Melrose move top following thrilling Border tie

Melrose moved top of the RBS Premiership this afternoon, after a thrilling Border derby v Gala at Netherdale.

The Greenyards side had the bulk of possession and territory throughout the top-of-the-table clash, but that did not make the task easy, as a second-half surge from the hosts saw the Maroons leading with two minutes left on the clock.

They also made it difficult for themselves, with the emotions of the game sometimes getting the better of them, as three players were sent to the sin-bin during the course of the match.

However, a late try from Edinburgh Rugby second-row, Perry Parker and a Joe Helps conversion saw Melrose beat their rivals, 13-11.

Head coach, John Dalziel, said: “Today’s game was massive because we knew we had to win to stay in with a chance of taking the title.

“However, it takes 18 games to do that, so we have got to take the same determination and attitude to Stirling County next week and ensure we back this win up.

I was pleased that we were able to dominate throughout the park in the first-half, but Gala are a very good team at always staying in touching distance when things aren’t going there way.

“They came back into it, but I’m pleased that we took our chances when they came.”

As well as the Parker try, the remainder of the Melrose points were scored from the boot of Helps who struck two penalties and a conversion. For Gala, it was centre Ewan Scott who provided the bulk of their points. He struck two penalties. Gala also touched down in the second-half, through centre Chris Auld.

With Melrose winning the match, the RBS Premiership now opens up nicely with only three more weekend’s left on the calendar, and four teams still able to win the title, in Heriot’s, Ayr and the two Borderers.

Only one other game was played in the RBS Premiership this afternoon, due to the adverse weather conditions and that was between, Hawick and Stirling County. Stirling County won this match, 11-10 

Run of play:

The visitors opened the scoring early with a penalty from the halfway line, struck by centre Helps. 0-3

Melrose looked the more dominant of the two sides in the following 20 minutes with the bulk of possession and territory, until Gala finally found some space and moved within a couple of inches of the Melrose try-line.

At this point, Melrose lost Parker to the sin-bin, and though Gala were unable to create anything with the scrum that followed, they levelled the score on 34 minutes from the boot of centre Scott. 3-3

With a couple of minutes left on the clock, tempers looked high, as Melrose lost prop Gary Holborn and back-row Todd Pearce to the bin and Gala saw lock Callum Mackintosh also yellow carded.

With, four minutes of injury time played and despite being two men short, Melrose regained the lead and went in at the break with a second penalty struck by Helps. 3-6 

Half-time: Gala 3-6 Melrose

Melrose could have doubled their lead with the first chance for points in the second-half, but Helps fluffed the kick. On 53 minutes though, Gala’s Scott capitalised on the opportunity to realign the scores. 6-6

62 minutes had passed when Gala eagerly worked through the phases looking for the first try of the game. They were camped on the Melrose line for a matter of minutes before their reward came. Centre Auld, rose up from the pile of bodies and claimed the plaudits. 11-6

Melrose looked to pick up the pace of the match with a little more than five minutes left on the clock. A couple of breaks were made on either wing, but nothing materialised.

The injection of pace and creativity paid off for the visitors with two minutes left to play. Swinging the ball from wing to wing, Parker finally, crossed the whitewash just two the side of the posts. Helps converted and Melrose gained the upper hand. 11-13 

Full-time: Gala 11-13 Melrose 

Gala team: Andy McLean; Grant Sommerville, Chris Auld, Ewan Scott, Gerald Sibanda; Gregor Mein, George Graham (captain); Rory Sutherland, Callum Macintosh, Ewan McQuillin, Craig Borthwick, Opeta Palepoi, Gary Graham, Stevie Cairns and Euan Dods.
Replacements: James Hilterbrand, Alan Emond, Josh Irvine, Scott Chapman and Graham Speirs. 

Melrose team: Austin Lockington; Callum Anderson, Alan Dodds, Joe Helps, Mark Robertson; Richard Mill, Bruce Colvine (captain); Nicky Little, Todd Pearce, Lewis Niven, James Head, Perry Parker, Peter Eccles, Grant Runciman and Andrew Nagle.
Replacements: Richard Ferguson, Gary Holborn, Graham Dodds, Ruiri Knott and Andrew Skeen.

Referee: Graeme Wells