Monumental effort gets last B&I match off the ground

Clearing snow off the pitch at the Greenyards ahead of the game between Melrose and Doncaster.
Clearing snow off the pitch at the Greenyards ahead of the game between Melrose and Doncaster.

COMMUNITY spirit won the day at the Greenyards on Saturday when around 70 volunteers rallied to pleas for help to clear the pitch of snow, enabling Melrose RFC’s final British & Irish Cup match of the season to go ahead, writes Fiona Scott.

Melrose president John Reed had made the short journey to Netherdale at 9am, only to be told by the referee that the back-up option for their match against Doncaster Knights was unplayable.

Clearing snow off the pitch at the Greenyards ahead of the game between Melrose and Doncaster.

Clearing snow off the pitch at the Greenyards ahead of the game between Melrose and Doncaster.

Unaware of the social media activity that had been taking place since the previous evening, a downcast Reed was preparing for the same bad news at home, only to greeted by a very pleasant surprise.

Coaches, players, committee, general public, youth players and Colts had arrived at the venue, armed with shovels and barrows for the monumental task ahead.

Taking up the story, Reed told TheSouthern: “It was a great day for the club on Saturday, despite a somewhat surreal start.

“I travelled to Netherdale to have a referee’s inspection declare the pitch unplayable due to the lying snow, even though the pitch itself was in excellent condition. There was only four of us there so there was nothing at all we could do about it.

“Gala was our back-up option, and so I thought it would just be a formality to go to the Greenyards and declare that unplayable too.

Imagine the surprise to see that a band of volunteers had started on clearing the pitch and a sizeable area had been completed in half an hour.”

More volunteers arrived and after just two and a half hours of frenzied activity, all the snow had been cleared from the pitch, virtually all by manpower and the use of wheelbarrows – three of which were kindly loaned by Milestone Garden Centre in Newtown – and one small tractor.

“Not having used heavy machinery was a big plus and there it was, a green oasis in a desert of white,” added Reed.

While the Greenyards were undertaking the biggest snow clear of the year, their opponents had another problem. Doncaster Knights had stayed the night at Dryburgh Abbey and, while the Melrose community were hard at work clearing the pitch, the surrounding B roads were steadily blocking up with snow. Any worries about the team not being able to make it to the game were soon put to rest, however.

“The manager of the Dryburgh came out while we were clearing the pitch and told us that if the gritters didn’t make it he would drive the players out in groups in his four-wheel drive,” explained Reed.

“That really underlined what had been happening all morning, people coming together to help out in times of need.

“I would like to extend a big thank you to everyone who helped, you contributed to a wonderful day for the club and community.”

He added: “To top it all, the team put in one of the best performances for some time and gave us a wonderful victory against a professional English Championship team.”