Defending champions Melrose maintained their second position in the BT Premiership to boost hopes of a home tie in the play-offs, after defeating neighbours Gala.
Such was the dominance of the Premiership title holders in the first hour of the game that an embarrassingly-heavy defeat for Gala looked inevitable.
Yet, astonishingly, it was the Maroons, and not Melrose, who exacted the bonus point after, and somewhat against the huge odds, matching the Greenyards men on tries.
“For 60 minutes I thought we were almost inch-perfect,” declared Melrose coach John Dalziel.
“Some of the handling and interplay was as good as it’s been all year.”
“I was disappointed with the last 20 minutes. We battered their line, but got turned over three times. Maybe we were a bit impatient and went wide too early.
“I’m happy with the win that keeps us in second position though. You have to have momentum going into the play-offs,” suggested Dalziel, whose side face Ayr on March 14 in the final round of the Premiership.
For Gala, the bonus point gained against Melrose could yet help the Netherdale club secure a place in the play-offs. Their final game is against Heriot’s at Goldenacre.
“We are going through a transitional period with losing Gary (Graham) and Grant (Somerville), said coach George Graham.
“It’s going to be tough, but we just need to soldier on. We’ve got one league game left, so we just have to make sure that the players we’ve got raise their game.”
In many ways, Gala did ultimately lift their game against Melrose.
Even with a paucity of possession, Gala still managed to score a good try by prop Luke Pettie from a break by the impressive Auld, but it was Melrose who had ruled the first half, scoring close-range tries by No.8 Graham Dodds, flanker Grant Runciman and lock James Heads, all three converted by Joe Helps to give the Greenyards men a 21-5 interval advantage.
Helps then turned the visitors’ second-half pressure into points with a penalty goal, but thereafter the Melrose points flow dried up as Gala fronted up in defence, before finishing strongly – first with a try by hooker Russell Anderson, converted by Craig Dods, and then a second five-pointer from Pettie to earn the Maroons a deserved bonus point.