With Scottish interest in the professional season effectively ended by Glasgow’s defeat by Munster in Cork at the weekend, Melrose coach Rob Chrystie hopes a bit more limelight can come the club scene’s way as it reaches its climax.
Melrose and Ayr are preparing for a huge double header, starting with the BT Premiership final at the Greenyards this Saturday and followed seven days later by the BT Cup final at Murrayfield.
Chrystie’s men will then have the Border League final against Gala the Wednesday after the cup final but, after reaching the final of their own Melrose Sevens at the weekend, the focus is purely on getting that first piece of silverware and getting that league trophy back in the cabinet for the first time in three years.
With the pro-teams out of Europe and out of the Pro12 play-off hunt, the Melrose coach, who stepped up to take over from John Dalziel at the start of the season, hopes a bit more exposure will come their way.
“It would be brilliant if it works that way, you want as much exposure for the club game as you can get, it would be brilliant,” said the former Hawick, Melrose, Bath and Borders scrum-half.
“Ayr and Melrose are two teams who are really trying to push the standards up.
“We are working closely with the pro-teams to make sure that the pro players are coming down to us by getting as much of an opportunity as they can to perform so that they can then step up to Glasgow and Edinburgh and perform well for them. We want to work with the pro-teams, with the SRU, to drive up standards for the club game. I hope it will be a good spectacle and everyone comes along will enjoy the game and we can showcase the club game in a good way.”
Saturday’s final will be between the two stand-out club sides of the season after Melrose saw off Currie and Ayr defeated Glasgow Hawks in the semi-finals.
Melrose get home advantage for the final after topping the regular season table four points ahead of the men from the west, who were one of only two teams to beat the Borderers when they won the clash between the two at Millbrae.
Ayr hooker Lewis Anderson said his men were determined to make amends for 12 months ago when they were pipped on their home patch by Heriot’s.
“We’re raring to go. It’s been a tough season when you think back to September. We’ve battled with Melrose every step of the way, watching for their results,” he said. “We are one of the only teams to have beaten them this season. But we know exactly the task we’ve got on our hands. It’s always difficult to come down here and play in front of a big crowd. But we’ve just got to take advantage of all the chances that come our way.”
“We beat them last season as well. We’ll have to stay patient, not get ahead of ourselves, and do what we practise at training every Tuesday and Thursday night. We know we’ve got the class to come down here and beat them. It’s going to be about who is more hungry on the day.
“I believe we’re a bit more hungry this season and have learnt from our mistakes. We had heartbreak last year. We’re not making the mistakes we made last season. We’re that bit more clever.”
Chrystie, who played in the last ever Border Reivers game ten years ago, and in his younger years was Chris Paterons’s half-back partner for the Scotland Under-20s, has relished his first full season as a head coach.
“This is what it is all about, this is what you do it for,” he said. “The format is that it is now a knockout tournament, which is good. It is good for the game, exciting and I hope we will get a good crowd on the back of it.
“You look at the history since the semis and final came in and they’ve always been close.
“I’m sure it will be tight again. I hope it will be someone in our shirt who does something really good to win it rather than a mistake.”