Local pride and bragging rights will be at stake for pretty much the last time this season when the Booker Border League Final is played tonight (Tuesday).
The all-Premiership game takes place at The Greenyards at 6.30pm and sees hosts Melrose take on Hawick in what’s sure to be a keenly-contested derby.
Melrose will be hoping they can salvage a prize from a season in which they’ve been unusually starved of silverware, with the Tennent’s Premiership title already having gone elsewhere and the Scottish Cup about to.
Hawick will be back in action for the first time since cruel luck denied them a Scottish Cup semi-final win over Heriot’s and, if they can reproduce that form, they could give their fancied hosts a very tough time.
Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie said the Border League had been used to blood a few younger and less experienced players and the same would probably be the case in tonight’s final.
“It’s only right, as a lot of these young guys have kind of got us to where we are now, so it’s important they get an opportunity and a game,” he said, also mindful of the changes occurring next season, such as the step up to Super 6.
“The whole club and squad needs to push forward to that as well – there will be a nice balance in the squad but some of the guys will get opportunities, there’s no doubt about that,” he added.
“We will see how we get on – whenever you are playing for a trophy, you want to win it, and Hawick will be the same. I am sure they will come with a lot of desire and want to get stuck into us.”
Christie had seen Hawick’s match with Heriot’s at Goldenacre and agreed they were extremely unlucky to lose 31-29. “They played very well up there. They kept the ball for long period and, if they do the same, we will have to defend very well,” said Chrystie.
“They have big ball carriers in Shawn Muir, Bruce McNeil and Andrew Mitchell – we are going to have to defend well and take our chances, as ever, when they come.”
Whether Melrose’s confidence has been knocked by their comparative failure this season remains to be seen – but Hawick head coach George Graham reckons it could potentially be exploited by the Robbie Dyes.
Essentially, they would try and emulate what they did at Heriot’s, against another very good team, and hopefully get back into the groove quickly after their lay-off.
“The players certainly should be confident,” said Graham. “If they can produce that sort of a game against Melrose, then we are in the game, we’re in the ball park. If we can do the things we practise – looking after the ball, building phases and having confidence – we will be there or thereabouts.
“Against Heriot’s, we did that. We controlled the ball, we looked after it and we built a lot of phases and scored a lot of tries, which builds confidence – albeit we never crossed the line at the end. The only difference is this is a derby match, so there’s always that bit extra involved .
“It’s two Border teams playing for the Border League title, which is going to have a big impact. Given that Melrose are not involved in anything this year, they will be looking to salvage the season, so it’s going to be a big, big game. We will wait and see what happens – it’s a big ask but we will endeavour to do as much as we can.”