Melrose will go into the BT Charity Shield match against Heriot’s this weekend at the Greenyards, confident after a comfortable Border League win over Selkirk at Philphaugh.
But less comforting for John Dalziel’s men is the loss of their influential centre Joe Helps, who suffered a fracture of the lower arm late in the second half on Saturday.
Helps has established himself as first-choice inside centre over the past two seasons, and cemented his position in the Melrose team with his ability to kick goals from inside the opposition half.
And it is this skill off the kicking tee that will be difficult to replace as coach Dalziel conceded. He said: “We can’t hide behind how much of a miss Joe will be. Austin Lockington, Murdo McAndrew and Richard Mill can all kick goals, but none from 51 metres.”
Dalziel, however, will not have to search far for candidates to fill the inside centre position. Among them are the Taylor brothers, Richard and George, both of whom have played for Scotland under-18 at centre.
Melrose will also have the services this season of the Scotland under-20 centre Blair Hutchison, who is on a placement in Edinburgh as part of his studies at Loughborough University. Also staking a claim is outside back Rory Tolland, who returned to rugby after undergoing knee reconstruction surgery and who looked the part against Selkirk.
“We’re trying to get him integrated. He’s in brilliant condition,” stated Dalziel, who revealed that there is one more option. “We’ve got a gem up our sleeve with the 12 position – Andrew Nagle has been doing some training at centre. He’s got good hands and he wants to have a look at playing in midfield before he gets too old.
“In fact, he had toyed with this move when he was at Jed.”
Aside from the loss of Helps, there was much to celebrate in the Melrose camp and not least the return to action of skipper Fraser Thomson, who showed his form with two tries and a key part in a third. Melrose’s other tries came from new recruit Neil Irvine-Hess, winger George Taylor, scrum half Tom Wilson, winger Rory Tolland and stand-off Austin Lockington.
Selkirk who at one stage trailed 3-39 rallied in the last quarter to score tries from flanker Angus Duckett, full back Darren Clapperton, replacement Matt Robertson, winger Callum McEwan and flanker Euan McDougall.
“The second half showed that with a bit of self belief and a bit of a go-forward mentality you can score points against the best of teams,” said the Selkirk coach, Peter Wright, whose side will rest out on Saturday after losing their proposed fixture with Lasswade.