ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
KINGS-OF-THE-SEVENS title holders, Watsonians, underlined their current status in the short game by winning the Aberdeen Standard Investments Melrose Sevens at the Greenyards with a narrow 19-14 victory over the host club in a quality final.
If the tournament palpably lacked quality guest sides then Watsonians and Melrose filled the void with top drawer rugby that gave the big crowd, enjoying a glimpse of spring sunshine after a week of grey misery, full value for their money.
The expectation amongst most spectators had been a Melrose win. And with justification. Melrose looked the more likely champions after cruising through the initial rounds with wins over Boroughmuir by 29-0 and then a strong Currie Chieftains side that was fielding two Glasgow professionals in Adam Hastings and Rata Tagive, before putting Edinburgh Accies to the sword with a 27-0 win in the first of the semi finals.
The ruthless efficiency and unyielding defence that Melrose had shown was simply not present in a Watsonians side which had to work hard in the second round to overcome Selkirk, eventually winning 24-19, and then had to put the same effort in to subdue Crusaders to win 21-12.
Then, in the second semi, Watsonians were put under intense pressure by a Marr side that led 14-0 at half time. But in the second half Watsonians rediscovered their top form to score tries by Ali Harris, Charlie McKill and Scott McKean to take the tie with a 19-14 scoreline.
If Watsonians failed to have the bookie installing them as favourites then according to their coach, Mike Ker, their less-than-top form in the rounds is par for the course for this team. “We notoriously leave our best to the last. We tend to get better and better as we go through the rounds and when we play better teams we seem to play better ourselves,” he said.
This success puts Watsonians back at the top in the Kings of the Sevens competition. They are the current title holders and have ambitions to maintain their top position.
“As regards the Kings of the Sevens, it really starts next week at Hawick. We have to be consistent. There’s no point in winning at Melrose and being beaten in the first round at Hawick. It’s now about coming back down to earth and having a good week of training before Hawick,” suggested Ker, himself a top sevens player in his day for Watsonians.
The final itself was thrilling and crowd pleasing drama. Watsonians, making a brisk start, struck first with a try by their pacy wing McKean, with the conversion by Harris. But before the break, Melrose replied with a try by winger Ross McCann and the conversion by Craig Jackson.
Rory Steele for Watsonians and McCann added tries, both converted, to level the scores before the rugged Australian, McKill, one of the top players of the tournament, squeezed in at the corner in the final second to score the winner.
Disappointing for the crowds at the Greenyards was the failure of the guest sides to make a mark on the tournament. Poland, who fielded a ‘development’ side limped out against Marr, while the USA Tigers, after defeating Dundee High Rugby were beaten by Edinburgh Accies in the quarter-finals.
The lack of quality guest sides, of course, made the competition much more even and allowed some of the sub-Premiership clubs to flourish.
The pick of the National One teams was undoutedly GHA, who came within a point of reaching the semi-finals but lost to Marr 20-21 in a thrilling quarter-final tie. Earlier, GHA had dismissed a below-strength Ayr by 31-5 in the second round and Gala by 24-5 in the first round. The Glasgow southsiders certainly deserve plaudits for their performances and individual contributions from Andrew Gillman and veteran Ben Addison, a former Scotland sevens player.
The other non-Premiership side to impress was Edinburgh University. The students, who won the recent universities tournament, produced an excellent first round performance in overcoming Heriot’s with a 21-5 win and then came close to toppling Edinburgh Accies before losing 21-19 to the Raeburn Place side.
Results First round: Currie 40 Hawks 7, Cartha QP 17 Boroughmuir 28, Heriot’s 7 Edinburgh University 21, Peebles Forest 7 Dundee High 38, Kelso 19 Marr 29, GHA 24 Gala 5, Hawick 24 Aberdeen 12, Selkirk 26 Stirling County 17 Second round Currie 24 Jed-19, Boroughmuir 0 Melrose 29, Edinburgh University 19 Edinburgh Accies 21, Dundee 10 USA Tigers 25, Marr 33 Poland 7, GHA 31 Ayr 5, Hawick 12 Crusaders 31, Selkirk 19 Watsonians 24 Quarter final Currie 5 Melrose 31, Edinburgh Accies 12 USA Tigers 10, Marr 21 GHA 20, Crusaders 12 Watsonians 21 Semi final Melrose 27 Edinburgh Accies 0, Marr 14 Watsonians 19 Final Melrose Watsonians
Final teams –
Melrose: I Moody, G Taylor, G Runciman, B Colvine, C Jackson, A Lockington, R McCann, P Anderson, F Thomson, J Baggott
Watsonians: C Borthwick, E Miller, C McKill, A Harris, A Skeen, S McKean, J Miller, W Thomson, A Davidson
Referee: C White
MEANWHILE, the Scotland Sevens team missed out on the chance to medal at the Gold 2018 Commonwealth Games after they lost to South Africa in the last game of day one at the Robina Stadium.
The team opened their account with an win over Papua New Guinea (27-0) and Malaysian (41-0), but with only the top-ranked team from each group advancing to the last four, Scotland’s last match against South Africa was always going to be decisive, and they came up short (26-5)
Team Scotland Rugby Sevens will now face Wales today at 10:37 hrs (01:37 hrs UK time) in the Men’s Placing 5-8 rounds, with the resulting 5/6th and 7/8th placing rounds at 13:11 and 13:33 hrs respectively (04:11 and 04:33 hrs UK time).