Border League Final: Melrose 35-7 Gala

Image courtesy: Melrose twitter feed

STUART RUTHERFORD @ Poynder Park

BT CUP champions Melrose secured their second trophy in four days with a blistering first-half performance. Gala, who had not played a competitive match since February, struggled to match their opponents’ intensity during the opening 40 minutes and found themselves 35-0 down at the break, following a brace of tries from Jason Baggott, and simple scores from Grant Runciman, Iain Moody and Cameron Mackay.

 Although the Netherdale outfit managed a late consolation through Paul Hendry, the result was never in doubt and Melrose cantered over the finish line to secure their first Border League title since 2011.”I thought we did excellently. It was obviously hard to replicate a performance after such a high at the weekend, but our attitude was brilliant and I thought our accuracy in attack was particularly impressive,” said Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie.

“I’ve had great fun this season. Full credit has to go to the full group of players, and the whole club in general. From the Wasps [youth team] upwards, its been a brilliant season. But we’ll dust ourselves down and get ready to go again next season.”

Although Melrose had rung the changes up front, with the usual starting front row of Jamie Bhatti, Russell Anderson and Nick Beavon all starting on the bench,  it was clear from the get-go that their pack was the more battle hardened of the two sides, and with only five minutes on the clock they showcased the forward power which has been a crucial factor in their success this season with a powerful line-out drive which saw the Gala eight driven back 10 metres before the ball was spun out for centre George Taylor to hit a short line off Baggott’s shoulder. With the Gala in full retreat, there was no fringe defence there to stop Baggott from picking up at the base of the resulting ruck and strolling over for the first try of the evening.

If Gala were to have any chance they were going to have keep it tight during the inevitable early onslaught, however, their game-plan was in tatters after only 10 minutes as they conceded the second try of the contest – with the dominant Melrose pack, once again, at the heart of the score. The ball was secured by Ali Grieve at the front of a line-out ten metres from the Gala line, and after the Melrose forwards drove over the whitewash it was Mackay who found himself clutching the ball at the bottom of the pile of bodies.

The Netherdale faithful who had made the trip to Poynder Park almost had a reason to cheer after a fantastic break from Craig Robertson. With Dwayne Burrows making up significant ground in midfield, the ball was eventually worked down to the blindside to Robertson, who after stepping inside his man, looked to be in for his side’s first try of the night. However, with a crowd of defenders closing in on him, the winger attempted to offload the ball and Grant Runciman was on the spot for the interception.

Just as its seemed like Gala were starting to get a foothold in the match, their hard work was undone by an unlucky deflection which set up Melrose to score their third try of the contest, with collecting and ghosting in from 50 metres.

With Bruce Colvine controlling proceedings from scrum-half, Melrose were purring in attack, and with 30 minutes on the clock they pushed over for yet another driven line-out score  As Grant Runciman was congratulated by his teammates, Gala huddled under their posts, clearly shell-shocked by their opponents’ ability to seemingly score at ease.

The maroons now looked like a side low on confidence after losing their last nine league games on the bounce. Stand-off Gregor Hunter attempted to play an up-and-under, fluffed his lines and handed possession straight to Gavin Wood. The youngster was eventually brought down a couple of metres from the try-line, but Iain Moody barrelled over a few phases later to make it 35-0.

As referee Cammy Rudkin brought the first-half to an end, Melrose held all the cards, whilst Gala had it all to do.

Gala were reduced to 14 men when Robertson was sent to the bin after a deliberate knock-on early in the second-half, but despite this his side were much improved during this period. With Terry Skeet providing go-forward in the loose, the Netherdale outfit at least offered a threat in attack. Burrows – who, in fairness, had shown flashes of flair in the first-half – provided his side with a number of neat offloads, and had his teammates been on the same wavelength, Gala may have hit back with a try of their own.

With both sides going through the motions, the second-half petered out into a mistake-ridden affair, and although Knott was held up over the line, it was clear that Rob Chrystie’s side had taken their foot off the accelerator.

Paul Hendry managed a late consolation for Gala, but the match had been over as a contest since Melrose’s opening barrage of tries.

Teams –

Melrose: F Thomson; N Godsmark,  G Taylor, C Jackson, G Wood; J Baggott, B Colvine; D Elkington, C Mackay, R McLeod, A Grieve, J Head, R Knott, G Runciman, I Moody. Subs: J Bhatti, R Anderson, N Beavon, P Eccles, M McAndrew, P Anderson.

Gala: G Spiers; P Hendry, D Burrows, G Mein, C Robertson; G Hunter, S Fairburn; C Keen, D Brooker, T Skeet, S Johnstone, C Weir, G Adams, S Wilkinson, S Cairns. Subs: C Reynolds, G Robertson, R Louw, R Tod, L Johnstone, A Emond, A Turner.

Referee: Cammy Rudkin

Scorers –

Melrose: Tries: Baggott 2, Mackay, Runciman, Moody; Cons: Baggott 4, Jackson

Gala: Try: Hendry; Con: Hunter

Scoring sequence (Melrose first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0; 26-0; 28-0; 33-0; 35-0 (h-t) 35-5; 35-7

Yellow cards –

Gala: Robertson

Man-of-the-Match: A stellar performance in the heart of Melrose’s midfield by Melrose’s Craig Jackson provided his side with go-forward in attack, whilst his defensive efforts halted a number of Gala attacks.

Talking point: Considering silverware was up for grabs, the match was a lifeless affair played in front of a small crowd, and both sides seemed uninspired. The Border League is undoubtedly a fantastic, historic competition – can it be reinvigorated by further changes to the tournament’s format in the near future?

 

 

About Stuart Rutherford 50 Articles
Stuart hails from the Borders town of Selkirk and has been around rugby all his life, largely thanks to the influence of his father, John. Not only a fan of the modern game, he is a keen rugby historian, and produces a regular 'Throwback Thursday Column' for The Offside Line.