ALAN LORIMER @ Riverside Park
WATSONIANS were crowned Kings of the 7s at Riverside Park for a second successive season but it was their closest rivals, Melrose, who had the satisfaction of winning the Jed-Forest tournament, to finish the campaign on a high after being hamstrung by other commitments earlier in the series.
The two sides met in the final, with the Borderers coming out on top to win their third tournament in four outings, but the form of the Myreside men earlier the Spring meant they will be recognised as the top performers on the Borders Sevens circuit again this year.
“We were playing semis and finals in fifteens when there were other sevens tournaments going on but that wasn’t the reason for us not getting over the line,” admitted Rob Chrystie, the Melrose coach, who praised Watsonians for their overall victory.
“Watsonians thoroughly deserve winning the Kings title. They totally buy into sevens, they work hard and they’ve got some players who are just sevens specialists. They’ve done really well and they’re a massive credit to the Borders circuit. It’s been a brilliant day down here at Jed and we need to make sure that standards remain high.”
Pleasing for Chrystie is the way the some of his younger players have stepped up to the demands of the abbreviated game in the absence of several of the more established performers for Melrose.
“Some of our senior players have not really trained since the Cup final. It wouldn’t have been right to push them into playing. On the bounce of that, guys like Adam Hall have come through – he is getting better and better with every tournament – and there’s Lucas Reid and Findlay Broomfield, who are both under-18 players,” observed Chrystie.
For Watsonians, this was a second successive crown. “Winning the Kings title last year was a hard challenge so getting it for a second time this year is really great. We knew that winning back-to-back titles would be really hard but the guys have worked towards this goal,” said coach Conan Sharman.
“Taking the Melrose title was always going to be a highlight. We targeted that tournament. It was tough sevens this year. The teams are getting closer – you could see that today. Teams know one another so you have to work harder to develop different shapes to combat other teams.”
Sharman acknowledged that the injury that forced Scott McKean to retire from the tournament midway through the first round tie was a blow to his side. “He’s a key player for us. He’s got that X-factor. He makes space. When he’s on the field he’s trouble,” said the South African.
Ironically, the injury occurred as a result of a collision with a former Watsonian player, Lewis Berg, who was appearing for Gala. It did not, however, stop the Edinburgh side from overrunning the Borderers with a 35-5 win, which confirmed the Myresiders as the 2018 Kings of the 7 champions.
Thereafter Watsonians were easy winners against the charity side Hearts & Balls. Then in the semi-final against Jed-Forest, they were taken to the wire. Both sides scored three tries – Callum, Gregor and Lewis Young for Jed, and Ali Harris, Andrew Skeen and Chris Scott for Watsonians – with the ultimate difference being a final conversion by Harris which bounced in off the post to win the game
For their part, Melrose knocked out Musselburgh fairly easily and were then challenged hard by Heriot’s before emerging winners by 35-21. In their semi0final they found their scoring rhythm, running in tries by Gavin Wood, Andrew Hall, Craig Jackson, Ross McCann, Struan Hutchison, and Bruce Colvine twice, against an Accies side which picked up two scores through former Melrose players in Richard Mill and Robbie Chalmers.
In the final, Melrose, playing with a dynamic defence and purposeful physicality, established a commanding half-time lead of 19-0 through tries by McCann (2) and Reid, before extending their advantage in the second period with touchdowns from Jackson (who also converted four of his side’s tries) and Colvine. The only reply from Watsonians being from Willie Thomson.
Round 1: Heriot’s 43 Hawick 14; Melrose 31 Musselburgh 5; Langholm 21 Hamilton 39; Edinburgh Accies 22 Kelso 19; Hearts & Balls VII 36 Peebles 5; Watsonians 35 Gala 5; Jed-Forest 42 Presidents V11 21; Selkirk 24 Berwick 10.
Quarter-final: Heriot’s 21 Melrose 35; Hamilton 12 Edinburgh Accies 43; Hearts and Balls 5 Watsonians 31; Jed-Forest 41 Selkirk 5.
Semi-final: Melrose 41 Edinburgh Accies 14; Watsonians 17 Jed-Forest 15.
Final: Melrose 33 Watsonians 5
Squads in final –
Melrose: G Wood, B Colvine, A Hall, S Hutchison, C Jackson, R McCann, L Reid, C Fairbairn, G Spencer (Edinburgh Accies), M Klein
Watsonians: C McKill, E Miller, M Fedo, A Harris, A Skeen, R Steele, L Berg (Gala), W Thomson, J Ferguson, C Scott
Referee R Mabon.