland half the home side were pinged for an offence. Melrose kicked into the Highland 22 on the opposite side of the pitch. The Melrose side looked to run a catch and drive. Solid Highland defence saw Highland keep their try line secure. They did cough up a penalty and Melrose took advantage to make the score Highland 7-3 Melrose.
This was the half time score.
16 mins into the 2nd Half Highland were on attack on the Melrose try line, looking to cross the line with a. series of pick and goes. During this phase the referee yellow carded the Melrose no 10 for some chat.
Highland chose to scrum instead of kicking and with the scrum moving swiftly towards the away team try line the referee awarded Highland a penalty try for the Melrose 9 kicking the ball out of the retreating scrum.
To make matters worse for Melrose the scrum half was also yellow carded.
Highland will be disappointed not to have taken more of a 2 man advantage.
Indeed a casual observer would never have known that Melrose were two men down.
Into the last five minutes, Melrose scored an unconverted try and then Fraser kicked a penalty to make it 17-8.
A long period of injury time allowed Melrose to kick a late penalty to earn themselves a losing bonus point, but it was Highland who took four points after really digging in here.
“In tough conditions for running rugby the boys really had to stick at it and it is another win so we are delighted,” Highland head coach Dave Carson said.
“The scrum was dominant again, but we probably didn’t take all our chances in the first half and left a couple of tries out there as we had a lot of territory and possession and our defensive line speed was awesome. Stuart Watson was outstanding in the game.”
Davie Carson’s opinion was shared by the crowd who gave the Man of the Match award, as sponsored by The Walrus & Corkscrew Wine Bar, to Stuart Watson.
Melrose sit third in the table while Ayr have a six-point lead at the top after a 28-15 victory at Gala kept them unbeaten. They are on 29 points with Highland on 23.