Boxing Day in the Borders serves up rugby double

There is a festive feast of rugby in the Borders over the season of goodwill, with a double helping of Boxing Day cup action.

Saturday, 24th December 2016, 11:00 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:02 pm
Bruce McNeil, centre, is likely to lead Hawick into cup action on Boxing Day (picture by Gordon Fraser)

Tradition and respect for long-standing fixtures take centre stage on Monday at two local venues.

BT National League Division I challengers Jed-Forest are at home to Premiership side Hawick in the Skelly Cup.

And at Netherdale, Gala face Melrose in an all-Premiership clash in the Waverley Cup.

Both encounters should give all four sides a chance to keep fresh with some extra match practice during the festive break and a possible opportunity to experiment with styles and line-ups.

Jed-Forest were hit heavily by injuries and illness before last weekend’s defeat by Edinburgh Accies, but head coach Jammy McFarlane said they’d respond as best they could for the 2pm kick-off at Riverside Park.

“We will patch up what we’ve got and put out what we can and be as competitive as we can be, because we are Jed,” he said. “We respect the Skelly Cup too – he was a Jed guy.”

Hawick head coach Nikki Walker said the sides would hopefully put on a good contest for the spectators, with the Greens possibly going for a blend of young players getting match practice and experienced campaigners resting for a while on the bench.

“We have four very important league games after Christmas, so we need to keep guys in shape and ticking over,” he added, while captain Bruce McNeil said it wa good play a game which allowed a break from the league pressures and a bit of self-expression.

Gala skipper Graham Speirs said his side was looking forward to the 3pm Waverley Cup match against Melrose with a “refreshed mindset” and hoped to turn pressure into points.

Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie said some players needed a rest and some would get a run out, adding: “It’s a great game to play in. The crowd is always massive and there’s a great atmosphere.”