JED-FOREST made it two from two in the 2019-20 Kings of the Sevens series by following up their win at Peebles last weekend with victory in the Hawick tournament by defeating Melrose in a physical final on a rain-soaked Mansfield Park.
Jed’s ability to blend an effective attack with a tight defence, and to adapt to different opposition styles, made the Riverside club the likely winners. Yet, in the final, Jed almost came unstuck on a heavy pitch and against a Melrose side that maximised its collective talents with impressive performances in particular from the rugged Chris Raymond and the pacy James Brown.
“That’s two in a row now,” enthused Jed’s coach, Ross Goodfellow, perhaps a bit disappointed that his side could not display their running style. “Last week at Peebles, conditions were great for throwing the ball about, but today it was not nice. We had to grind out a win. It’s not our strongest style. The boys have worked really hard for this and hopefully it’s going to be a really fruitful sevens season.”
Melrose coach Stuart Johnson expressed satisfaction at reaching the final and running Jed so close. “The commitment and the attitude was great,” he said. :We came up against a tough Jed side in the final. We could have won it. It was a very physical final but it always is when you have a Borders derby.”
Melrose came through the rounds with a narrow victory over Tynedale before showing their strength with a big win over the host club Hawick. Then, in the first of the semi-finals, they faced a Boroughmuir side that contained several players likely to appear in the Meggetland side’s Super Six squad. In the event, tries from Gavin Parker (2) and Gavin Welsh for the Edinburgh side could not match the overall efficiency of Melrose, who scored tries by Dave Colvine (2), Lewis Mallin and Chris Raymond, all converted by Colvine.
Jed, after defeating Berwick in the first round, easily overcame a depleted Watsonians side 26-0, before giving further expression to their abilities by running in tries from Calum Young, Rory Marshall, Lewis Young, Gary Munro and Robbie Shirra-Gibb for a 31-5 semi final win over Selkirk, whose sole try came from Ryan Cottrell.
In the final, two tries by flying wing James Brown, to one by Rory Marshall, gave Melrose a 10-5 lead at half-time, but then two tries by Calum Young and a conversion by Gary Munro turned the tie to give Jed a 17-10 win.
Elsewhere, Selkirk, coached by the former Scotland sevens star, Scott Wight, impressed in the first round by defeating Edinburgh Accies with a late try from their scrum-half Callum McNeill, while Peebles ran Boroughmuir close before losing 17-21.
So, was the move by Hawick from mid-April to early August a sensible decision? The answer has to be : Yes. August tournaments give players a chance to gain early season fitness in a live context but if there is a criticism of the Hawick event then it is an adherence to the traditional knock-out format.
What players need at the beginning of the season is as many ties as possible. For half of the teams taking part, the knock-out format meant they travelled to Mansfield Park for one tie only, a deficiency that could be remedied by adopting a pool structure. If early season sevens tournaments are to be meaningful, surely a pool format is a pre-requisite.
First round: Kelso (bye), Peebles 17 Boroughmuir 21; Melrose 12 Tynedale 10; Langholm 0 Hawick 38; Berwick 12 Jed-Forest 31; Hawick Force 15 Watsonians 19; Edinburgh Accies 12 Selkirk 17.
Quarter-finals: Kelso 14 Boroughmuir 31; Melrose 33 Hawick 14; Jed-Forest 26 Watsonians 0; Selkirk 14 Gala 5.
Semi-finals: Boroughmuir 21 Melrose 28; Jed-Forest 31 Selkirk 5.
Final: Melrose 10 Jed-Forest 17.
Melrose: G Wood, G McWilliam, C Meager, J Brown, D Colvine, L Mallin, T Klein, C Raymond, E McVicker, D Crawford
Jed-Forest: R Yourston, M Mitchell, L Young, G Young, G Munro, C Young, R Marshall, R Shirra-Gibb, D Buckley, N Stingl.