Hosts claim derby honours by Head
MELROSE resumed their title challenge with victory over their close rivals Gala in a match that was not decided until the final two minutes.
With the teams locked at 27-27, Gala lost back row Kris Mein to the sin-bin, allowing Melrose to kick to corner and launch a series of close-range drives that ended with lock forward James Head scoring the winning try.
It was a disappointing ending for a Gala side that had battled against the odds in the scrum and which at one stage in the second half led 27-17. But despite the enterprising play that brought them three tries, Gala were always going suffer against a more muscular Melrose pack and particularly so in the front row.
“We’re struggling in the front row but the boys are trying their hearts out,” George Graham, the Gala coach, said. “Chris Keen is doing very well in the tighthead for a guy who’s an out-and-out loosehead. Luke Pettie has a battered and bruised body and we don’t have replacements for them because we’re struggling for cover,”
By contrast, Melrose were able to rotate their props, using Scotland Under-20 cap Dan Elkington and promising front row Ruairi McLeod off the bench. The imbalance in the packs increased when Gala lost Craig Borthwick, with a shoulder injury midway through the second half.
With so much scrum dominance, Melrose should have won more comfortably but failed to maintain their initial intensity. “It was disappointing that we switched off but I was pleased that we kept the ball in the second half and went through the phases,” said their coach, John Dalziel.
Tries by Borthwick and Alan Emond plus accurate kicking from Dods gave Gala a 20-10 interval lead, with Melrose having scored through Nick Beavon and Lewis Carmichael. But touchdowns by Bruce Colvine, Sam Pecqueur on either side of a Graham Spiers try for Gala, made it all square before Head claimed the winner.