Clubs relish return to action in first league card of 2018

A section of Melrose players reflect on winning the Waverley Cup on Boxing Day at The Greenyards, against Gala (picture by Douglas Hardie).
A section of Melrose players reflect on winning the Waverley Cup on Boxing Day at The Greenyards, against Gala (picture by Douglas Hardie).

Weather permitting, a full Saturday programme heralds the return of rugby action in the BT leagues, and the first fixtures of a brand new year.

In the BT Premiership, Melrose host Ayr in a rescheduled version of the game which was controversially postponed last month, when Ayr complained, only a couple of minutes before kick-off, that sections of the Greenyards pitch were unplayable.

Melrose, with a 100 per cent record of bonus-point victories in the league to date, are among a handful of Borders clubs who managed to squeeze in some match practice during the spells of milder weather around the festive season, scoring a handsome 49-0 victory over Selkirk in the Booker Border League and defeating Gala 43-18 in the customary Boxing Day fixture for the Waverley Cup.

Rose president Douglas Hardie said they were delighted with both results.

“Against Gala, we fielded quite a number of young players coming through the ranks, who normally play with Melrose Storm, and they all stepped up to the plate and did their job more than adequately,” he added. “Gala put up a good show and stuck in very well. Credit to them – their heads never went down and they tried right to the end, and that exemplified itself with the final try being scored by Gala.”

The margin of the win over Selkirk was perhaps a surprise to some – as was Selkirk’s failure to score. “In fairness, their score perhaps didn’t reflect the effort they put into it,” added Hardie. “They did put a lot of hard work into that game – they are a very stuffy side and certainly tried their best but perhaps didn’t get the reward they deserved. At no time did you think we would lose the game, but not to get over the whitewash was probably more than a bit disappointing for them.”

Head coach Rob Chrystie said: “The really good, big pleasing thing for me was that the boys who came in have played really well.

“I was really pleased, especially in that Selkirk game – they had obviously looked at us and thought they could score some points against us, so to zero them was pretty pleasing, and some of the defence work in that game was really, really good. Our boys defended really well and we knew if we did that, we could create opportunities.”

Of the Waverley Cup match with Gala, he said: “That’s an excellent fixture and something that should not be lost to the game. There was a great crowd there and it’s important for both clubs to make sure that fixture stays, and stays strong.”

Hawick’s recent resurgence was ended on Boxing Day by a slender defeat against Jed-Forest in the Skelly Cup, so George Graham’s side will be eager to recapture their vital winning form when Heriot’s visit Mansfield Park.

In BT National League One, Selkirk are at home to Dundee HSFP and keen to get back to match action, not having played a league game since the beginning of December.

Souters manager Tom Ramage said mistakes had cost his side four tries in the match against Melrose.

“We spun the ball around but Melrose have a really, really strong defence,” he said. “They were double-hitting us and their turnover was quite an eye-opener. The whole club was up for a shot at the would-be champions, but it just didn’t materialise.”

In the same division, Gala play host to Falkirk, Kelso entertain Aberdeen Grammar and Jed-Forest travel to GHA.