Title-seeking Melrose play host as Greens bid to beat the drop

Melrose's Richard Taylor in possession against Hawick earlier this season at Mansfield Park, where Melrose won 14-3 (picture by Brian Sutherland)
Melrose's Richard Taylor in possession against Hawick earlier this season at Mansfield Park, where Melrose won 14-3 (picture by Brian Sutherland)

The league campaign may almost be over – but there’s still time for one more hugely appetising Borders derby clash this season.

Melrose, in second place behind Ayr, welcome Hawick to the Greenyards on Saturday, having secured a home semi-final in their quest to capture the BT Premiership crown.

They have one more game after this before the play-offs – a rearranged visit to Stirling Country on March 11.

Hawick, on the other hand, having virtually consigned Gala to automatic relegation last weekend, have 80 minutes in which to register a win and hopefully escape the quicksand of a relegation play-off, although nearest rivals Boroughmuir still have two matches to play.

Greenyards head coach Rob Chrytsie said Melrose’s first target at the beginning of the year was to finish in the top four, which they did, and then to secure a home semi-final, which they guaranteed last week by beating Heriots.

“The key thing is to keep creating a bit of momentum going into the final six weeks of the season,” he added. “Hawick are battling as well – they’ll want to make sure they’re not having to go into that play-off place, so it will be a hard game. To finish top, we need six points, so we know where we need to be. We need to play better than we did on Saturday – they are key things we need to get better at.”

Chrystie added: “Against Borders rivals, you know exactly what you’re going to get. It’s going to be a battle and, hopefully, there will be a massive crowd at the Greenyards on Saturday.”

Hawick captain Bruce McNeil hopes a win at Melrose will exorcise the spectre of the relegation play-off.

“Melrose are going for a title and are not an easy prospect at home. But we won there last season, so it is not like we go there thinking they have this wrapped up,” he said. “We go there confident and targeting a big win.

“It has been a long season with little highlights to celebrate, so victory on Saturday would give us a good send-off and hopefully put to bed any further talk of relegation.”