ALAN LORIMER @ The Haugh
WATSONIANS overcame exhaustion to complete a weekend double on the Borders circuit by winning the eighth round of the Kings of the Sevens competition at The Haugh in Earlston with victory over a resurgent Melrose side to follow their triumph at Kelso a day earlier.
“To get to two consecutive finals in the space of 24 hours and to win both is superb,” said the Watsonians club president and former international stand-off, Andrew Ker, himself a prolific sevens winner and a former coach of the Scotland team. “The guys did make a few wrong decisions; probably fatigue was a factor. Our game wasn’t as smooth as it normally is.”
The Myreside team, without the influential Lewis Berg, who was replaced by Ross Graham, twice had to battle hard to reach the final of the Earlston tournament. In the quarter-finals, the Myresiders were forced to fend off the challenge of a competitive Hawick seven, who matched Watsonians in the try count but not in the number of conversions.
Then, in the next round, Edinburgh Accies came close to blocking Watsonians’ route to the final. The Raeburn Place men led 12-7 at half time with two tries from Robbie Kent and a conversion from Richard Mill, to an Ali Harris try converted by Lee Miller for the defending champions.
Second half tries by Euan Miller, Scott McKean and a second from Harris, and a conversion by Lee Miller gave Watsonians a 24-12 lead, only for Angus Inwood to run in a late try for Accies converted by Mill … but too late as it turned out.
Melrose fielding a young side showed their potential by overpowering Selkirk and then defeating a slick Kelso side but it was in the semi-final against Boroughmuir that the Greenyards young guns really blazed. Yet it was veteran Lewis Mallin who accounted for all his side’s tries, the wing scoring a hat-trick to a brace for Boroughmuir by their paceman Gavin Welsh.
“We’ve got some young guys coming into the squad and there’s a lot of bite there now,” stated the Melrose coach, Rob Chrystie. “We’ve not quite clicked in this sevens season but that’s because we’ve had to chop and change the squad. There’s young lads in there who could go a lot further.”
The final between Melrose and Watsonians was a repeat of last year’s Earlston final and no less exciting. Watsonians appeared to be in control at half-time when they led 19-7 after scoring tries by McKean and Euan Miller (2), two of them converted by Lee Miller.
Melrose, however, saw matters differently and made ground with a try by Kieran Clark, the 17-year old Melrose Wasps player impressing throughout the tournament with performances redolent of Darcy Graham in his teenage years. Bruce Colvine added the conversion, but McKean retorted for Watsonians and Lee Miller the crucial conversion.
The Greenyards men finished the stronger, Clark again showing this aptitude for the short game with a second try and then Donald Crawford running in his side’s fourth try. Sadly for Melrose neither of these two scores were converted leaving Watsonians as winners.
The result at Earlston means that Watsonians are now within touching distance of the Kings title making it likely that they will be crowned when the circuit moves on to Selkirk for the penultimate round at Philiphaugh.
Round 1: Melrose 42 Selkirk 0, Kelso 26 Hearts and Balls19, Jed-Forest 24 Powerbombs 17, Boroughmuir 24 Berwick 17, Watsonians 31 Peebles 5, Hawick 42 Gala YM 0, Edinburgh Accies 47 Duns 0, Earlston 5 Gala 34.
Quarter-finals: Melrose 24 Kelso 12, Jed-Forest 5 Boroughmuir 19, Watsonians 21 Hawick 15, Edinburgh Accies 19 Gala 14
Semi-finals: Melrose 17 Boroughmuir 12, Watsonians 24 Edinburgh Accies 19
Final: Melrose 24 Watsonians 26
Final teams –
Melrose: P O’Sullivan, G Wood, H Morris, E McVicar, B Colvine, M Julyan K Clark, R Knott, L Mallin, D Crawford.
Watsonians: R Graham, E Miller, H Fisher, A Harris, S McKean, C Harris, B Robbins, C Bell, A Skeen, L Miller.
Ned Haig Kings of the Sevens (positions after eight rounds) –
Edinburgh Accies 38
Heriot’s and Gala 12