Rugby Union: Low-key Melrose close in on title

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Melrose 18 Edinburgh Wanderers 0

Melrose will win the Tennents Premiership and reign as Scottish champions for the sixth time in eight seasons if they defeat their only challengers, Watsonians, at home this weekend. If, however, Watsonians win, then Melrose will require victory in their outstanding fixture at Currie by a margin of 17 points plus whatever shortfall they incur on Saturday.

The decks were cleared for the showdown when both rivals won in contrasting styles. Melrose's low-key 18-0 win over Heriot's FP suggested that the close-knit team were still coming to terms with the recent sudden death of their committee man, Brian Chalmers, whose son, Craig, had withdrawn from the game. In Craig's absence, Melrose lacked shape and direction. Watsonians, however, found their way to the try-line nine times in beating Stirling County 66-6.

If a score of 66-6 sounds one-sided it is nothing to the verbal punishment the Scottish Rugby Union have been absorbing from critics of their policies and committee structures. A response, expected this morning, could give key full-time roles to individuals currently engaged on a voluntary basis, which is hardly like to placate those who see the failure to plan for professionalism as a reason behind Scotland opening the Five Nations' Championship with two record defeats.

A team or squad for the match against Ireland on Saturday week will be named tomorrow amid further lobbying for Alan Tait, the former rugby league player, to be included at centre and to a lesser extent for George Graham, the former Carlisle rugby league prop.

The selectors have clearly been rattled by the intensity of the criticism and the backs coach, David Johnston, has been denying suggestions of anti- rugby league bias. Johnston reportedly said: "We have picked New Zealanders, South Africans, Germans and a helluva lot of Englishmen so we are hardly likely to ignore two Scots who are definitely up there. It is just nonsense."

Nevertheless, discussions may well focus on whether to recall Craig Chalmers - especially after his value to Melrose was again heavily emphasised.

Melrose: Tries Nichol, Browne, Wright; Penalty Parker.

Melrose: R Shepherd; G Parker, S Nichol, M Moncrieff, D Stark; S Nichol, B Redpath; M Browne, S Brotherstone, P Wright, R Brown, S Campbell, A Redpath, C Hogg, N Broughton. Heriot's FP: S Lang; H Gilmour, G Lawrie, S Clark, E Bunney; C Glasgow, F McMillan; J Bryce, D Timms (C Turnbull, 60), S Paul (A Binnie, 13), J Syme, P Young, S Elliott, T McVie, G Dall.

Referee: J Bacigalupo (Edinburgh Wands).