Runners-up in the RBS Premiership to their great Border rivals, Gala restored pride for the Netherdale fans with a deserved win over the Greenyards club in the final of the Border League last night.
Gala looked the more determined of the two sides. "I thought we had total control of the game," said the Gala coach, George Graham. "Two clear mistakes by us let them in for two tries but I thought our defence was outstanding. It's great for us to get something from the season."
The Maroons won the game up front with powerful performance from their pack both in the set-piece and in open play. Outstanding among their forwards were the prop Rory Sutherland, No.8 Ewan Dods, who scored two tries, and the veteran lock Chris Weir. Behind the, the stand-off David O'Hagan played with great authority and, in midfield, the solid defence of Ewan Scott and Alan Emond gave Melrose few chances to make a breakthrough.
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Melrose, like Gala, were understrength, but their flanker Andrew Nagle took the man of the match award while the full-back Austin Lockington replicated the threat he poses on the sevens circuit. The other Melrose back to impress was Bruce Dick, playing his first full game since his recovery from an injury that has kept him out for most of the season.
Gala looked likely winners in the opening phases and gained the early advantage with a try by Dods from a penalty-created line-out in the corner, a concerted drive by the Maroons' pack and a clever splintering move leading to the score.
Centre Joe Helps' penalty attempt from long range for Melrose came up just short and, minutes later, O'Hagan was on target with a penalty for Gala to make it 8-0.
Their lead came under threat from a clever kick by Richard Mill but it was hesitancy in defence that gave Helps possession. The centre then supplied the scoring pass to fellow midfielder Bruce Dick for their opening score, converted by Helps.
Gala hit back quickly with powerful scrummaging that had the Melrose pack in difficulty. When Melrose turned over ball in their own 22, the Gala prop Sutherland - he has been training with Edinburgh - made a dent in the Melrose defence to create room for flanker Gary Graham to crash over. Again O'Hagan converted for a 15-7 half-time lead.
A second try by Dods after the break and O'Hagan's conversion extended Gala's lead and, when the Melrose lock James Head was sent to the sin-bin, it seemed Gala would win comfortably. Instead Melrose took advantage of a mistake by Gala full-back Craig Dods to score through Dick, with Helps converting. It was all Gala from then on, though, and a try by scrum-half Euan Gunter and an O'Hagan penalty sealed the win.
Gala Tries: E Dods 2, Graham, Gunter. Cons: O'Hagan 2. Pens: O'Hagan 2
Melrose Tries: Dick 2. Cons: Helps 2
Gala C Dods; G Young, E Scott, A Emond, C Somerville; D O'Hagan, E Gunter; R Sutherland, C Mackintosh, E Johnstone, C Borthwick, C Weir, G Graham, S Cairns, E Dods. Subs: L Bertram, R Anderson, S Chapman, T Weir, C Weir, R Howarth, C Robertson
Melrose A Lockington; C Anderson, B Dick, J Helps, A Dodds; R Mill, T Wilson; N Little, R Ferguson, G Holborn, J Head, P Eccles, R Knott, A Nagle, R Miller. Subs: C Mackay, C Arthur, R Ovens, D Crawford, D Colvine, R Taylor
Referee C Rudkin (Hawick)