2s at Melrose (Jan 22)

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Melrose 2s 56 – 19 Linlithgow 2s

Saturday 29 January 2022

Report by Des Martin

A coach trip to the lovely historic town of Melrose was the destination for this week’s Second Team fixture. The Manager and everyone were aware of the challenge with this fixture, as Melrose RFC have an impressive past pedigree in both forms of Rugby Union at the highest level. The Reds had given a good account of themselves at home but were aware that Melrose home would be a different matter.

The day was windy and clear when we set off and fortunately for the Seconds the First Team fixture had been called off, which supplemented the playing squad giving us a full group of 22 players.

After a pleasant journey we arrived at Melrose to find a hive of rugby activity, their U18s playing Whitecraigs in a cup semi-final, the Melrose 1st XV playing Highland in Tennents National Division 1 and their 2s (Melrose Storm) playing Linlithgow 2s.  We were on one of the peripheral pitches so this involved changing and then bussing to the pitch.

The pitch was in good condition and the wind was blowing straight up and down. Muzz Murray, on advice, selected to play into the wind in the first half, the correct decision as it made handling easier but if a mistake was made it was quickly punished. The Melrose team were young but very accomplished and quick in thought and action and soon took advantage of a couple of mistakes. The Reds tackled manfully and lead by Muzz Murray held on well losing only 22 points in the first half.  In fact Muzz set up a good score for Cammy Walker from a free kick after a rare foray into the Melrose half against the wind.

Melrose didn’t get it all their own way in the first half losing the second row to a Red card after he took a disliking to Stu Young, (surprise surprise!!) and decided that Stuggie needed some punches to his head at a loose ruck. 

Half time came and the team were optimistic for the second half playing with the wind and downhill. The subs that came on in the second half – Ewan Edwards, Jamie Campbell, Stu Cunningham, Andrew Archer, Jamie Tulloch, Ally Walker and Gregor Stewart – all played well but Melrose had a number of good substitutes and a very strong group of players. The Reds scored fairly soon into the second half from a lineout and drive over by Muzz Murray.  Gregor Stewart converted with a nicely curled shot using the wind to make the score 22-12 and the Reds felt confident more scores would come. Unfortunately it was Melrose who added a few more scores as the Reds started to tire.  They were aided in many ways in the bizarre adjustment to the pack to accommodate the Melrose sending off, where we had to reduce our numbers in any scrum.

The Melrose team playing into the wind enjoyed the tight handling and off-loading and knowing they had the luxury of very good backs out wide, scored 56 points by the end of the game. The Reds added a consolation score near the end – after a good bit of play into the corner Poochie Tulloch dived over for a try, converted by Cammy Walker to leave the final score 56-19 to Melrose.

Although the score does not suggest this, the Reds put up a strong performance with many players doing well. We all know there are some things to improve and that was shown up against this very fit, skilful and good off-loading side.

To put things in context, Melrose where were able to give half a dozen players to Earlston, still have a compliment of 22 for their seconds and have a home 1XV game and under 18s all going on at the same time.  Something to aspire to!!!  And remember they also run the Southern Knights Super 6 professional team, which although is a Borders select still has a backbone of Melrose Players. Melrose 2s (aka Storm) have dominated the Tennents Reserve League East 2 this season, winning all 14 of their games played with a try bonus, giving them the maximum points total of 70!