British Army triumph as Melrose Sevens awakens from Covid

Currie Chieftains are the surprise package of the tournament, reaching the semi-final with win over favourites Co-Optimists

The British Army lit up the Melrose Sevens at the Greenyards. Image: Bryan Robertson
The British Army lit up the Melrose Sevens at the Greenyards. Image: Bryan Robertson

THE BRITISH ARMY came out on top as the Melrose Sevens returned after two years of Covid-enforced cancellations on a crisp Spring afternoon at the Greenyards yesterday [Saturday]. The military team, packed with Fijian pace and power, defeated fellow guest side Samurai (featuring a couple of familiar names in former Selkirk and Heriot’s stalwart Callum Marshall and former Scotland Sevens winger Max McFarland)  26-14 in the final.

However, the tournament wasn’t completely dominated by the guest sides. Hosts Melrose and Currie Chieftains both reached the semi-finals, with Chieftains in particular lighting up the Greenyards with a surprise quarter-final win over a Co-Optimists side side containing a handful of stars from the international Sevens circuit, as well as a smattering of Edinburgh pros (albeit they were aided in that match by the early red-carding of Edinburgh winger Freddie Owsley for a swinging arm).

“It’s not an easy tournament, especially from the quarter-finals onwards when it gets really tough, but we managed to get going from the first game,” said Army head coach Isoa Damu, a former Fijian internationalist on the World Sevens circuit, “I’m really pleased because this is our first tournament of the year and we only got together this week.


U18 international festivals: mixed fortunes for Scotland men and women in opening round

Edinburgh v Pau: hosts book home draw in last 16 of Challenge Cup with big win

TikTok 6N: two changes to Scotland team to face France


“They have come together from all over Britain, and Cyprus, Germany and all over Europe, and they don’t play a lot of rugby outside the Sevens season, but they have talent as they showed today.

“We were here two years ago so the boys know how big a tournament it is, and they are all very excited to be here. Just before the final I said to them: ‘This is the birthplace of sevens so if you win this then it will be in your memories for the rest of your life.’ So, they understand how big a tournament this is and I’m just glad that they showed that with the way they performed.”

Currie’s progression to the last four was  all the more remarkable given that it came seven days after the disappointment of losing the Premiership play-off Final to Marr, having dominated the regular part of the season. They are not a club with a particularly illustrious Sevens history but captain Fergus Scott says he hopes that this experience will lead to greater focus on the abbreviated game in years to come.

“We trained Tuesday and Thursday, but I think the key is that we have trained hard all season, and what Sevens does is test your core skills which is something we’ve worked hard on all year,” said Scott, who revealed that this was the first proper sevens tournament he had ever played in.

“We just took the view that we’d pull together our best squad and give it a bash. We got the rub of the green at times as well, but I’d argue we made our own luck by working hard. We had nothing to lose and we just gave it our all. That was the most pleasing thing for me – the fight and the determination we showed.

“And I thought we played some really good sevens at times, we held our shape, stretched teams wide and were pretty clinical when we had to be.

“Hopefully it is something which spurs us on in the seasons to come, to take our sevens seriously and really push it.

“We’ve always tended to be involved in the Premiership play-offs at this time of the year so fifteens has been the focus and Melrose has probably been a bit of an afterthought for us in the past. Something we enjoy but we don’t take incredibly seriously. But if it is something we can really develop then that is an extra string to our bow as a club, because it can be a real highlight, with a big crowd and a lot of history, so it is a special thing to be part of.”

Results –

First Round: Glasgow Hawks 0 Musselburgh 29; Stirling County 40 Hawick 7; Boroughmuir 0 Currie 38; Selkirk 33 Ayr 5; Kelso 5 Co-Optimists 31; Samurai 71 Heriot’s 0; GHA 22 Gala 24; Edinburgh Accies 14 Jed-Forest 42; Peebles 14 Aberdeen 20; Marr 17 Watsonians 12.

Second Round: Musselburgh 7 Seventse 47, Stirling County 14 British Army 43, Currie Chieftains 29 Lomaiviti 12, Selkirk 5 Co-Optimists 22, Samurai 43 Gala 0, Jed-Forest 33 London Scottish 24, Aberdeen Grammar 0 Melrose 43, Watsonians 7 Belgium 36.

