All eyes on big derby

NO EXCUSES, we just haven’t been playing well, writes Fiona Scott.

That was Craig Chalmers’ take on recent performances by his Melrose squad ahead of Saturday’s crunch Border derby match against old rivals Gala at The Greenyards – and something he and his squad will be looking to rectify.

“We will be going ahead as normal and sticking to our game plan,” he told TheSouthern. “If we go out and play like we have been doing over the last couple of weeks we will not win. I know that, the team knows that and the supporters know that. We have not been doing the basics well and have not been performing well.

“In saying that, the guys have been working hard and are looking forward to the game. We will have much the same team that was playing at Doncaster six weeks ago and we won there, so there is no reason at all that we can’t win against Gala.”

Chalmers refuses to write his team off in terms of winning the league and believes that, with the right attitude and commitment they showed earlier in the season, that they can still threaten the main contenders.

“Gala are hot favourites right now and rightly so. They have found some good form and have been playing well. We are still in fourth place, though, and are by no means out of it yet.”

For the Maroons, a win on Saturday will send them climbing above leaders Ayr, who they play the following week, and for adopted Galalean Opeta Palepoi, the thrill of leading his team out for huge derby encounters has never diminished.

“The whole town buzzes when a derby game is coming up. It’s not just about league points or a cup win to them, it’s about bragging rights and we have to make sure we put in 100 per cent to give them what they want.

“The atmosphere at these games is great from a player’s point of view and everyone just wants to make sure they give it their best.”

And as for the opposition’s sudden slump in form, the Gala captain is under no illusions as far as Melrose are concerned.

“We know the dangers they pose and it would be a mistake to underestimate them just because they haven’t been winning. Our main goal is to win and that is what we will be focusing on from now until Saturday.”

Gala RFC president George Marshall also threw his weight behind his team.

“This is a huge game for us in terms of the league. We want to win to keep the pressure on Ayr and if we can win both these games it would put us top with a few points in hand.

“There should be a big crowd at The Greenyards and everyone is looking forward to it.”

Up-to-the-minute team announcements, previews and match report will be available at as well as Twitter updates throughout @FeeSportyScott