New league campaign begins with delicious Borders derby

A recent enounter between Melrose and Hawick.
A recent enounter between Melrose and Hawick.

There are many tempting ties being served up on Saturday by the start of the new national and regional league campaigns.

However, day one of the new season, backed by Tennent’s, could scarcely be more appetising, thanks to the pairing of Hawick and Melrose in the Premiership.

A Borders derby featuring the area’s top two teams seems like a perfect way to usher in a new feast of rugby for 2018-19 – and both sides are keenly awaiting it.

The game is at Mansfield Park, with hosts Hawick eager to make a winning start after a couple of seasons in which they’ve struggled in the early stages.

Melrose, beaten to the Charity Shield by Stirling County last weekend, will be looking for an equally positive start, having won the Premiership title and the BT Cup in a memorable campaign last year.

Greens secretary John Thorburn said the first fixture on the calendar had “jumped out a wee bit”, adding: “If you’re not from Melrose, you shouldn’t be there, and if you don’t want to play the best team in Scotland, you shouldn’t be playing rugby.”

He went on: “We have had a mixed build-up to it but we are all ready to host the champions and are looking forward to it. We have a few new faces and so do they, so I am pretty sure it will be a typical derby.”

Last season, in which Hawick lost their opening 10 games, was in the past, added Thorburn, and Hawick would hope to start on the front foot and avoid putting themselves under undue pressure.

Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie said there was no way Hawick would begin this season like the last.

“We know what to expect at Mansfield – it’s going to be a battle,” he said. “George (Graham) will have them absolutely raring to go and it will be a tough, hard game. They will have prepared well over the summer – but I think we have too.” Other games include Gala v Hamilton, Kelso v Musselburgh, Selkirk v Kirkcaldy, Peebles v Glasgow Accies and St Boswells v Hillhead Jordanhill.