It was all change for the Melrose-based Fosroc Super6 semi-professional side as they drafted in a sizeable contingent of Edinburgh players to take on English Gallagher Premiership side Newcastle Falcons for the Doddie’s Club Trophy on Friday night and that ploy paid off as they ran out 23-12 winners at their Greenyards home ground.
That was the second time the cup had been contested in aid of Borders rugby legend Doddie Weir’s motor neurone disease charity, the Tynesiders having won 57-10 last time round at their Kingston Park base back in December 2019.
Outgoing Knights head coach Rob Chrystie, moving to Edinburgh next month to coach at their academy, was pleased by what he saw, even if it gave little indication of the Borderers’ prospects for next season.
“It was a great occasion for a number of reasons – to support Doddie and his charity, because it’s a fixture we’re looking to grow over the next few years anyway and as a good showcase for how Super6 is working with pro players,” he said.
“It was good for Southern Knights in that respect even if we really only got to train with the Edinburgh players and our boys all together on the Tuesday and Thursday beforehand.
“It was a really good template to show how we can all work together.
“You could tell our boys were nervous before the game as we knew Newcastle were bringing a really strong squad so it was a big help for them to be lining up alongside the Edinburgh players released to us for the game.
“It was a fundraising game for Doddie’s charity and it was played in that spirit but there was also something there up for grabs and the competitive nature of both sides meant that they were always going to be out to win.
“It was also a good opportunity for our players to showcase their abilities and that’s what Super6 is all about, to get us closer to professional level, as well as for younger Edinburgh players to try to make an impression on their coaches.”
Among the Newcastle side brought to the Borders by head coach Dean Richards were Scots Gary Graham, formerly at Gala, and Robbie Smith.
The hosts, captained by Russell Anderson with Henry Pyrgos as vice-skipper, started as they meant to go on, with Billy Wara setting up Freddie Owsley for an unconverted try on the overlap.
The Knights’ second try, scored by Wara, also went unconverted, Charlie Savala kicking wide of the posts.
Will Haydon-Wood was on target with his boot for Falcons, though, after Iwan Stephen scored their first try.
Chrystie’s side also drew first blood after the break, Adam McBurney running off the back of a maul to touch down, with Savala adding the extras on that occasion.
Falcons were next to score, again via Stephens, but Knights replacement Jason Baggott replied with a penalty goal extending his side’s lead to eight points.
Baggott then went on to add a second penalty goal to take the final scoreline to 23-12 and bring the club cup named after former Melrose and Falcons star Weir to the Borders for the first time.