Melrose came out on top in this bruising Boxing Day battle that left both sides nursing injury problems for some of their key players.
Up for grabs was the Waverley Cup with the visitors to Netherdale determined to regain the trophy and halt the Maroons’ winning streak of three victories.
But the festive season entertainment for the big crowd came at a cost for both sides with Gala prop Paul Stewart being stretchered off with a broken ankle just before half-time and then, shortly after the interval, referee Cammy Rudkin taking all the players off the field for 10 minutes after Melrose back-row player Ruairidh Knott suffered suspected injuries to his hip and pelvis.
Knott was taken to Borders General Hospital by ambulance, but later released with what the club’s director of rugby, Mike Dalgetty, says was soft tissue damage.
“Ruairidh had lost sensation in one of his legs and that’s why they had to be so careful with him on the pitch. But he’s back at home and recovering.”
Dalgetty was pleased with the win, saying it was good preparation for forthcoming games, but added: “I didn’t think it was the best of games and the injuries for both sides marred things a bit.”
But the game did hand a number of young Greenyards players their senior debuts, while Gala will be encouraged by the amount of possession and territory they enjoyed, as well as the opportunities created.
Both sides had struggled to gain the upper hand in a patchy first half. Melrose took the lead with a penalty from Joe Helps after just three minutes.
That was how the score remained until the 27th minute when Gala centre Ewan Scott cancelled out Melrose’s advantage and levelled the scores with a penalty.
But seven minutes from the interval, some sustained pressure by the visitors saw Helps feed Murdo McAndrew, who in turn released Bruce Colvine for a try under the posts, which Helps converted to put Melrose 3-10 ahead.
The Maroons then suffered a double whammy, losing the injured Stewart after a ruck and seeing Helps knock over a second penalty to give the visitors a 3-13 lead at half-time.
Two minutes into the second half, the game was held up for over 10 minutes as Knott lay on the pitch receiving attention before he too was stretchered off.
But it looked like Melrose would be the side celebrating when half-way through the period some heavy forward pressure saw Nick Beavon driven over for the score and Helps added a second conversion.
That made it 3-20. Melrose winger Tito Mua was yellow-carded for obstructing at a penalty three minutes from normal time, but Gala struggled to make the one-man advantage count until Russell Anderson scored and Scott converted.