Melrose. . . .14
MELROSE are becoming increasingly concerned about what they believe to be unfair treatment being meted out to their international stand-off Craig Chalmers.
In helping Melrose become the first Scottish club for three years to begin the defence of their title with a victory, against Watsonians at Myreside, Chalmers was subjected to the type of buffeting normally reserved for the pound on the foreign exchanges.
Robbie Brown, the Melrose skipper, said: 'I don't know if Craig is deliberately being targeted but the number of times he is late tackled is way beyond a joke.'
Having turned down opportunities to broaden horizons in English and Welsh club rugby, stating that he did not wish to become the first Scot to spark an exodus over the border, Chalmers must have wondered why he bothered after twice being flattened before the new campaign was even half an hour old.
The first late tackle, by Scott Hastings, was marginal and went unchecked. The second saw Scotland Under-21 lock Murray Rudkin charge in with elbow raised, and he would surely have been dismissed if the referee, Ray Megson, had had a clear view.
Melrose, trailing 5-0, reacted furiously and equalised while Chalmers was being revived with smelling salts down on the touchline. Melrose's second row Doddie Weir later suggested the incident had proved a turning point. 'We were roused from that moment on,' he said.
With the 6ft 7in Rudkin retreating into a shell, Watsonians surrendered their steady stream of line-out possession and spent virtually the entire second half on the back foot, Gary Parker slotting the winning penalty for Melrose in the 70th minute.
Melrose looked vulnerable in the front row and would be alarmed at the number of times they were dispossessed in the tackle. Watsonians looked like developing into a potent force once their young stand- off Derek Lee learns to act more as a link and Scott Hastings sharpens up at centre.
Watsonians: Tries G Hastings, Henderson; Penalty G Hastings. Melrose: Try Bell; Penalties Parker 3.
Watsonians: G Hastings; F Henderson, S Hastings, A Garrie, R Baird; D Lee, S Johnston; J Munro, D Henderson (capt), R McLeod, C Campbell, M Rudkin, M Gifford, S Aitken, J McDonald.
Melrose: C Redpath; C Joiner, Ross Brown, I Leighton, G Parker; C Chalmers, B Redpath; M Ross, K Allan, C Bell, Robbie Brown (capt), E Simpson, C Hogg, G Weir, B Laidlaw.
Referee: R Megson (Edinburgh Wanderers).