Borders big three get set for Premiership challenge

Melrose vs Selkirk. Gordon Patterson balances the ball.
Melrose vs Selkirk. Gordon Patterson balances the ball.
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Local rugby clubs get their new league campaigns under way with the Premiership card dominated by a series of home games this weekend.

The region’s top-flight teams will be looking to put a trio of city slickers in their place at an early stage as they battle to get a good footing on the league table.

At the Greenyards, Melrose take on Heriot’s and coach John Dalziel is hoping his team can pick themselves back up after suffering a dip in form last season.

He told The Southern: “We feel that after winning two league titles back-to-back 2010/11 and 11/12, we under-achieved last year.

“We have a fresh new squad with young players stepping up and a couple of new faces coming in. We also have a new-look coaching set-up with Robert Chrystie (backs)and Ciaran Beattie (defence) on board.

“We feel this is very much the start of a new cycle for Melrose RFC and we very much want to be up there competing for all honours at the top of the Premiership.”

Gala will be led this season by their Scotland club international scrum half George Graham, whose father and namesake will continue as head coach, assisted by Scott Nichol.

On Saturday, the Maroons welcome Currie to Netherdale for what is likely to be a hotly-contested opening tie.

Over at Mansfield Park, Hawick are looking forward to the challenge of playing top-flight rugby again when Aberdeen come to visit. None more so than the club’s president Rory Bannerman.

“There is nothing to fear and everything to gain from this season,” he said.

“Phil (Leck) and Rocky (Johnstone) have built a squad who will ‘find a way’ rather than just try to succeed and that is an excellent attitude from our fantastic young stars.”

Bolstered by their gritty performance against Melrose last weekend, Selkirk are in a confident mood ahead of their visit to Poynder Park, where they will take on Kelso in a National League derby clash.

Head coach Ally Dickson said: “I’ve been really impressed with the players’ attitude in pre-season and everyone is just raring to go.”

Also in the National League, newly-promoted Peebles are off to play newly-relegated Watsonians at Goldenacre.