Quarter-Finals: Seventse 17 British Army 24; Currie Chieftains 17 Co-Optimists 5; Samurai 33 Jed-Forest 21; Melrose 14 Belgium 10.

Semi-Finals: British Army 36 Currie Chieftains 5; Samurai 24 Melrose 14.

Final: British Army 26 Samurai 14.


Obituary: Tom Smith: a giant of Scottish and Lions rugby

About David Barnes 2991 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

55 Comments

  1. Paul Eti Slater has joined the teaching staff at St.Mary’s School. That is over the fence from the Greenyards, ( before the rants start about his qualification to play for Melrose )

    3
    11
    • Paul eti Slater is starting at 13 for Southern Knights super 6 team against Heriots tomorrow

      As is P Anderson & K Clark .

      All In Melrose squad for last weeks 7s .
      Please explain how this can be if SRU rules say they can’t if they’re in Super 6 franchise
      Nothing to stop the guy teaching at St Mary’s but he’s a Super 6 player signed to the Southern Knights .

      17
      1
      • To James & Broon .
        Facts From Southern Knights Twitter .( unless they’re lying )
        So there it is then for all to see . Contracted Super 6 players .
        Who’ s been telling ‘porkies’
        Await some kind of apology .

        From Walter
        The ‘Lying ‘ Troll .

        11
      • James …..

        Stuart Cameron borders rugby tv website …
        Borders league having meeting on April 20th to discuss how super 6 players were playing for Melrose rfc .
        When not allowed to do so.
        Everything I have posted is
        FACT.

        I rest my case .

    • Broon – I am relatively open minded however I think claiming that Paul Eti Taylor has a Melrose club connection because he is on the teaching staff at St Mary’s is actually somewhat insulting to those that have a reasonable knowledge of Borders rugby …
      He is a newly contracted Southern Knights player and had never played for Melrose before the sevens – I assume you will concede this … ? Are you really going to claim that this qualifies him to play for Melrose in front of club players who have trained and played with Melrose all season….wow.
      Similarly Robbie Chalmers and Patrick Anderson have not played at Melrose for some years indeed Robbie Chalmers played for Edinburgh Accies after Melrose and before he went to Super 6 with Heriots and now the Knights.
      I know some Melrose supporters and it says it all when they had never heard of Eti-Taylor before the sevens.
      Supporters follow clubs that they have history with and can relate to – they don’t follow clubs that compromise their integrity and identity with truly questionable decision making like this.
      The length that clubs will go to to squeeze players of dubious eligibility into their squads at the expense of their pre existing playing membership is so disappointing and shows a complete lack of respect to the players that have played for and supported the club all season. Integrity in our game is in short supply …

      13
  2. As always some folk just believe what they believe without doing their homework. As has been said £25 at the gate £15 concession for 9 hrs isnt expensive these days. I watched the first round on tv and thought it looked a bit sparse until i arrived at 2.30 and the fan area with live band and big screen was absolutely heaving. Again as mentioned that certainly worked in terms of not all being in the ground and it reflects that these days you have those who go for the rugby and also event attendees.
    Plus the ground has to adhere to modern rules around a smaller event capacity.
    The purpose of the Sevens is to put on a show of rugby and have as good players there as is available. I find it amusing that a Super 6 player isnt welcome but those who get paid elsewhere are at all tournaments through guest sides etc. Its double standards by those who dont like S6. it wasnt a surprise some played just in my mind regrettable it wasnt encouraged more by those who perhaps could have.
    This pro v amateur is a non arguement as the Premiership players are allowed to be paid and many are. If taken as gospel that would mean a paid premiership player could never be dropped and play 2nd RUGBY and no premiership teams play in Sevens.
    We should welcome the opportunity to play against the best, we always used to when i played. I would have loved to go home on Saturday night and be able to say i played against Cecil Africa or James Johnstone.
    In terms of Melrose stealing players from local clubs, i can think of Dalziel, Tom Weir and Thomson from Gala, who he now Coaches along with Craig Jackson of Melrose guided by their DOR Bill Noble who was at Melrose for decades.
    Gary Elder and Andrew Nagle , Jed. Anderson and McCormick from Peebles who both went back to coach after successful stints . None from Selkirk . 3 maybe from Hawick who all went back sometimes via other clubs and a couple from Kelso, So maybe 12 or so in modern times with a few also going the other way. If you choose to look you will find Border clubs have recruited from each other to a far far greater scale the Melrose ever did.
    As for Kings of the Sevens , the other tournaments are unfortunately struggling, some of the Border clubs who shout about sticking together actually pulled out of Gala’s to play XVS. If we truly care about RUGBY AND PLAYERS The Melrose Tournament through its history has to be different and as the founding event has to be as good as possible.
    Was it perfect, absolutely not, but it must take a hell of an effort to try being so so long may folk have the will to keep trying and to be different. I want all sevens, Selkirk Hawick every one to thrive but if Melrose fails then Sevens will fail for all in its country of origin. Thats like closing St Andrews and other golf courses
    No doubt when Ned Haig and his cohoots suggested 7 against 7 in tournament form to raise funds they would have had some who said they were absolutely nuts and gone daft on this site if they had the chance.
    I hope other tournaments have good guest teams, i hope they all try to raise the standard to make it worth watching and more importantly to play in. I hope all teams turn up with their best players before its too late . Surely its better to work hard to maintain and improve something, to be inventive when its clear things are not as they were and to try to adjust accordingly. Alternatively, do the easy stuff, moan do nothing and watch it all disappear .

