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.
“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.”
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.