Heriot’s 30 Melrose 17
A fortnight ago Michael Maltman was with the Scotland 7s squad on Australia’s Gold Coast but it was his gilt-edged performance that rightly earned the plaudits in the RBS Premiership at Goldenacre this afternoon.
Maltman (pictured below), 23, gave a performance of sustained ball-carrying belligerence that was a reminder that there were not just two stellar components to the Scotland under-20 back-row unit of three years ago.
So while many people rightly rave about David Denton and Stuart McInally, let’s not lightly dismiss the work ethic and outstanding heart of Maltman.
He was with Heriot’s during his days with the national under-20 team and, drafted to them from the Scotland 7s squad this season, he was at the core of everything good about their display today.
Having lost to Hawick at home last week, Heriot’s responded to that setback in some style claiming the try bonus point that reduced Melrose’s lead at the top of the table to just two points.
If there was much to enthuse about Maltman’s contribution then take a bow too, George Turner. The Edinburgh Rugby EDP, seemingly now over the injuries that have so blighted his career, was another eager and dynamic ball carrier and the try he scored in the second-half showed both footballing awareness and no shortage of pace.
This was a disappointing result for Melrose, especially given the manner in which they had clawed back tenaciously to be very much in the hunt at 20-17 with around 12 minutes remaining.
But the overall quality and fitness of the Heriot’s squad – with telling influence from Sean Kennedy, Kevin Bryce and, most of all, Jason Hill from their bench – left Melrose without a response in the coruscating finale.
Heriot’s had opened with a top-drawer try that set the benchmark for much of what was to follow. Maltman and Craig Owenson had led forward rumbles and when Ruaraidh Carmichael found the intruding Colin Goudie, the full-back released Max Learmonth who dotted down in the left hand corner.
Another Maltman surge set up an offside penalty which Graeme Wilson goaled for 8-0 after 12 minutes. Melrose regrouped and went through the phases to post their first points with a try by Nick Beavon, which Joe Helps converted.
Both sides had chances to add to their first-half tally: Helps seeing a penalty clang against the right hand post before being cleared and Heriot’s Jack Turley losing the ball in the act of scoring at the other end.
So from 8-7 at half-time, Heriot’s were quick to extend their advantage. A fumbled high ball catch on the Melrose right was instantly turned into a counter-attack which ended with George Turner racing in for a fine try. Wilson converted and it was 15-7.
Helps’ second penalty around the hour kept matters interesting but Heriot’s again edged further ahead with Maltman breaking Melrose tackles around the fringes, surging into the visitors’ 22 before slick transference left enabled Keith Buchan to score.
At 20-10 to the hosts, Melrose dug deep and produced a grand try of their own. Damien Hoyland still had work to do but the Scotland under-20 winger showed commendable strength to round off a sustained attack with a try, which Helps converted majestically from the right touchline.
Were we in for a grandstand finish for the big crowd at Goldenacre? Yes, but the fireworks came at the other end as first , the inevitable Maltman charge, embellished skilfully by Hill and Cameron Ferguson, saw Buchan touch down for his try brace; then lastly Learmonth got his second too, a try in the left corner after a sweeping Heriot’s attack.
Elsewhere in the division, Ayr and Gala put their B&I Cup woes behind them with victories over Stirling County and Currie respectively, Aberdeen Grammar gained a priceless home win against Hawick and Glasgow Hawks continued their winning ways against Edinburgh Accies.
Heriot’s: Colin Goudie; Max Learmonth, Keith Buchan, Cameron Ferguson, Max Nimmo; Ruaraidh Carmichael, Graham Wilson; Craig Owenson, George Turner, Nathan Borel, Russell Nimmo, Murray Douglas, Michael Maltman, Alex Henderson and Jack Turley. Subs: Kevin Bryce, Stewart Mustard, Jason Hill, Sean Kennedy and Harry Boisseau.
Melrose: Fraser Thomson; Damien Hoyland, Andrew Skeen, Joe Helps, Austin Lockington; Richard Mill, Bruce Colvine; Nicky Little, Todd Pearce, Nick Beavon, Graham Dodds, Stuart Johnston, Peter Eccles, Grant Runciman and Andrew Nagle. Subs: Richard Ferguson, Gary Holborn, Ross Miller, Tom Wilson and Mark Robertson.
Referee: David Changleng (Peebles).