The spectacle that is Melrose 7s didn’t fail to disappoint this year as four Scottish sides made it through to the semi finals, Glasgow Warriors going on to lift the Ladies Cup and denying Edinburgh Accies victory, in their first Melrose final since 1949.
Take it away Round 1...
There were thrills, spills and skills aplenty from kick-off in the opening round as Jed-Forest saw off Stirling in the first tie, the rest of the qualifying round probably going as expected with Currie, Boroughmuir, Heriot’s Selkirk, Edinburgh Accies and Glasgow Hawks emerging to fight another round.
A nervy encounter between Jed and Ayr saw the latter win, 12-7, Craig Gossman storming over for the winning score, while Currie were outclassed by the tournament winners, 36-5, with Carlin Isles coming on in the second half to prove his pace and add to the try scorers. Boroughmuir saw off invitational side SMT Trinibago while Heriot’s did similar against USA Tigers, coming from behind to win 29-21. Hawick edged Gala and the hosts Melrose, after a nervy start, saw off Selkirk with scores from Lockington, Mill, Hoyland and Skeen. The final two ties had Edinburgh Accies defeat Watsonians 36-0, some great skills on show from Scotland under-20 and 7s players including Chris Dean, Alex Glashan, Sam Pecqueur and Jamie Farndale. Meanwhile Clermont Auvergne just edged Glasgow Hawks, 26-21, despite some phenomenal scoring by Neil Herron for the west coasters.
It was a west coast fest as Ayr and Glasgow Warriors met in the first quarter final, the pro club ramping up the action with tries from James Eddie, Rory Hughes, Niko Matawalu, Mark Bennett and that man Isles in their 34-10 win. It was more of a level playing field next as Heriot’s edged Boroughmuir 24-17 – both sides showed as much class as mistakes, with interceptions, turnovers and stomach-turning (in a good way!) passes making it a spectacle for the packed support. The home side edged Hawick, 21-10, with Andrew Skeen bagging the majority of the points in tries and conversion, and Edinburgh Accies doing a job on the final overseas side, Clermont Auvergne, in a 35-12 victory – including some sterling work and a try by Alex Blair.
That set up a mouthwatering semi final all-Scotland programme with Glasgow Warriors taking on Heriot’s and Melrose against Edinburgh Accies.
Glasgow set down their marker from kick-off, with a James Eddie score, swiftly followed by a tremendous break and try from Mark Bennett, both converted by Scott Wight. Heriot’s retaliated through a great line from George Turner ending in a score from Murray Douglas, countered immediately by Carlin Isles, picking up the ball on halfway and bursting across the line, making all players on the pitch look like they were in a slo-mo replay. Isles scored again in the second half, with other Glasgow scores from Matawalu and Jones, a late try from Douglas making the final score 38-10 in favour of Warriors.
It was Accies who showed their class in the second semi final, an opening try by Glashan added to by a fantastic run from Alex Blair, hammering the length of the pitch to score. Nyle Godsmark made it 17-0 just after the break before Melrose put their first points on the board with a try from Richard Mill. Scot Riddell – bootless by the time he crossed the line – nailed the 22-5 win for Accies in the closing minutes.
Final - score!
So it was a west-east – jam v marmalade, as the Twitterati christened it! – final. Edinburgh Accies were appearing in their first Melrose 7s final – and one they won – since 1949 while the Glasgow Warriors ‘dream team’ had captured the imagination and most of the tries.
A keenly-fought women’s challenge match – between Melrose and Stirling County – gave the home side plenty to cheer about as they ran out winners, thanks to tries from Scotland Women’s Gillian Inglis, amongst others, raising the adrenalin for the men’s final.
As predicted, it was non-stop action from the off. An early break from Matawalu saw him saunter across the line then casually hand the ball to Rory Hughes to dot down for Glasgow, Wight adding the extras. Accies immediately came back with a well-worked run of passes into Nyle Godsmark’s hands, a sure-fire try going astray as the ball was fumbled over the line. Alex Blair was hot off the restart, however, to pelter into the corner and cross to level the scores at 7-all.
Glasgow turned up the gas as tries a-plenty cme from Mark Bennett, Lee Jones – twice and Rory Hughes – Wight (above) adding the extras, to make it 33-7 at half time.
Accies gamely held off Glasgow for much of the second half with Sam Pecqueur giving his all to break through the line and dot down in the corner with minutes to go to make it 33-14. It was the western Isles who sealed Accies fate, however, in the final minute, with a glorious break up the wing to score, Nuia trying his hand at adding the extras to make the final score 40-14.
The crowd went wild – most in the direction of Carlin Isles who had to be rescued by the scruff of the neck to make the trophy presentation – as Glasgow Warriors were crowned winners.