Club Curtain-raiser gets Season off to Cracking Start

BT Scottish Rugby Charity Shield

Melrose 28-36 Heriot’s


The inaugural BT Scottish Rugby Charity Shield, hosted by last season’s Premiership winners, Melrose, against Cup winners Heriot’s got the new rugby year off to a flying start in a nine-try thriller.

The visitors edged the victory, leading by just one point going into the final minute with the win nailed by a converted try in the closing seconds.

After picking up the shield Heriot’s head coach, Phil Smith, said, “Last season our games were fairly similar, hotly contested, and in my opinion, this fixture showcased Scottish club rugby.

“There were some really good tries and it showed that the players are really trying to win games by scoring tries, rather than kicking penalties, which is what people want to see.”

An enthusiastic crowd cheered on both sides at the Greenyards, entry to the game free with donations invited for Melrose RFC’s designated charity this season, Breast Cancer Care.

Smith said: “The match was a concept between me and Melrose head coach John Dalziel out of nothing, really. We both needed a pre season fixture on this date, so said we’d play each other. We thought we’d call it a charity shield and it snowballed from there.”

The match may have been billed as a friendly but there was no doubting the desire for victory from both sides, eager to get their season off to a winning start.

Smith said: “There were no half-hearted efforts, no rolling on and off for the sake of giving a player a game – it was absolutely flat out. So for us, it was great looking to next week and the start of the league.”

The visitors put the first points on the board with a penalty, following pressure on the line and attack out side, from scrum half Graham Wilson. Then Heriot’s captain, flanker Jack Turley, scooped up a loose ball and broke for the line, Wilson adding the extras to extend the lead to 10-0.

Melrose capped a fightback with a break from centre Andrew Nagle, offloaded to full back Fraser Thomson and on to centre Austin Lockington for the try, converted by stand-off Richard Mill.

A converted penalty try to Heriot’s put them back in the driving seat with the score 14-17 at half time.

A brace from Melrose flanker Ruaridh Knott, either side of a yellow card for Heriot’s Turley, extended the home side’s lead to 28-17. Sustained pressure on the line once the visitors were back to 15 men saw prop Struan Cessford touch down, pulling the score back to 28-22, closely followed by a converted try from their lock Russell Nimmo and Wilson.

There was no let-up in pace going into the closing minutes as Heriot’s sealed their win with a try in the top corner from replacement Stuart Edwards, Wilson’s touchline conversion sailing through the uprights to make it 28-36 at the whistle.

Scottish Rugby’s head of club services, Nick Rennie, said: “For a pre season match the standard was very high, both teams played good attacking rugby and there were some fantastic scores.

“Heriot’s dug in and came through in the end.  It was a very exciting start to the season and if the rest of the matches are half as exhilarating as this we’ll be in for another excellent season.”

The full match will be available for catch-up viewing tomorrow (Sunday 24) on Scottish Rugby’s YouTube channel.

Melrose: 15 Fraser Thomson (cpt) 14 Tito Mua 13 Austin Lockington, 12 Andrew Nagle, 11 Rory Tollan, 10 Richard Mill, 9 Tom Wilson; 1 Nicky Little, 2 Todd Pearce, 3 Nick Beavon, 4 James Head, 5 Lewis Carmichael, 6 Neil Irvine-Hess, 7 Ruaridh Knott, 8 Graeme Dodds.
Subs: 16 Richard Ferguson, 17 Colin Arthur, 18 Stuart Johnson, 19 Ross Miller, 20 Murdo McAndrew, 21 Donald Crawford, 22 Blair Hutchison

Heriot’s: 15 Keith Buchan, 14 Liam Steele, 13 Max Nimmo, 12 Cammy Ferguson, 11 Charlie Simpson, 10 Gregor McNeish, 9 Graham Wilson; 1 Nathan Borrell, 2 Blair Coupar, 3 Struan Cessford, 4 Russell Nimmo, 5 Ben Cogley, 6 Murray Douglas, 7 Jack Turley (cpt), 8 Jason Hill.
Subs: 16 Chris Mulligan, 17 Gav Cameron, 18 Rhys Davies, 19 Stuart Edwards, 20 Max Learmonth, 21 Harry Boisseau, 22 Rory Carmichael

Man of the match: Jason Hill (Heriot’s)