ALAN LORIMER @ Riverside Park
NEWLY crowned Melrose confirmed their status as Kings of the Sevens circuit by going on to win the Jed-Forest tournament at Riverside, beating the host club in a thrilling and tense final that went to the wire. The Greenyards men had made certain of the Kings title when they defeated Edinburgh Accies to reach the semi final. Their victory in the final merely endorsed their regal status in the sevens game.
This now means that Melrose will go fo the final tournament of the series at Selkirk next Saturday as champions and hopeful of confirming their premier sevens position by winning the Philiphaugh title in the famous Border club’s centenary tournament.
Melrose last won the Kings title in 2014 and according to their coach, Callum Anderson, were determined to make amends this season for the long absence of sevens silverware. “We said the week before the Melrose tournament that we wanted to win the Kings title. And here we are. I’m very impressed with what we’ve achieved,” reflected the former Scotland sevens cap.
He added: “It was all about workrate and I genuinely believe we’ve got an amazing squad. We trained with 18 or 19 or even 20 all through the sevens series. There’s an abundance of talent in there. You’ve got some old guys like Bruce Colvine, you’ve got Struan Hutchinson telling guys when to kick and when to run, and you’ve got young guys like Roly Brett.
Losing a final in front of your home crowd is always a hurting experience as Jed’s coach Ross Goodfellow acknowledged. “We’re massively disappointed. But we played well today. That final could have gone either way, Next week will not be a dead rubber for us. We’ve not won a tournament yet this season. If we take that standard to Selkirk next week, we’ll be there and there about.
“We took too long to get going this season. But I believe the attitude is back. The Kings out the window for us this season. What’s disappointing is we haven’t picked up a tournament win this season. We’ll be going to Selkirk next week with all guns blazing,” predicted Goodfellow, who put the return to form down to the the return of a key player. “Rory Marshall was back today and I thought we were miles better. He does something different and that helps”.
Jed had the easier route to the final beginning with a first round romp against what was effectively their second seven, taking the place of Currie Chieftains who withdrew from the tournament during the week. In the event, Jed chalked up a 43-5 win in their ‘warm-up’ tie, before moving into top gear against Selkirk, dismissing the Philiphaugh men with a 38-0 win.
Then in their semi-final Jed had to work harder against a stylish Kelso side in which South of Scotland wing Dwain Patterson and former Scotland under-18 cap Cammy Brown impressed. Jed, however, had too much physical power, finishing winners by 26-5
For their part, Melrose came through the top half of the draw on what seemed a city-demolition job, first knocking out Watsonians with a 33-14 win, then Boroughmuir by 38-14, before defeating Edinburgh Accies by 19-14 in the first of the semis.
In the final, it was Jed who struck first with a Callum Young try but two tries and two conversions from player of the tournamentHutchison put Melrose in the driving seat. Jed clawed back ground with a try by Lewis Walker, converted by Gary Munro, countered by an unconverted score for Melrose by Connor Spence. Then when Gregor Young scored under the posts for Jed and Munro converted it was all square at 19-19.
But in a frantic last few seconds of the final, Donald Crawford followed up his own lengthy kick ahead to win the race for the touch-down, Hutchison’s conversion making sure there was no way back for Jed.
Round 1: Edinburgh Accies 28 Peebles 14, Malta 14 Hawick 20, Watsonians 14 Melrose 33, Boroughmuir 33 Langholm 14, President’s V11 5 Jed-Forest 43, Berwick 15 Selkirk 19, Musselburgh 7 Kelso 38, Highland 0 Gala 28.
Quarter-finals: Edinburgh Accies 31 Hawick 5, Melrose 31 Boroughmuir 14, Jed-Forest 38 Selkirk 0, Kelso 24 Gala 19 (AET).
Semi-finals: Edinburgh Accies 14 Melrose 19, Jed-Forest 26 Kelso 5.
Final: Melrose 26 Jed-Forest 19.
Final teams –
Melrose: C Spence, R Brett, H Weir, B Colvine, S Hutchison, D Crawford, H Makowski, A Nagle, M Klein, W Fergie.
Jed-Forest: C Young, J Walker, G Young, G Munro, L Walker, R Marshall, L Young, R Shirra-Gibb, A Bambrick, K Hayes
Referee: R Campbell
Talking point: Another great Jed Sevens and a tournament on which the sun alway seems to shine. Pity therefore that such an enjoyable event was devalued by a crass performance from the public address bod. After each score the PA man informed what must be one of the most rugby savvy crowds in Scotland with the repeated cry of “it’s a try”, while making no effort to identify the scorer. In the modern world of slick sports presentation this was surely a clumsy throwback to an era when the public could be fobbed off with any rubbish. 21st century, Jed.