borders 21

exiles 6

THE real idea of playing these inter-district matches at this time of year was to give those chasing professional contracts for next year the opportunity to shine in a more rarified atmosphere than the club game.

The Borders, where the new pro team will be based, against the Exiles, then, was always going to be an important fixture, given that that many players down south would jump at the opportunity to cross the border in search of fame and fortune.

Yet it was not individual performances that initially marked this game as being worth watching, but the remarkable cohesion shown by both sides, considering how long they had been together - a testament to the coaching teams that should not be lost on Jim Telfer, who was watching.

The Exiles, from the start, played a strong, forwards-based game whereby the driving was of a high standard, but by the turn around they still had not even had a sniff of the try line, thanks to some outstanding defence from the Borderers. Graeme Cowe, in particular, was outstanding in both his tackling - he put in a try-saver against Jamie Murray - and his ability to turn defence into attack.

Had former Glasgow Hawks winger Campbell Aitken slotted his share of penalties, the first half would have closed level but, as it was, Callum MacRae gave the home side a slight edge, which they capitalised on in the early exchanges of the second period due to the sin-binning of Exiles' David Jackson. In his absence, Borders worked the ball out to the Geoff Caldwell, whose speed was too much for the Exiles defence.

Throughout the second half, the Borderers camped inside their opponents' half, but they discovered a resolute defence. Aitken and MacRae exchanged penalties late in the half, but only in the closing stages did the Borderers seriously threaten their visitors' try line. First Adam Roxburgh failed to deliver clean ball to David Gray after a gap had been made in the defence, then Cowe was held at bay a yard short

Roxburgh made amends for his error with one minute remaining when he finally crashed over after sustained pressure. It was no more than his side deserved, but it is unlikely that a video of the game will be of much interest to Tony Gilbert, the Border coach-in-waiting.

Borders S Paterson (Gala); G Caldwell, C MacRae (Melrose), D Gray (Gala), B Ruthven (Melrose); C Laidlaw (Jed) (G Douglas (Hawick), 80), G Cowe (Kelso); B McDonnell (Jed), M Landels (Hawick), D Paxton (Kelso) (H Fraser (Melrose), 65), J Szkudro (Jed), S MacLeod (Hawick), T Walker (Gala) (T Weir (Melrose), 69), B Keown (Hawick) (J Dalziel (Melrose), 80), A Roxburgh (Kelso)

Exiles B Hinshelwood (Worcester); C Aitken (London Scottish), P Baird (Kettering),

S Manson (Harrogate), A McLean (Coventry); G MacDonald (Moseley), D Bruce (Reading); N Lloyd (Wakefield), F Gladstone (Rugby)

(J Buchanan, 60), A Grierson (Reading),

D Whitehead (Aaras) (J Kelly (Bracknell), 75), S Begley (Old Blevedere), D Jackson (Bracknell) (J Summers (Reading), 65),

J Murray (Tynedale), L Hamilton (Wakefield) (S Wands (Waterloo), 41)

Referee Mike Hall (Boroughmuir)

Scoring sequence (Borders first) 0-3, 3-3,

6-3 (half-time); 11-3, 11-6, 14-6, 21-6

Scorers. Borders. Tries Caldwell (48), Roxburgh (79) Pens MacRae (16, 28, 74) Cons MacRae (79) Exiles: Pens Aitken

(10, 63)