    20
    11
    • A very sensible and even-handed response to the mindless trolls below who can’t wait to latch on to any load of utter nonsense to purvey their hate and don’t have the intelligence to believe that just because they write something they want to be true it doesn’t make it so.

      10
      13
      • If people choose not to support someone who highlights a serial liar then that is up to them Daffy/Walter but I don’t take serial lying trolls on the chin.

        2
        11
      • Only you says he’s lying James
        He’s stating facts which happened at Melrose .
        You seem to have it in for anyone or any platform ( Off S Line )who doesn’t agree with your comments even suggesting he has other names .
        Laughable .

        9
        1
      • Wrong again Daffy/Walter there was a long reply from someone else highlighting the lies.

        You seem to believe that if you say something then it must be true. That only works in the mind of the extremely gullible.

        I’m all for others having different opinions. I’m all against people who tell lies and make things up like you and Walter.

        Anyway I’ve made my point so if David wants to allow serial lying trolls to ruin his website then that’s up to him and if you think that posting lies adds to any debate then I’ll simply feel sorry for you and leave you to it. Bye.

        3
        9
      • I’m sorry James, but i genuinely can’t work out what specifically you are saying is a lie?

        10
        1
      • “Dodson made the rules about. Super 6 players .
        Melrose RFC have to explain how they were allowed to participate at 7s with no connection to club when other clubs couldnt”

        This is the latest batch of lies. I really isn’t difficult to identify the lies on this and several other threads.

        3
        10
      • So is Paul Eti Slater a Melrose player or a Southern Knights player?

        I don’t really have any issue with this but you are calling people liars and trolls, and it really isn’t clear why.

        I just don’t think this level of aggression is necessary or helpful. You are even getting vicious at people for ‘liking’ comments!

        10
        1
      • Paul eti Slater is Starting at 13 tomorrow for Southern Knights super 6 v Heriots .
        Unless their website is telling lies .

      • “Melrose RFC have to explain how they were allowed to participate at 7s with no connection to club when other clubs couldnt””

        Other clubs couldn’t? That’s a lie.

        And if a journalist can’t tell fact from fiction then he isn’t much of a journalist in my opinion. But let’s not bother about the truth the clicks you get are good aren’t they?

        1
        8
      • In addition Walter the self-confessed troll on 12th April

        “Why are Border League looking into this then.”

        Evidence? Nope just another smear from the self-confessed troll.

        1
        8
      • James .
        Melrose are allowed to partake in their own 7s .fact
        Never said they weren’t.
        But Dodson’s SRU rules said no super 6 contracted players to to be included in club teams .fact
        Super 6 players included in Melrose 7s squad .fact
        3 playing today .Southern Knights v Heriots .fact
        Awaiting some sort of apology for myself & David Barnes .but might have to wait awhile .
        You have to give it a rest James .
        Why can’t you just admit you’re wrong and suck it up

        Walter
        Aka as you say a lying Troll

        8
        1
      • The fact you ignore addressing the lies I highlighted shows that you have no defence. You remain as you say a lying troll and you can waffle all you like but your lies are there for all to see.

