Rugby Union: Hail and farewell to Telfer: Melrose pluck title with record

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Currie. . . . . . . . . . . . .10

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MELROSE claimed a fourth Scottish title in five years with a record league victory and can now only wait to see if, as feared, some of their players start next season in English club rugby.

The prospect is certainly being taken seriously at Melrose, especially with the international centre Graham Shiel admitting he has signed a registration form with West Hartlepool. Doddie Weir, too, has been linked with the club and Craig Chalmers is said to have had discussions with Bristol.

So was it a grand exhibition performance for the benefit of Jim Telfer, the retiring coach, at Malleny Park on Saturday, or the final bow of a team who have run out of challenges in Scotland? Popular wisdom is that Telfer's influence over Melrose will wane as he concentrates more on his role as Scotland's director of rugby. Pigs might fly.

Telfer will still be around the Melrose scene and, at the height of the celebrations, Gary Parker claimed cheekily: 'Jim will still be shouting at us. The only difference is that he might have to pay the pounds 4 admission price to get in at some grounds.'

Derek White, the former Scotland No 8, once said he did not know what was worse, telling his wife he was going off to another international training session, or telling Telfer he could not make it.

Telfer can step aside satisfied that, under his guidance, Melrose have blossomed into a side capable of exploiting the open spaces and playing expansively when opportunities arise - provided, of course, the softening up process among the forwards has been satisfactorily completed.

On Saturday, that job fell mainly to Carl Hogg whose relentless and forceful driving sapped the strength of the home pack who eventually caved in, the last of the 11 tries coming when the hooker Steve Brotherstone roared up outside his wing.

Under Telfer, ordinary players have become polished performers and an extra dimension was added to the Scottish club scene when Melrose pioneered the Sunday 'training' sessions designed to blow away cobwebs. Not without good reason are Melrose becoming known as the Rangers of rugby, setting standards with remarkable consistency that others must aspire to.

What cannot be ignored is the fact that Melrose, like Rangers, have enormous financial muscle, most of it stemming from a historic sevens tournament which generates a six- figure sum. A clubhouse extension, including gymnasium, was recently completed and there is now talk of undersoil heating and floodlights.

The team will warm up for the defence of their title on tour in South Africa and Melrose's dominance looks set to continue well beyond the Telfer era - unless those big spenders from the Courage league spoil the party.

Currie: Try Plumb; Conversion Morrison; Penalty Morrison. Melrose: Tries Brotherstone 2, Hogg 2, Ross Brown 2, Robbie Brown, Chalmers, Parker, Shiel, penalty try; Conversions Parker 8; Penalty Parker.

Currie: D Wilson; P McIntyre, M Tonkin, M Te Whaiti, M Plumb; J Morrison, R Dickson; P Calder, D Timms, J Stewart, M Laugerson, G Hamilton, B Ward (capt), I Russell, J Clinkenbeard.

Melrose: C Redpath; C Joiner (N White, 48), Ross Brown, G Shiel, G Parker; C Chalmers (capt), B Redpath; M Ross, S Brotherstone, M Browne, R Brown, E Simpson, A Kerr, G Weir, C Hogg.

Referee: D Leslie (Hamilton).