Melrose 57, Gala 17
The emotional opposites of elation and despair were written large on the faces of opposing fans at the Greenyards, as Melrose celebrated heir biggest Premiership win of the season and Gala their heaviest championship defeat.
Perhaps ‘elation’ overstates Melrose’s feelings about a display that had obvious flaws but which, nevertheless, resulted in a try bonus and a tidy addition to the bank, should the BT Premiership come down to points difference.
“I think some of the performances we had at the beginning of the season were better and more accurate.” reflected Melrose head coach, Rob Chrystie. “We created a few opportunities which we didn’t finish.”
Melrose would be the first to concede they were helped by Gala’s errors and, moreover, by the Maroons’ failure to front up in the forward struggle when it mattered.
Two stray passes accounted for two of Melrose’s haul of five first-half tries, while two others were all about Gala struggling with the Melrose ‘catch and drive’ and the fifth from muscling Gala off their own scrum ball.
“There were a lot of presents handed out by us.” said Gala coach Chris Dalgleish. “Defence was again an issue. We have to address this before this week’s game against Stirling.”
Gala were forced to take the field without their playmaker Gregor Hunter, who was withdrawn from the team only hours before kick-off, having not recovered fully from a hip injury.
Dalgleish admitted Hunter’s withdrawal was a precautionary measure to ensure the fly-half would be fit for this week’s vital match against Stirling at Netherdale.
Without Hunter, Gala lacked the generalship that the former Glasgow professional brings to the Maroons’ side, notably with his kicking game from hand and, indeed, from the tee. In the event, Gala tried to play too much rugby in their own half and paid the price.
The margin of defeat was alarmingly large for Gala but, for much of the game they played effective rugby. The trouble was they were up against a Melrose side , seemingly without any weaknesses and which has genuine quality players able to wreak havoc.
Outstanding for Melrose were stand-off Craig Jackson and inside centre George Taylor. Jackson, a hugely underrated player, yet in many ways one of the best fly halves in the Premiership, used his repertoire of subtle skills to create space for his outside backs.
Taylor certainly benefited, the Scotland under-20 cap making two searing breaks early in the first half, in a quality display.
Melrose had the game won by half time when they led 31-7 with tries by number 8 Ruairidh Knott (2), both from driven line-outs, Craig Jackson (2) from an interception and then a lost scrum and Neil Irvine-Hess from a loose pass. Gala’s first half points came from a Ross Coombe try converted by scrum half Connor Adams.
Then second half tries by wing Ross McCann (2), replacement prop Dan Elkington, again from a driven line-out, and debutant scrum half Struan Hutchison completed the Melrose haul, their other points coming from Jackson’s five conversions and one from Austin Lockington, while for Gala, second half tries by second row Rob Louw and replacement scrum half George Lott added a smidgeon of sugar to a bitter pill.
Melrose: F. Thomson, A. Lockington, N. Godsmark, G. Taylor, R. McCann, C. Jackson, S. Hutchison, J. Bhatti, R. Anderson, N. Beavon, J. Head, A. Grieve, N. Irvine-Hess, G. Runciman (c), R. Knott. Subs: C. McKay, D. Elkington, I. Moody, G. Wood, S Pecqueur.
Gala: G. Speirs (c), R. Coombes, S. Tofilau, P. Hendry, C. Robertson, R. Jeffrey, C. Adams, C. Keen, M. Carryer, T. Skeet, R. Louw, C. Weir, H. Borthwick, F. Hunter, S. Cairns. Subs: C. Reynolds, D. Brooker, A. Emond, L. Berg, G. Lott.
Referee: D. Sutherland.