BT Cup ROUND-UP | County blow away Hawick and Melrose target double
Stirling County and Watsonians hosted Borders sides Hawick and Melrose in the BT Cup semi-finals (Saturday 31 March) as the sides looked to book their places in the final on Silver Saturday (Saturday 28 April).
Two contrasting matches threw up two finalists with very different BT Cup histories in Stirling County and Melrose.
Stirling County v Hawick
Hawick visited Bridgehaugh having secured a stunning BT Premiership comeback to avoid relegation in the last round against Borders rivals Melrose.
Their good mood wouldn’t last however as Stirling County powered passed them to win by eight tries to three to book their place in a first-ever national final.
A frenetic opening few minutes saw Hawick try to play their way out of their half to no avail as the County defence held firm and took ball-carriers at the gain-line.
Stirling disrupted both set-pieces well early on and it was from a stolen line-out that they built their first score. Fijian flyer Niko Matawalu was taken high and the ensuing tap penalty was tackled well within ten metres to give Jonny Hope a simple penalty in front of the posts.
The first iron-clad chance came as the home side hacked through and it needed only to be collected but they were unable to gather on the five-metre line and Hawick escaped with a scrum.
Things didn’t let up for Hawick and it was Matawalu who created space for the inside cut and pass from Hope to player-coach Jericevich who showed good strength to get over the line. Hope added to his tally with the successful conversion.
The try seemed to spark the visitors into action. It took only a few minutes for the men in green to get their first foray into Stirling territory and they rumbled forward through a maul to give Cottrell the chance to dive over and, with the conversion, close the gap to three.
Niko Matawalu stretched Stirling County’s lead twice before the break when he was available at the end of a powerful home maul which rumbled up to the line and, again, when he was clear in space on the wing to race over from ten metres out.
Half Time | Stirling County 22 – 7 Hawick
Hawick needed to start quickly to give themselves a foothold in the second period but they struggled from the first moment and it wasn’t long before Stirling had another score from a maul, through hooker Kennedy, to give them a twenty-point advantage.
As it had in the first-half, the score seemed to give Hawick some go-forward and they finished a period of sustained pressure when they floated a great pass to the touchline for Munro to score.
A fifth try would come within the hour for County as, during a period of Hawick possession, Chris Fusaro latched onto a loose pass on half-way to scamper over and leave Hawick with a mountain to climb with a quarter to go.
Things didn’t get any better for the visitors as a nice individual score from Gossman just after the hour was followed moments later by his second after a cynical penalty closed down a Stirling attack, earning a yellow card in the process, and they elected for the scrum.
The third within ten minutes came as Fusaro grabbed his second from long-range as things rapidly turned into a game to forget for the Borderers.
Rugby League convert Callum McClelland grabbed a late consolation for Hawick but Stirling County progressed to Silver Saturday.
Full Time | Stirling County 51 – 19 Hawick
Watsonians v Melrose
On a bitterly cold day at Myreside, visitors Melrose claimed victory over Watsonians to book their place in the BT Cup Final (10-17).©NeilHanna
In a hard fought game, Melrose dominated the proceedings of the first-half while Watsonians failed to turn their pressure into points in the latter stages of the game.
Both sides were bolstered by the inclusion of Edinburgh Rugby forwards, with Ross Ford returning from injury to pack down with Melrose and Darryl Marfo coming on in the second-half as a replacement for Watsonians.
Melrose opened the scoring after five minutes, when Murdo McAndrew broke through the midfield, creating space for Jason Baggott to exploit, with the ball eventually finding Ross McCann who raced over the line.
After a series of impressive phases, the Borders outfit were back on the attack, as Baggott spun his way from the clutches of the Watsonians defence before sending winger Austin Lockington over the line.
As the hosts continued to intensify pressure on the Melrose defence, Rory Steele floated a long pass out wide to winger Jason Harries who sprinted over the whitewash to collect the first points for the capital side, with Ali Harris adding the extras.
Half Time | Watsonians 7 – 14 Melrose
A scoring stalemate ensued for much of the second period, with both sides struggling to breakdown the opposition defence.
Melrose, however, strengthened their position in the game in the 60th minute when Jackson knocked over a penalty.
The hosts displayed some real grit in the final quarter of the game, as they began to ramp up their attack in a desperate hope to turn the tables. They were unable to capitalise on opportunities however, as they could not disrupt the solid defence work by Melrose.
The pressure on Melrose cranked up another notch when replacement Ali Grieve was shown a yellow card and Watsonians were looking dangerous in the opposition's territory.
After a period of sustained pressure, Watsonians were awarded a penalty and Harris opted to go for the posts, reducing the deficit to seven points.
Despite battling valiantly, the Myreside men were unable to close the gap and Melrose secured their place in the BT Cup Final.
Full Time | Watsonians 10 - 17 Melrose
Image: Neil Hanna (Neil Hanna Photography)
BT Cup semi-final results
Stirling County 51 – 19 Hawick
Watsonians 10 – 17 Melrose