The rigours of the regular BT Premiership programme are over for Melrose, leaving them free to concentrate on a game they’ve known was coming for some time.
The Greenyards men have dominated the top-flight national league scene this term.
They’ve never left the summit of the Premiership and lost only three games all season, having set a new record with 10 consecutive bonus-point wins in the first half of the campaign.
However, it’s all coming down possibly to two games – the championship final, if they get there, and this Saturday’s semi-final at home to Watsonians.
It seems reasonable to think Melrose might have an unquenchable desire for this prize, snatched from them by Ayr last season, given their sheer dominance of the league this year. So formidable were they that their top four play-off place was ensured absurdly early.
But head coach Rob Chrystie maintains the most important thing is the performance on the day.
It’s significant that Melrose are going into the game after a heavy defeat by Hawick on the last league Saturday, in which, very uncharacteristically, they failed to score a try.
Hardly ideal preparation – but Chrystie maintained that game was “gone” now, disappointing as it was, and the focus was now all on Watsonians.
“Our first goal this season was to get in the top four and then, after that, as high as possible,” said Chrystie.
“We did an extra training session on Monday night – in addition to Tuesday and tonight (Thursday) – and the boys are really excited about playing at home, first and foremost, and we know the challenge this brings.”
The familiarity and comfort with the surroundings were key factors of home advantage, added Chrystie. “Plus, we get a pretty good crowd at Melrose. We’re not having to get up, get on abus, travel and set up camp in the away changing rooms. We have everything set up, ready to go.
“But we’re definitely not taking that for granted as well. People like to come and spoil parties, as we found out last year. We need to be on it, because Watsonians are pretty dangerous, to be fair.”
Chrystie added: “We back what we do and our players have a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to do.
“If we do that to the best of our ability and perform as well as we can, then we won’t be far away.
“Obviously, the opposition are trying to put pressure on you as well and stop you from doing what you are trying to do. Likewise, they are trying to impose what they are trying to do on you as well, so our boys are really looking forward to getting back out there, hopefully putting in a really good performance and getting to the next round.
“Our focus is the game, not the end product of getting trophies. That’s the goal but it’s not the focus. The focus is on the game with Watsonians.”