Melrose floored by Gala in traditional Boxing Day tussle

Melrose 14, Gala 26

Action from the traditional December 26 fixture between Melrose and Gala.
Action from the traditional December 26 fixture between Melrose and Gala.

Gala claimed the Christmas bragging rights on Boxing Day, with victory over local rivals Melrose in an enthralling Border League clash at The Greenyards.

An early score from fullback Ruairi Howarth set the tone for the visitors but Melrose prop Will Owen drove over to level the score at 7-7 with 10 minutes on the clock.

The visitors regained the lead midway through yesterday’s first half with a stunning counter-attacking move, led by Howarth and Fergus Johnston, which resulted in a fine score for fellow winger Ben Gill in the left-hand corner.

Gala, who sit sixth in National 1 on 36 points, extended their lead on the stroke of half time when captain Euan Dods buried his way over from close range, following a five-metre scrum. Craig Keddie added the extras for a 19-7 half-time lead.

Melrose needed to hit back and they did so with 10 second-half minutes on the clock, as winger Aidan Cross finished off a move in the corner. Fullback Keiran Clark, who was a standout performer, landed a touchline conversion to bring his team to within five points.

But Gala made sure they went home with maximum points, securing the bonus-point try with 15 minutes left, when Howarth burst through the Melrose defence to touch down for his second of the afternoon, taking the score to 14-26.

A late penaly attempt from Simon Fairbairn fell wide of the uprights as Gala looked to stretch their lead but they comfortably saw out the remaining minutes to claim the Waverley Cup and move up to second place in Pool ‘A’ of the Border League.

Following the win, Gala captain Euan Dods said: “I thought we started really well and got the advantage early doors but we’ve got that tendency to take our foot of the gas and let teams back into it. Credit to Melrose – they definitely made a game of it but I thought we certainly merited the win.

“These Border derbies mean a bit more. The Boxing Day tradition of playing Melrose has been going for a long time and the players love it. You’ve got Christmas Day, which everyone enjoys, but then everybody’s buzzing to dust off against the old rivals.

“Young Angus Dun put in a solid performance at number seven and Ruairi Howarth looks so exciting every time he has ball in hand,” added Dods. “It’s great to have someone like him in your team, rather than defend against him.”