        If a supposed journalist chooses to host a website that encourages lies and smears then that’s up to him but it brings into question to credibility of anything he writes in the future.

        I’ll find somewhere else to catch up on news about our great game which isn’t polluted by the lies and smears of a self-confessed lying troll and his supporters.

        Please waste lots of time writing more deluded nonsense which I will delight in ignoring. It will at least give anyone with an ounce of sense a good laugh.

        1
        9
      • As far as I can see and I’ve double checked before posting Walter has stated facts which are out there to be seen. which you seem to dismiss as lies .
        You offer no facts of your own to prove otherwise which is strange.
        Yet You rant on by continually calling him a ‘lying ‘ ‘ Troll ‘ which is sad .
        Even slating Offside Line ‘s Editor David Barnes for not agreeing with your views which is deplorable
        James Watch your blood pressure you’re going to have a bad turn
        Bye bye

        9
        1
    • Dodson made the rules about. Super 6 players .
      Melrose RFC have to explain how they were allowed to participate at 7s with no connection to club when other clubs couldnt

      14
      2
      • Totally Untrue Walter. The Clubs have their own rules on who can play in sevens or their tournament. There are absolutely no Sru rules hence why even pro players can play. It all comes down to availability and choice. Unfortunately more were not released as i think S6 should include some sevens exposure
        With squads of 12 on the day a few clubs borrowed players from other clubs and when they lose someone through injury they can borrow as has been the case for yonks. This happens all the time especially at other tournaments for example Berwick when some dont even turn up.
        The ones who impose restrictions are the clubs themselves , they would rather stop players playing than understand the tournaments need to be improved and standards raised. Until of course they invite guest teams/players who may be pro or semi pro elsewhere or invite guests teams who are invitational and not a club . Thats fine cos it suits when its them. Are you gona go nuts when another club has to put a presidents side together made up of whoever to keep their tournament alive , I hope not?
        If your club(if you have one) has Newcastle or Loughborough or a club from say level 3 in England who are semi pro invited to their sevens, no doubt not a question will be asked nor should it be.
        I will never forget Mr Campese diving over in the corner at the Greenyards, he was quite decent i think , as with many then probably a bigger pro by current s6 standards, but we just didnt talk about it. But a privilege to witness, a memory, a creation of a love of rugby for many. Cant recall many moaning then when most were just thrilled at being on the pitch with and against far better than they were.

        7
        7
      • Head scratcher.
        Dodson made the rules per super 6 players.

        Why are Border League looking into this then .
        Melrose fiddling with the rules for their own benefit

        10
        2
      • Can Walter list the players in the Melrose squad from last Saturday who have no connection with the Greenyards ?

        3
        7
      • Yet another pack of lies posted by the serial lying troll Walter.

        The fact that people choose to like his lies and share his hate (assuming they aren’t all his sock-puppet accounts) says more about them than anything else.

        The fact that TOL allows the troll Walter to peddle his hate here says something about them to. And it isn’t good.

        3
        12
      • James, thanks for your advice but on the basis of the tone of the comments posted by both yourself and Walter on this thread, I’m not sure how solid your argument is that he is the troll.

        PS: Has Paul Eti Slater got a previous connection with Melrose? [genuine question]

        15
        1
      • James.
        You have to respect other peoples opinions whether you like them or not .
        This is a forum full of opinions
        The fact that 26 people ( not just myself )agree with my opinion ……4 don’t ….means that not all agree with yourself .
        You’ll have to accept that a lot of people in borders don’t really have much time for Melrose for many reasons.

        On Saturday

        Flaunting rules that Dodson put in place to help themselves .nobody else
        Ps
        I can’t do 25 aliases

        11
        2
      • Broon – maybe you’ve asked the wrong question, since the issue others have raised essentially concerns two separate entities (Southern Knights & Melrose) both of which play at the largely SBC & SRU funded Greenyards facility.

