Hopes that the top two teams in the Premiership would serve up a game to remember were fully realised on a perfect autumn day.
Melrose edged the result with a staunch defence and a masterclass demonstration of kicking from Joe Helps, whose last effort, from around 50m, came with two minutes left.
Ewan Scott, with fewer chances, was just as impressive.
Gala matched the winners in tries, and had the pacier and more enterprising of the threequarters, but one critical missed penalty in the first half turned out to be the difference between the sides.
Graeme Dodds, the Melrose captain, was full of praise for his side’s defensive qualities, even although he was disappointed with the penalties Melrose gave away.
But he reckoned that when they lost Grant Runciman to a yellow card it came as a wake-up call.
If he had to pick out a Melrose player it would be Helps, whose confident kicking was being displayed week after week.
Gala’s skipper George Graham was a disappointed man with the way that his side had given away points, especially just after they had scored, and didn’t think that Gala had played as well as they might have.
“The way we played we would have taken a draw,” he added. “But there’s a lot more to come from us.”
Graham also felt that injuries to the side had upset their momentum.
After a tentative opening quarter when Helps and Scott each collected two penalties, Melrose’s new hooker Todd Pearce scored after a big drive by the forwards, Helps converting and adding a penalty for a half time 16-6 lead.
The game had warmed up, and the crowd responded during a lively second period. Scott, who had been briefly off for treatment, returned to make an impact, not just with his boot. He created midfield space during the best Gala move of the day, Graham Speirs scoring far out, but just within Scott’s range for a 16-13 scoreline.
Runciman collected the second Melrose try following a massive drive from a lineout, Helps converting, but Scott wiped it out with his third penalty. The game picked up even more speed, prop Rory Sutherland scored after good work by his pack, Scott converted and the final drama built up when Helps kicked a mammoth penalty goal.
Gala’s last fling nearly brought the winning score, Opeta Palepoi just failing to get the ball down on the line. A dramatic end to a fine game.
Melrose: A. Lockington; D. Hoyland, B. Hutchison, J.Helps, A. Dodds; R. Mill, B. Colvine; N. Little, T. Pearce, N. Beavon, J. Head, R. Miller, P. Eccles, G. Runciman, G. Dodds. Subs: R. Ferguson, A. Walker, R. Ovens, D. Crawford, A. Skeen.
Gala: G. Speirs; G. Somerville, C. Auld, E. Scott, G. Young; A. McLean, George Graham; R. Sutherland, R. Anderson, E. McQuillan, O. Palepoi, C. Borthwick, Gary Graham, S. Cairns, T. Weir. Subs: C. Mackintosh, O. Atkins. E. Dods. G. Mein, C. Russell.