Melrose 20, Glasgow Hawks 20:

TWO important tenets of the rugby game were underlined in a somewhat frenzied contest at Greenyards that spawned occasional glimpses of quality interplay.

The first, that even more so in the modern game it is essential to capitalise on kicks at goal. The second, that Melrose never can be counted out until the final whistle.

Had Stuart Simmers not been fractionally off target with a 25-metre penalty attempt after Jamie Henderson had been cautioned for late obstruction of John Mason, the Hawks would have been virtually home and dry at 23-15 with time almost up.

Thus relieved, Melrose were inspired by contrasting incisions from Scott Aitken and Jimmy Turnbull. Having moved ball left then right with Robert Johnstone, Craig Smith, Henderson and Andrew Purves finding their pass targets, a switch right enabled left-wing Ross Lothian to squeeze in at the opposite corner, the touch judge signalling no-try, the referee deciding otherwise.

It would have been something of an injustice to the Hawks had Bruce Ruthven added a winning conversion to his previous penalty goal and conversion of Ken McLeish's try.

Both sides were prone to frantic error in transference and to hair-raising delivery of spinning mis-passes, yet also at times stitched together exhilarating passages in alternating periods of ascendancy.

This was particularly applicable to the scrummaging, where Melrose threatened at one stage to squeeze the Hawks into embarrassing retreat. Although penalised twice for taking the scrummage down, the Hawks managed to turn the tables, no doubt following some well chosen directives from their two experienced warhorses, Walter Malcolm and Gordon Mackay.

There was also an unusual outcome when each front row pinched one against the put-in, perhaps the outcome of the latest instruction to referees that they must insist on the ball being inserted straight.

The lineouts were untidy through an unexpected number of butterfingered efforts by hoisted specialists, Aitken seeming the only one capable of clean two-handed catches until Steve Begley entered the fray as a replacement and enhanced the improvement in the Hawks' set-piece play.

Where the Hawks held some advantage was from their loose forwards. Mackay bumped off bodies in buccaneering fashion, whilst Malcolm and Andrew Ness revelled in utility chores, one exquisite lightning transfer by Malcolm sparking off thrilling counter by his threes while demonstrating that, even at 36, there isn't much wrong with his reaction.

Melrose have two young forwards of high potential in Craig Smith, a 19-year-old son of the soil, and the slimline Alex Clark, 20, each adjusting well to higher rung action, and Nick Broughton contributed hugely to the drive pattern, although inclined to go to ground.

Melrose didn't quite achieve the required gel in midfield, but Johnstone occasionally found space and there were hints of Lothian's pace and the desire by Purves to augment the attack formation. The Hawks, however, worked ball to their wings more often, Gerry Hawkes testing Melrose defence alignments without quite opening the door.

Alastair Common had some admirable passages in probe and link, and Jeremy Hart's sound display carried a number of bone-jarring tackles of opponents of all shapes and sizes, most notably with his late sinking of Lothian as Melrose threatened to snatch the spoils.

Veteran warrior Ken McLeish was involved in the scores leading to an early Melrose 10-0 lead.

His rollicking burst led to Hawks handling in a ruck for Bruce Ruthven to pop over the penalty goal. He also converted McLeish's try.

Simmers was at the heart of the Hawks' revival, as was the quality of Malcolm's scrummage pick-up technique.

Firstly, that led to a try and conversion by Simmers aided by linkage from Mackay and Common. Then Malcolm and Simmers combined to enable Gerry Hawkes to screech off his left foot for a corner try and a 12-10 half-time lead.

A sizzling break by Hart with handling support from Malcolm and Mackay fashioned a try for the industrious Ness, who twisted over for 17-10 soon after the interval. Melrose chipped the lead to just two points with a tap penalty try for Purves, who materialised onto Lothian's feed like some animated genie.

When Melrose interfered on the floor Simmers banged over the goal for 20-15. It took a ball-dislodging tackle by Gerry Hawkes on Johnstone to deny Melrose, while Kevin Horton showed an edge of pace in a bulleting burst before that dramatic finale for a share of the honours.

Melrose - Purves; Lawrie, Ford, Johnstone, Lothian; Ruthven, Thom; Smith, Graham, Robinson, McLeish, Aitken, Henderson, Clark, Broughton. Replacements - Bell for McLeish (13 mins - 20mins), Turnbull for Lawrie (58mins).

Glasgow Hawks - Mason; Mathewson, Common, Wilson, Hawkes; Hart, Simmers; Perrie, McLay, Horton, Hutton, Adams, Ness, Malcolm, Mackay. Replacements - Begley for Adams (63mins), A Mason for McLay (78mins).

Referee - D Hunter (Watsonians).