        I have no axe to grind here, but suspect that the more pertinent, really big question will be answered by a considered internal review of the event, revealing whether or not the brave new Phil Morris / Hong Kong model and organisational culture has proved sufficiently successful / viable / attractive / sustainable going forward.

        6
        3
      • Lies aren’t opinions Walter.

        And a serial liar is a troll in my book David although I appreciate that trolls bring you clicks.

        2
        10
  3. I’m not sure it was quieter than normal , it was probably just a bit more spread out. I think the marketing on this event was very good. The fanzone allowed spectators to have a drink in closer proximity to the club rather than go up the street and there were a number of other options within the club footprint for drinks / food – this may have contributed towards the suggestion that the ground itself was not as full. The ground entry of £26 is reasonably good for the entertainment in offer , I am not so sure the hospitality options were as good value – £121 for 4 entry , 4 drinks tokens and a buffet is a bit steep for me.
    I suspect that the club will have made more money from drink sales with this format as opposed to previous years where a lot of this revenue went to the local pubs. Whether by accident or design the feeling that it was quieter was probably a good thing from the Covid perspective as well as it would have been unwise to be packed in like sardines with the current high infection rate.
    I like the emphasis on the Saturday event and I would not be as supportive if they transition to a 4 day semi pro event as was muted pre Covid. The Melrose 7’s Saturday is a fantastic day out but don’t get greedy , people don’t have the money to be paying multiple entry fees for multiple events. Just keep on putting the emphasis on the Saturday with a bit of evening entertainment and this will continue to be well supported.
    The organisation and marketing for this event is to be applauded.

    7
    4
    • Previously, everything was focused around the rugby. Packed embankments of 10,000 people having a good time and enjoying watching teams on the famous ground as they had done for 140 years. Then this year, half the atmosphere was transported to the field and beer tent next door. Still a great day out I agree, but the Melrose 7s is rugby’s Wimbledon or US Masters, to “modernise” is to risk losing what makes it so special. It may bring a short term boost to revenues but what damage may it do in the long term? Time will tell. One thing is for sure, if they respected the format that had worked for the past 140 years, it would work for another 140 years.

  4. Go down to Melrose and just as at every other rugby club in the Borders and indeed in the country you will find lots of honest decent people. Go onto almost any online comments section and lift a stone and crawling around you will find the odd immature, inadequate trolling halfwit who thinks he speaks on behalf of an entire community in order to rubbish something or somebody they hate. The saddest thing of all of course is that normally the person they hate most is themselves.

    16
    20
    • Impressive stuff from Heriots. To concede 11 tries and 8 conversions in 14 minutes takes some doing.

      3
      3
      • Don’t know who you are Cian McDonald or if you’ve even played a game of rugby, I don’t care, but I’m going to set the record for you. Last Saturday Heriots Rugby Club had a Super Six squad at Newcastle. Their Blues 2’s squad was playing in the final of the Reserve Leagues, which they won coincidentally. Their Blues 1st squad have a title decider against Gala this Saturday in National One so the decision was taken to rest the whole of their squad for one of the most important games in the club’s history. By my estimation that was approximately 80 players that were not available for selection.
        The squad that played at Melrose did themselves and Heriots proud. They had the opportunity to play at Melrose Sevens albeit they came up against one of the strongest sides in the first round.
        This forum does not require synical comments like the one you made.
        Douglas Livingstone
        Past President Heriot’s Rugby Club
        Melrose Sevens Winner 1982

        11
        2
  5. Melrose for nemerous years have pillaged amateur clubs all over the country of their players. The 7s come around and they then invite those amateurs clubs to attend, to then be generally hammered by professionals outfits. I am surprised the clubs keep going back every year.
    I am certain that the Saturday will soon be turned into a full semi professional tournament and these amateur clubs who have supported Melrose for all those years will be invited to a lesser competition on another day.
    Absolutely disgraceful that Melrose used super six players, it’s no surprise they are not popular in the borders, I hope their super six points are deducted.

    18
    4
    • Melrose Melrose Melrose how can you sleep at night.
      Devious Devious Devious .
      But caught out big time .
      Await the explanation with gusto.

      15
      4
  6. Think the eligibility issue being raised is entirely valid. I would say that one of the issues regarding crowd size might have been the extortionate ticket prices as well. A shame really because the public love 7s and it’s a great way to pull in people who arent died in the wool rugby fans which the sport up here desperately needs.

