Another Gala opening at Philiphaugh

HISTORY will repeat itself this afternoon at Philiphaugh when Selkirk play Gala on a brand new pitch, as happened when the ground was opened 77 years ago this month.

Last May, flash floods destroyed the Philiphaugh clubhouse and changing-rooms as well as the playing surface, which was submerged beneath three feet of water.

"We had to strip almost three inches off the topsoil so it’s really a new pitch and I must say it’s looking better than ever," admitted Selkirk president John Smail, who has been the driving force behind the clean-up operations, which will culminate next spring when a new clubhouse will be opened. "We estimate the cost of the damage to be about 400,000, and though we were insured there will be a shortfall," added Smail.

"That will be met by a big fund-raising programme, including a sportsman’s dinner on 31 October, which will include an auction of items donated by such luminaries as Bill McLaren, Gregor Townsend and Hong Kong RFC."

Because of the work at Philiphaugh, Selkirk have had to play their first four games of the season away, and today’s match will be their first home outing of the campaign.

"It is a replay of the game that took place in 1926," explained Smail. "It will be a big occasion for our players, supporters and officials, who have worked so hard in trying circumstances.

"Last season we did not win any away games in the league, but already we’ve won two out of four and what’s encouraging is that we’ve done it with an influx from our under-18 side who won the national championship last season."

Among them are two backs, Fraser Harkness and Alistair Lyall, while forwards Steven Renwick and Ian Walling have also made their debuts in a side coached by Mick Craig and Denver Rumney.

Smail is expecting a four- figure crowd today, and said: "It will be tremendous, even if some come along just to see the transformation that’s taken place over the past few months. I’m sure they’ll be impressed."

Whether they see a home win is another matter. Gala have won all four games so far, notching 170 points in the process - 68 of them against Murrayfield last Saturday.

Leaders Dundee HSFP are not resting on their laurels, and arriving this week to bolster their squad ahead of today’s game against Kirkcaldy were Otago B stand-off Mike Kerr and Irish students Danny Slavin and Neil McCombie, who played last season.

Kerr’s presence will allow Lindsay Graham, who has worn the No10 jersey in the last two games, to return to centre, although Kerr can’t play until next week.

Third-placed Biggar are away to Haddington, and such is the confidence flowing through Gary Parker’s men just now that they look likely to maintain their unbeaten record.

Stewart’s-Melville, with Mike Elliott and Stefan de Beer in for Fraser Deeming and Simon Capaldi, take on Murrayfield Wanderers at Murrayfield, while Grangemouth and West of Scotland - without a point between them - meet at Glensburgh.

There’s a Border derby at Riverside Park, where Jed- Forest, already with two defeats to their name, await Kelso.

Jed shake up their XV with Craig Goodfellow coming in at full-back and Kevin Amos switching to stand-off. Scott McDonald is on the right wing as Simon Lightbody has a broken hand, while Billy Graham is recalled to the back-row in place of Donald Grieve.

Jed have also signed Welshman Gareth Davies, a No 8 who has spent the last four years in France. He will be available next week.