Stewart’s Melville clinched a 24-13 win at home to Jed-Forest in Saturday’s BT National Division One encounter to keep their play-off hopes alive.
The Capital side faced a tough test against stuffy visitors who played a tight game despite having a pacey back line featuring three sevens internationalists, and it took the hosts 72 minutes to secure the bonus point having scored four tries.
Fraser Morrison powered over to give the home side an early lead but Gregor Young dotted down for Jed then Dan Ritchie added a penalty and it was late in the first half before Angus Rennie raced in at the corner to hand StewMel a 10-8 interval lead.
Mike Hanning crossed for SteMel’s third try but that was cancelled out when Donald Grieve burrowed over for a five pointer. Although they had a spell of sustained pressure, Bruce Macnaughton’s men squandered several opportunities and it took a late effort by Matt Morrell who crashed through two tackles to down and leave Nick McCashin a simple conversion, to clinch a vital win.
“They have done enough again, got the bonus point, so we just kick on to the next one, and keep ticking them off,” said coach Macnaughton of a team that included several impressive performers, particularly behind the scrum where Rennie, Hanning and McCashin caught the eye.
“If we can win with bonus points, we will be in the play-off – that’s the target, not just to win but win with bonus points.”
Indeed, StewMel have gathered more bonuses than any other side in the division and the one from Saturday means they now have a single-point advantage over third-placed GHA – Selkirk having clinched the title with a win at Aberdeen Grammar.
Next on the agenda for the Inverleith men is the visit of Capital rivals Watsonians who ensured their slender hopes remain alive with a 22-15 win under the lights at Hillhead/Jordanhill on Thursday night. However, there was no bonus point for Watsonians who had a double from Ross Aitken while Callum Harvey also touched down and Andrew Chalmers kicked the other points.
Despite having no game, Musselburgh’s grip on top spot in Division Two tightened after their promotion challengers Hamilton Bulls and Howe of Fife both lost.
Elsewhere, Lasswade secured promotion when they took the honours in the Division Three top-of-the-table clash with Preston Lodge at Hawthornden, despite the absence of key men, Neil Clark and Kyle Smith. Third-placed Dumfries Saints suffered a defeat.
Tries by Dale Robertson and Donald Hearn, plus both conversions and a penalty from Lewis Clarke saw Lasswade home 17-10. Paul Dixon touched down for a Preston Lodge try, while Graeme Patterson landed the conversion and a penalty to earn a valuable bonus point that keeps them on track to secure promotion.
Murrayfield Wanderers remain rooted to the foot of the table after going down 59-13 at Perthshire on Friday.