    18
    2
    • £27 for 9 hours of sevens seems ok to me. Tournament started before 11 am. Other sevens looks to be £15 this year for tournaments starting at 2pm so 3 hour less entertainment. Add in the legends and the ladies game it’s hardly a rip off .

      1
      3
  7. The overall strategy makes little sense and does not make for a fair and equitable contest.
    Invite strong guest teams that over the piece are too strong for amateur club teams then Melrose make the decision to set themselves apart by bolstering the Melrose team with 6 Southern Knights , one of whom has no previous playing allegiance to Melrose ?
    What I would ask is how those who make these decisions expect them to be received, both by the Melrose club players who are training week in , week out and are not selected and also by the other Scottish clubs not permitted or able to bolster their squads.
    It makes no sense why none of the other Super 6 clubs were able to call upon a super 6 cohort to bolster their squads or alternatively why the super 6 draft players were not permitted to play for the team that drafted them during the season ?
    There are so many reasons to question the morality of these decisions and they are not being fair , either to their own playing membership or the other Scottish clubs that they are also disadvantaging by this questionable decision making.
    You can’t have it all ways Melrose , if you want a prestige tournament with elite teams then you must give the Scottish clubs the opportunity to match the playing ability within their squads.
    A few of the squads yesterday were average at best – Aberdeen , Peebles, Hawks , Hawick were not great , Heriots and Gala had weakened squads with Gala apparently feeling the need to import players from Stirling Uni ?
    The fact they chose to field weakened squads so that they did not impact on their 15’s squads for their game next week is again disappointing and devalues the tournament.
    The day itself was good and as usual a decent showpiece. The playing / eligibility side of it is really a mess however and the organisers and clubs need to get together and agree a format for next year that promotes a fairer and more equitable contest
    I hope they can manage to keep the integrity of the Saturday competition as opposed to the pre Covid ambition to have competitions over the 4 days.
    The tournament has been successful in the past based on the original Saturday format which has always been a highlight of the Borders calendar , let’s hope Melrose don’t get greedy and attempt overstretching themselves and bringing in 3/4 day playing events.

    25
    • Cmon Melrose .

      Yer at it again.
      Ye have be fair to everyone .but your

      Agree fully with your post GRob
      Melrose no bothered about any one else .make up the rules to suit themselves

      18
      3
  8. What happened to the grand festival plans? Bit of a missed opportunity by not having an U16/U18 Male and female event on the Sunday, could have used the various pitches nearby. Agree with Super 6, that is Dodson’s b*****d child and of no interest to Borders fans. Weather looked good but crowd smaller and we can’t keep on blaming COVID. Interesting to compare with the other events later on.
    Btw Walkerburn are attempting a 7s, that is the true heart of Borders 7 and good luck to them.

    11
    1
  9. They should have promoted it in multiple places including this site, weeks before, I only learned about it this last week – too late to plan attendance. Interesting win by the Fijian… sorry British army!!

    8
    7
    • To be fair, at least the Fijians actually serve in the British army unlike some of the Southern Knights drafted who have not played for Melrose.

      15
      2
      • Who exactly were the non Melrose / Southern Knights draftees who played for Melrose on Saturday ?

  10. I enjoyed it but a few observations. Sparse crowd compared with normal as there was a giant beer tent to distract a large number of punters. Far too many mercenary type teams and played on a 3G pitch. The rugby on show was still good to watch but the essence of this tournament seems to have been lost to some degree.

    24
    2
    • Melrose at it again.
      Souther Knights team ( super 6 ) is meant to represent borders area not Melrose club….

      Melrose club has nothing to do with this franchise .
      Yet Super 6 players were playing in Melrose team at 7s .
      SRU ( Dodson’s rules ) said super 6 players were not allowed to play down against Amateur teams
      Yet this happened yesterday . …….Points yesterday going to Kings 7 s series
      If this was the case why were other teams not allowed to play their local super 6 players
      Naughty Melrose .again one rule for them not for others .
      Ps.
      Border League are having a meeting to see how this was allowed .
      As I’ve said Naughty Naughty Melrose .and you wonder how they’re disliked in borders

      27
      5

Comments are closed.