WITH no more league games until January, rugby supporters in the Borders could be forgiven for thinking that we were in for a pretty dull time for the next two months, writes Fiona Scott.
Not so, though. The newly-revamped Scottish Cup, played in conjunction with the Border League, sees fixtures that are likely to have fans swarming into the local rugby grounds.
And, if the estimated 2,000-plus gate figure at Netherdale last Saturday are anything to go by, club coffers are likely to benefit also.
Gala president George Marshall is certainly looking forward to the next weeks ahead. He told TheSouthern: “We were a wee bit disappointed after being beaten by Melrose by a point on Saturday but we are where we are by merit, not by luck, and we want to stay up there.
“The next few weeks will give us a chance to get back on track while playing some good, meaningful fixtures in both the cup and the Border League.”
Gala hit the road on Saturday when they take on Kelso at Poynder Park, while Hawick play host to Selkirk at Mansfield Park, and Peebles welcome Jed-Forest to the Gytes.
Regionalising the cup in the early rounds means that clubs will put out full-strength teams, which in turn will make the Border League fixtures more exciting for both players and supporters.
Marshall added: “For the last few years the Border League didn’t have the respect it deserved due to fixtures having to be fitted in and around the cup and rescheduled league matches. Playing the pool stages this way will alleviate some of that and by-mid January, clubs should know who will be through to both the knockout stages in the cup and the Border League final. As far as Gala are concerned, we’re ready for it. Let’s up and at them!”
Melrose will be playing catch-up in the new Cup/BL games as on Sunday they will take on English Championship Two high flyers Bedford Blues at The Greenyards (2pm).
President John Reed said: “Bedford will be very stiff opposition. Hopefully we will have a good crowd at the game.”
As it is Remembrance Sunday there will be a minute’s silence before kick-off.
Melrose also face Leinster, Aberavon, and London Scottish in the pool stages of the competition.
Elsewhere, Nathan Hines, the 77-times-capped Scotland forward, is retiring from international rugby after 11 years in the test arena.
Hines, known affectionately as Wagga, only came to Scotland, the land of his maternal grandfather, to join Gala RFC back in 1998.
Thirteen years on, he has scaled the heights, beating every major Test-playing nation for Scotland except New Zealand, as well as winning selection for the 2009 British and Irish Lions.