ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
AFTER a gap of 54 years, London Scottish reclaimed the Melrose Sevens title, defeating Edinburgh Accies 29-12 in the final with an all-round performance of both attacking and defensive skills.
The London Scottish side, composed of players from the Exiles club themselves together with several Scotland age-grade caps and others from Loughborough University, had all the ingredients for a title-winning set of performances, pace, sevens acumen and strong defence. Moreover, the strength and fitness of their professional players was crucial, as was the presence in their side of Scotland sevens cap Scott Riddell.
“We were so lucky to have Scott Riddell playing for us today,” admitted the winning captain, Fraser Lyle. “The wisdom he brings is huge. So he’s a massive help to all of us.”
Aside from Lyle and Riddell, the stars for Scottish were scrum-half Rob Parker, stand-off Josh Henderson, and centre Fergus Guiry and wing James Spencer, whose combined speed was difficult to contain.
Scottish impressed from the early rounds, dismissing a good GHA side 36-0 and then defeating fellow guest side Stellenbosch University 31-19 in the first of the quarters to book a place against Jed-Forest, who had knocked out Kings of the Sevens title-holders Watsonians by 21-10 in the second of the quarters.
In the semi-final Scottish ran in tries by Spencer, Guiry and Parker for a 19-0 lead but tries for Jed by the Young twins, Lewis and Gregor, ate into their opponents’ advantage. Further tries by Spencer and Guiry both converted by former Scotland under-20 cap Henderson effectively settled the tie. Lewis Young managed to score for Jed but Scottish instantly replied with a Ben Harris touchdown again converted by Henderson.
For their part Edinburgh Accies, although finishing runners-up, should have reason to feel satisfied with their efforts at The Greenyards, and in particular by their quarter- and semi-final wins over hosts Melrose and the British Army.
“It was an excellent performance today,” Accies coach Graham Bonner said. “We learnt a lot from this tournament. We played some really good opposition today.”
As a non-seeded team, Accies had to play in the first round of the tournament, where they romped past what was a decidedly second-string Ayr seven to win 40-0. That then pitted Accies against Durham University in the second round, where the Raeburn Place side had to work much harder, their effort rewarded with a 29-10 win over the students.
Then in the last of the quarter-finals Accies faced a Melrose side that was determined to put on a good show in front of their home fans. In the event Melrose took an early lead with a try by Ian Moody but a touchdown from the effervescent Ruairi Campbell and the conversion by Richard Mill, both ex-Melrose players, gave Accies a 7-5 interval lead. A second-half try by Vincent Hart again converted by Mill extended Accies’ lead, cut in the closing seconds by a Gavin Wood try, but too late to prevent a 14-10 win for the Raeburn Place men.
Accies’ prize for their quarter-final victory was a semi-final tie against a British Army side, composed mainly of skilful and pacy Fijian players. The Army led 12-5 at half time with tries by Emosi Nadaubale and Mitieli Vulikijapani to a Robbie Chalmers score, but in the second half Accies’ ability to contain the Fijian fliers and their better fitness level were key factors in overturning the Army’s interval advantage. Richard Mill, outstanding for Accies, converted his own try and then added the extras to the winning touchdown from Campbell, another top performer, to guide Accies into the final.
In the final itself, London Scottish made a now-familiar start, running in tries by Riddell, Guiry, and Parker before Accies could reply with a touchdown from Vincent Hart. Immediately after the break Mill added a try and conversion, but late tries by Spencer and Henderson while injury-stricken Accies were down to six men having run out of reserves gave Scottish a comfortable win and the Melrose Sevens title.
First round: Peebles 19 Heriot’s 22, GHA 28 Selkirk 14, Boroughmuir 31 Hawick 5, Currie Chieftains 17 Glasgow Hawks 5, Kelso 7 Marr 24, St Andrews Univ 20 Gala 19, Ayr 0 Edinburgh Accies 40, Edinburgh Univ 26 Stirling County 21.
Second round: Heriot’s 7 London Scottish 36, GHÅ 0 Stellenbosch Univ 36, Boroughmuir 12 Jed-Forest 15, Currie 12 Watsonians 19, Marr 12 USA Tigers 14, St Andrews Univ 7 British Army 22, Edinburgh Accies 29 Durham Univ 10, Edinburgh Univ 12 Melrose 22.
Quarter-finals: London Scottish 31 Stellenbosh Univ 19, Jed-Forest 21 Watsonians 10, USA Tigers 19 British Army 24, Edinburgh Accies 14 Melrose 10.
Semi-finals: London Scottish 43 Jed-Forest 17, British Army 12 Edinburgh Accies 19.
Final: London Scottish 29 Edinburgh Accies 12.
London Scottish: F Lyle, S Riddell, L Berg, T Walsh, R Parker, J Henderson, B Harris, C Hudson, F Guiry, J Spencer (B Robbins – Currie Chieftains).
Edinburgh Accies: R Campbell, J Sole, R Seydak, M Love, R Mill, R Chalmers, N Armstrong, N Stephen, V Hart (G Wood – Melrose).