All-Borders ties add spice to BT Cup contest’s first round

Both Melrose and Hawick, who met here recently in the BT Premiership, are facing tricky lower division opposition in the BT Cup (picture by Douglas Hardie).
Both Melrose and Hawick, who met here recently in the BT Premiership, are facing tricky lower division opposition in the BT Cup (picture by Douglas Hardie).

While local rugby fans await tea time on Saturday, for the Scotland v New Zealand Autumn Test, they can feast on a cracking couple of all-Borders ties in the BT Cup.

Tomorrow (Friday) sees high-scoring Jed-Forest play host to seemingly invincible Melrose – leading the BT Premiership with a 100 per cent record, as well as being current BT trophy holders.

And, on Saturday, Premiership strugglers Hawick welcome Jed’s fellow League One promotion hopefuls, Selkirk. Gala, meanwhile, travel to Boroughmuir in the other BT Cup match featuring a Borders club.

The games at Riverside Park and Mansfield Park, however, are particularly attractive propositions, given the current form of all four teams.

Melrose have 10 straight wins in the Premiership, while Jed-Forest have scored over 60 points in each of their last two games in League One.

Jed’s director of rugby, Ali Campbell, said the recent 65-6 win over Gala had boosted the players’ confidence but Melrose would be “a totally different animal”.

He added: “They are flying in the Premiership, they’re the best in Scotland, and players want to pit themselves against them, so the boys are really looking forward to it.

“I am sure Melrose will take a bit of beating this season, on all fronts, but the boys will give it their best shot and we’ll see what happens.

“I think it will be an open game with two teams wanting to throw the ball about – hopefully high scoring, with plent of tries and guys wanting to run. ”

Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie reckoned Jed would “sniff a wee upset, definitely” after their recent results but Melrose would adopt their usual policy of trying to play as best they could.

While virtually all clubs would agree the league campaign was most important, the BT Cup was a national competition, with the prospect of playing in a BT Murrayfield final, said Chrystie, so Melrose would treat it as such, adding: “We will select a squad that’s right for this game and this time of the year.”

Selkirk have eight league wins from 10 behind them in League One and captain Ross Nixon said: “Saturday is a chance for us to prove ourselves against a Premiership side. It is a chance for us to have a shot at them and, while they haven’t exactly had a great season so far, most of their recent games have been pretty close and are clearly better than their record says.”

For Premiership basement dwellers Hawick, who have lost all 10 games thus far, the BT Cup may offer relief from a torrid league programme. Captain Bruce McNeil said: “We will respect Selkirk but we are aiming for Saturday to be a game that helps us build something to take into the second half of our Premiership campaign.

“There is no real pressure and, hopefully, the boys go out there, have fun and grab a win that helps build some much-needed momentum.”