HAVING performed impressively in their British and Irish Cup campaign earlier this season, Melrose now find themselves facing a potential relegation struggle after losing their penultimate RBS Premiership match to Gala at Netherdale yesterday.
On a bitterly cold day that forced match referee Neil Paterson to leave the field after suffering from hypothermia, Melrose, save for a surge towards the end of the match, were second best to their near neighbours for most of the game, but their coach Craig Chalmers believes that it will be a clean slate when the two sides resume hostilities in next Saturday’s Cup semi-final at Netherdale.
“It’s a cup game next week against Gala and we know that if we win it we’ll be through to the final. We know we’re in a bit of a hole just now but there are a few boys to come back and there are a few areas we can improve in,” said Chalmers.
But there was no disguising Gala’s ambitions to continue what has been a good season for them, albeit they have missed out on achieving the ultimate Premiership honour. Gala coach George Graham said: “I thought our defence today was awesome. We defended ferociously when we were down to 13 men with two in the sin-bin. But we also took our chance when Melrose suffered two yellows. We were hugely motivated to win today because whoever took the spoils today went into next week with momentum.”
Impressive for the winners was lock Gary Graham, whose work rate was immense and suggestive of his readiness to play professional rugby, and there were good displays from No.8 Euan Dods and prop Ewan McQuillan, playing his way back to fitness after illness.
Gala showed their attacking intentions early in the game with a break by Lee Millar that almost brought a try for Grant Somerville. But the home side soon reaped their reward with a penalty goal from Millar after a darting run by scrum half George Graham.
Then when Craig Robertson came off his blindside wing and roared through midfield, Gala bagged their first try, quick recycling allowing Opeta Palepoi to feed Gary Graham with the scoring pass.
Melrose’s chances of a quick reply were crippled by yellow cards shown to Graham Dodds and John Dalziel in the space of two minutes. Gala took immediate advantage with a pick-up from the base of the scrum by Dods and a simple try for the No.8, Millar’s conversion giving his side a 15-0 lead.
Just before the break Gala suffered a similar fate to Melrose with first Ben Murray and then Craig Hogg binned, but the Maroons were able to withstand a siege.
Melrose looked more purposeful in the second half and from a searing break by No.8 Andrew Nagle, Fraser Thomson sped in for a try. But despite pressure on the Gala line in the final minutes, Melrose were unable to add points, leaving Gala winners – for this week’s episode.