Rugby Union: Promise overrun by fitter Melrose

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The Independent Online
BILL LEITH

Heriot's FP 18 Melrose 62

Just four matches into a senior career, Gordon Ross, an 18-year-old stand-off with much to live up to at Heriot's FP, went head to head with an old master in Craig Chalmers and despite the score confirmed rich promise in a highly entertaining encounter at Goldenacre.

Ross, who captained Scottish Schools on tour in South Africa last summer, has been compared to Andy Irvine, who brought enormous distinction to the club in the 1970s and early 80s, not least by touring three times with the Lions. Fraser Dall, Heriot's director of rugby, said: "Gordon is an exceptional talent with the Andy Irvine mentality.

"Like Andy he is a winner who won't be fazed by coming into the side so quickly after school. Gordon will want to do things his way and can be relied upon to shrug off any mistakes."

Against a Melrose side who took their cue from the play-making of Chalmers and cut loose with six tries in the final quarter, Ross showed both a willingness to tackle and accurate kicking from hand. And that from a youngster whose reputation is as a free spirited runner.

Heriot's, with three backs dropping out injured just before the kick- off, knew an expansive approach would be playing into Melrose's hands and it was only when they threw caution to the wind that the score was allowed to make a mockery of the preceding hour, particularly the efforts of a young and mobile home pack.

By then Melrose's superior fitness had begun to take its toll, which was to be expected of a team the majority of whom are set to increase their commitment to the game.

Rowen Shepherd, Bryan Redpath, Millan Browne and Derek Stark have just signed full-time contracts with the Scottish Rugby Union and others are expected to follow during the next week. Few of these signings will be from Heriot's - for the moment anyway - but the decision to blood youngsters like Ross, Andrew Dall in the second row and the prop Andrew Binnie in a season where this is no relegation will surely pay dividends in the longer term.

Heriot's FP: Tries Proctor, Keenan; Conversion Ross; Penalties Ross (2). Melrose: Tries Nichol (2), Stark (2), Chalmers, Shepherd, Parker, Aitken, Bain, penalty try; Conversion Parker (6).

Heriot's FP: S Lang; D Proctor, S Clark (N Thomas, 76), G Lawrie, C Keenan; G Ross, D Fowler; A Binnie, C O'Kane, J Bryce, A Dall, P Young, S Elliot, T McVie, G Dall (capt).

Melrose: R Shepherd; G Parker, S Nichol, D Bain, D Stark; C Chalmers, B Redpath (capt); M Browne, S Brotherstone, P Wright, R Brown, S Aitken, C Redpath, C Hogg, N Broughton (A Clark, 20).

Referee: A Malartic (France).

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