MELROSE regained the Waverley Cup with a comfortable Boxing Day win at Netherdale in a hard game marred by serious injuries to players from either side.
Scorers: Gala. Try, Anderson. Con, Scott; Pen, Scott. Melrose. Tries, Colvine, Beavon. Cons, Helps (2). Pens Helps (2)..
Just before half-time, Gala prop Paul Stewart was stretchered off with a broken ankle while referee Cammy Rudkin took the players off the field just after the interval when Melrose back-row player, Ruairidh Knott, was taken to hospital with suspected injuries to his hip and pelvis.
Gala had won the cup in the three previous seasons, but Melrose held the upper hand in front of a crowd in excess of 2000.
“It was a decent game until the injuries and it then lost its shape a bit,” said Melrose coach John Dalziel. “We had young guys there getting their first chance in a Melrose jersey, and I am really pleased about that.
“This game remains a huge opportunity for us [and Gala] developing the squad, and provides the next generation of Melrose and Gala players.”
Gala coach George Graham added: “The injuries did overshadow the game, but both teams wanted to play rugby. Although we lost, I was encouraged by a number of things. We had opportunities, but it was just the execution. There is disappointment when you lose to your neighbours, but there is still encouragement.”
In a stop-start first half, Melrose held the initiative after Joe Helps kicked a penalty to put his side ahead after only three minutes. But Helps missed an opportunity to increase the lead when he pulled a penalty wide.
The Melrose defence stood firm until Ewan Scott levelled the scores with a penalty.
Seven minutes from the interval, Melrose scored the opening try when Helps slipped a pass to Murdo McAndrew, who in turn sent Bruce Colvine under the posts and Helps converted.
Worse was to follow for the home side as Helps banged over a second penalty and on the stroke of half-time, Stewart was stretchered off to leave Gala ten points adrift.
Two minutes into the second half, the game was held up for over ten minutes as Knott received attention before he too was taken off and the players sent to the dressing rooms.
Melrose put the tie beyond doubt, though, when forward pressure saw Nick Beavon driven over and Helps added a second conversion. Tito Mua was yellow-carded, but Gala were unable to make the extra man count until Russell Anderson scored and Scott converted.
Gala: R. Howarth; K. Young, E. Scott, A. Emond, G. Speirs; D. O’Hagan, I. Ross; P. Stewart; R. Anderson, E. Johnstone, C. Weir, O. Palepoi, , S. Wilkinson, E. Dods, T. Weir. Subs: R. Tod, C. Mackintosh, K. Mein, S. Johnstone, G. Somerville, R. Jeffrey, C. Dods..
Melrose: F. Thomson; T. Mua, B. Hutchison, J. Helps, B. Colvine; T. Galbraith, M. McAndrew; N. Little, R. Ferguson, E McQuillin, A.Nagle, L. Carmichael, P. Eccles, R. Knott, G. Dodds. Subs C. Mackay, N. Beavon, N.Irvine-Hess, A. Runciman, T. Wilson, R. Mill, G. Taylor..
Referee: C Rudkin