Maroons on the march to end 31-year, top-title wait

This Saturday sees two of the oldest rivals in Borders rugby fight it out for the RBS Premiership silverware – but at grounds four miles apart.

The champions could be current league leaders Gala, if the Maroons can break a 31-year hoodoo and lift the trophy at Netherdale by beating last season’s champions, Ayr.

Or four miles away at The Greenyards, where neighbours Melrose, who take on Currie, could end up celebrating.

If Gala win, it will be the first top-flight championship for the Netherdale club since former international David Leslie skippered the side to the last of their first division titles in 1983.

The permutations if Gala do not win are on our website.

Speaking ahead of the weekend’s title decider, Gala fullback Andy McLean, who recently made his 300th appearance for the club, said 31 years was too long.

“I recently made my 300th appearance for the club up in Stirling, but I’d give that all up to win the title,” he said.

Gala president Scott Dalgleish said victory will mean everything to the club and all those who have worked so hard for this moment. 
He told us: “The last five years have seen everyone at the club driven to get us where we are today. We lost out narrowly last year, so if we can manage it on Saturday, it will be massive for the coaches, players – all at the club. It’s been a long time for the cupboard to be bare.”

And Dalgleish praised the work of Gala coach George Graham.

“George has had a huge impact and commands the respect of all the players.

“It might be a bit of a cliche, but we really do have a great bunch of boys who play for each other.”

For his part, Melrose coach John Dalziel knows all his team can control is their match against Currie.

“Whatever happens on Saturday, we’ve had a very successful season. We just have to focus on our own game.

“Currie have won six of their last seven games and drew one, so we can’t really be looking past that at the moment.

“If we win, it will be 15 wins and that’s more than anyone else in the league.

“I realise it’s all been about Gala this week and that’s understandable – I’ve got great admiration for George and what he and his team has achieved.

“And it has to be good for Border rugby to have the top two form teams of the season from this area.”

Both matches will kick off at 3pm on Saturday. Elsewhere in the RBS Premiership, Hawick take on Heriot’s at Mansfield Park, also at 3pm.

See page 80 for fixtures.