Durham University take the honours at Earlston Sevens

Beaten finalists Gala sit second in Kings of the Sevens table behind Melrose

Durham University beat Gala in the final of Earlston Sevens. Image: Rob Gray
Durham University beat Gala in the final of Earlston Sevens. Image: Rob Gray


IN a performance redolent of Loughborough University heyday on the Borders Spring Circuit all those years ago, Durham University put on a first class honours display to win the Earlston Centenary Sevens after defeating Gala in the final at the Haugh.

This was the Durham students second visit to the Borders this year, following their participation and victory in the qualifying tournament for the 2024 Melrose Sevens event. And if they did not catch the eye at the Greenyards then they certainly did so at Earlston, taking the tournament by storm with a demonstration of team and individual skills, all-round pace and physicality.

“It was pleasing to win here at Earlston” admitted the Durham coach, Simon Culley.  “The team grew throughout the day. It was a different team to the one that we took to Melrose bar two. It was a great opportunity to get exposed to the sevens scene here.

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Durham were more than well equipped to contest for one of the Kings of the Sevens titles, their team at Earlston containing players who have been involved at the top level, with Max Pepper in the England development squad and Nick Jonas having played at an equivalent standard. Moreover, Durham have a certain prestige as the defending BUCS sevens champions.

Gala’s coach, Craig Dods, acknowledged that playing against such a good side was hugely beneficial for his side. “We’ve never played that team before. They’ve got several England Sevens players in there, so what an experience it was for us. I can’t fault our guys performance and, to be honest, technically and physically I would back us against them. Maybe that semi pro and uni set-up helped them. We’ve got a lot of young guys in our team –Richie Mitchell on the wing is still only 17 and he was awesome for us.”

Durham swept through the first round with ease, beating Berwick 50-0 before making one of the elite teams, Jed-Forest, look less than title-winning material by delivering a 34-5 defeat on the Riverside men. Then, in the semi-final, Durham made light work of Watsonians, beating the Myresiders 38-12 to book their place in the final.

For their part, Gala came through the top half of the draw having to scrap for their wins apart from the first round when they disposed of Peebles with a 38-14 win. In the second round, they only just scraped past Selkirk with a 19-17 victory, before having another hard tie against their near neighbours Melrose in a match that again went to the wire, a last gasp try by Ben Gill giving the Maroons a 24-21 win.

In the final, Gala led 7-0 from a converted try scored by Taylor Wilson before Durham replied with three unanswered tries from Pepper, Fred Wooler and speedster Louis Anderson. But just before half-time, Gill scored a converted try to leave Gala just three points adrift with the score at 14-17.

Then, at the start of the second half, a try by Liam Scott put Gala into a 19-17 lead only for Pepper to regain the advantage for Durham.

Gala’s hopes of fighting back were dashed when Gill was yellow-carded after which Durham scored three further tries by Anderson, Wooler and Jonas to finish worthy winners by 41-19. For Gala, although beaten, there was some satisfaction in picking up a second set of runners-up medals in the space of 24 hours having also reached the final hurdle at Kelso on Saturday.

In terms of the Kings of the Sevens title race, Melrose remain in front, eight points ahead of Gala.


Final teams –

Gala: L Johnston, A Mitchell, T Mckavanagh, R Mitchell, T Wilson, L Scott, B Gill ,C Pate, F Johnston, S Peffers

Durham University: B Hull, W Watson, F Wooler, L Anderson, M Ford, G Lovatt, M Pepper, L Finn, W Morris, N Jonas.

Referee: Rob McDowall


Earlston Sevens Results  –

First round: Edinburgh Accies 7 Melrose 24; Kelso 50 Hawick 7; Earlston 7 Selkirk 40; Gala 38 Peebles 14; Berwick 0 Durham University 50; Jed-Forest 31 Edinburgh University 24; Gala YM 7 GAC 17; Boroughmuir 0 Watsonians 43.

Second round: Melrose 31 Kelso 0; Selkirk 17, Gala 19; Durham University 34 Jed-Forest 5; Gala 0 Watsonians 33.

Semi final: Melrose 21 Gala 24; Durham University 38 Watsonians 12.

Final: Gala 19 Durham University 41.


Kings of the Sevens standings (after eight rounds)  –

1. Melrose (45pts)

2. Gala (37pts)

3=. Edinburgh Accies and Watsonians (29pts)

5. Kelso (24pts)

6. Selkirk (21pts)

7. Jed-Forest (20pts)

8. Hawick (19pts)

9. Peebles (16pts)

10. Berwick (6pts)


Melrose defeat Gala in Kelso Sevens final

About Alan Lorimer 366 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.