STUART CAMERON reports from Netherdale
The big priorities in the worlds of Gala and Melrose, our two top clubs in the Borders, come in the shape of the Premiership and the British and Irish Cup.
Make no mistake about it, though, this ‘friendly’ fixture, which takes place for the Waverley Cup each Boxing Day, is as keenly contested as any game the two teams play, and it’s one that every player wants to take part in.
A crowd of 1,306 turned out in wet and dreary conditions to emphasise the fact that this clash is one that means so much to players and supporters alike.
Recent matches in this fixture have all been close and on Saturday it was tight again with just six points separating them, and although we came close on a couple of occasions, we didn’t see a try in the game.
So it wasn’t a classic by any means, but there was still plenty of excitement, and in the end it came down to the two kickers to score the points, with Gala’s Lee Millar landing four penalties to Andrew Skeen’s two.
Millar was on target after just two minutes, but the opening quarter of an hour belonged to Melrose, who tested the Gala defence.
The Maroons passed the test well, before eventually having some possession to do something with. A break from Alan Emond from his own 22 was effective and helped fire the game into life.
International referee David Pearson did well – he gave plenty of penalties and amazingly in such a big derby there were no yellow cards and no dust ups.
The game was played in a very good natured way, largely due to the control Mr Pearson had on it.
With both defences in good form, it was always going to be difficult to get points on the board, and at 9-3 after 40 minutes it didn’t look as if this was going to change.
On 44 minutes, Millar extended the lead to nine points. Skeen kicked Melrose’s second penalty on the hour and that turned out to be the last score.
With the final whistle imminent, John Dalziel lobbed a long pass to Fraser Thomson, but the ball didn’t go to hand, and that chance to potentially win the game for Melrose went begging.
The former Gala player got a gentle ribbing from the home fans, who had something else to cheer about when Gala closed the game down to lift the Waverley Cup.
You can see match highlights on Borders Rugby TV at www.BordersRugby.net
Gala: A. McLean; G. Somerville, B. Turner, A. Emond, G. Young; L. Millar, George Graham; C. MacKintosh, R. Anderson, E. McQuillin, C. Weir, O. Palepoi (c), C. Keddie, Gary Graham and S. Cairns. Subs: M. Christie, C. Hogg, C. Borthwick, C. Robertson, D. Owenson, C. Auld and T. Weir.
Melrose: F. Thomson; L. Mallin, R. Mill, J. Helps, A. Letham; A. Skeen, S. McCormick; C. Keen, R. Ferguson, S. Lowe, P. Eccles, R. Miller, J. Dalziel, G. Runciman and A. Nagle. Subs: R. Taylor, N. Little, R. Ovens, S. Johnson, B. Hutchison, D. Colvine, B. Colvine.