Alan Lorimer @ The Gytes
BACK in May, Melrose salvaged as much as they could from a frustrating sevens season by winning the Jed-Forest tournament to claim the runners-up place in the Kings of the Sevens competition. Three months on, they made a fresh start at trying to win the prestigious Borders sevens circuit title that has eluded them for the past three seasons by taking the top honours at the Peebles tournament, with victory over an impressive Heriot’s side in the final.
That Peebles have elected to position their tournament at the beginning of the season rather than in the cluttered April/May months represents positive thinking by the Gytes club. And if rumours prove true they could be joined by Hawick who, it is believed, are looking seriously at August.
That idea certainly appeals to former Scotland sevens coach Andrew Ker, the current president of Kings of the Sevens title holders Watsonians. “Having just one tournament doesn’t do justice to sevens. I think if we had two if not three tournaments at this time of year it would be so much better,” he said.
If the timing of the Peebles tournament went down well with participating clubs then so too did the format of four pools of three, which guaranteed each team at least two matches. That should have been the case had Biggar not pulled out at an inconveniently late stage, too late for the organisers to find a replacement.
Not so palatable for some of the competing teams, however, was what seemed a skewed draw that placed big-hitters Melrose, Watsonians and Jed-Forest in the upper half of the schedule.
In the event, Watsonians won pool B after defeating Jed in the decisive third pool tie to progress to the semi final where they met Melrose, winners over Selkirk and Gala in Pool A.
In a compelling semi, Watsonians led 12-5 at the break with tries from Andrew Skeen and Josh Rowland to a try for Melrose by Fraser Thomson. Then, in a dominant second half, Melrose playing shrewd sevens scored converted tries by Thomson and Ian Sim, before Watsonians replied with a try by Harry Fisher, only for the conversion to be missed, resulting in victory by 19-17 for Melrose and a place in the final.
Heriot’s won Pool C having only had to play one game against Edinburgh Accies – because of Biggar’s late withdrawal less that 24 hours before kick-off – which they won 32-10. From Pool D, it was the host club Peebles who emerged winners after defeating Kelso and Berwick.
In that semi, a no score first half left the home supporter with hopes that their team might reach the final and it looked even more likely when Donald Anderson conjured up a solo try converted by Greg Raeburn. But tries by Ross Coombe, Tom Bramwell and skipper Iain Wilson settled the tie for Heriots.
Then, in the final, Heriot’s rose to the challenge of facing Melrose, answering first half tries by Craig Jackson and Gavin Wood with a touchdown by Coombe to trail 12-7 at the break. Struan Hutchison put Melrose further ahead with a try before Wilson grabbed a consolation score for Heriot’s, but it was not enough to stop Melrose from taking the Peebles title.
Pool A: Melrose 29 Selkirk 14; Selkirk 22 Gala 27; Melrose 47 Gala 7
Pool B: Watsonians 26 Hawick 12; Hawick 12 Jed-Forest 19; Watsonians 20 Jed-Forest 5
Pool C: Edinburgh Accies 10 Heriot’s 32 (Biggar withdrew)
Pool D: Peebles 14 Kelso 0; Kelso 7 Berwick 17; Peebles 14 Berwick 5
Semi final: Melrose 19 Watsonians 17; Heriot’s 17 Peebles 12
Final: Melrose 17 Heriot’s 7
Melrose: C Jackson, S Hutchison, D Colvine, I Sim, L Mallin, R Knott, G Runciman, I Moodie, P Anderson, F Thomson, G Wood, M Muelace-Julyan
Heriot’s: I Wilson, T Bramwell, N Stingl, I Kay, E Churchill, R Coombe, C Robertson, L Sinclair, W Channing, A Ball