The Borders is the place to be today for top-of-the-table RBS Premiership action, first playing fourth at the Greenyards and third taking on second at Netherdale.
Leaders Melrose host champions Ayr, with the former looking to bounce back from last week’s loss to Heriot’s. Back in week two of the season, Melrose signalled intent of their title challenge by winning 33-11 at Millbrae against today’s opponents.
Melrose came back from 11-8 down at the interval and all their of try scorers from that encounter – Austin Lockington, Peter Eccles, Nick Beavon, Fraser Thomson and Bruce Colvine – start for the hosts today.
Melrose head coach John Dalziel said: “There is a real determination amongst the group after a disappointing result and performance against a good Heriot’s side last Saturday.
“Everyone is fully aware of the importance of this match, which is against a very experienced and well-drilled Ayr side.”
Ayr head south having won their last four matches in the league against Aberdeen Grammar, Glasgow Hawks, Hawick and Stirling County.
Ross Curle starts at stand-off, with Finn Russell on the Glasgow Warriors bench at Connacht later on this evening.
Last September, when Ayr travelled to the Greenyards, they won 22-12, Grant Anderson bagging two tries – and today he skippers the Millbrae men.
Ayr head coach Peter Laverie said: “This will not be a game for the faint-hearted and I expect our big-game players to step up to the mark.”
Gala, in third, and Heriot’s meet at Netherdale, both coming off good wins last week. Gala beat Currie 48-16 and hooker Russell Anderson has shaken off a knock sustained in that one to start in the front row.
Of course, revenge will be on Gala’s mind. They were leading 27-6 against Heriot’s at Goldenacre back in August before the Edinburgh club sparked an amazing comeback. A late penalty by Graham Wilson eventually saw Heriot’s home 28-27.
Gala coach George Graham said: “Heriot’s have kicked on since we last met them and let them off the hook. This a huge game because, if we win it, we will close the gap on the top two and still have two games in hand.”
Glasgow Hawks’ good win over Edinburgh Accies last week sees them sitting in fifth place. Today they are also in the Borders to take on Hawick at Mansfield Park.
When both teams battled their way out of the RBS National League last season, they drew 16-16 and Hawick won 11-6, while, earlier this term, Hawks won 24-18.
Hawks co-coach Jamie Dempsey said: “Hawick are a well-coached team and we are respectful of the culture Phil Leck has created at Mansfield.”
Edinburgh Accies will have been glad to see the back of October as they lost four matches in the month in the league and British & Irish Cup.
They will be keen to get back to winning ways against Aberdeen Grammar, the latter’s win last week against Hawick ending a run of five straight defeats.
The bottom two meet at Bridgehaugh, as Stirling County host Currie looking to leave them further adrift in tenth.