By Atholl Innes
at the Greenyards
Final: Harlequins 31, Melrose 19
IT was almost 30 years to the day that Harlequins last won the Melrose Sevens, ironically beating the hosts in the final.
On Saturday, Melrose came as close as expected to gaining revenge in the Aberdeen Asset Management sponsored sevens at a sun-drenched Greenyards.
The biggest crowd for many years enjoyed a feast of rugby in perfect conditions, with a total of 150 tries scored, before the English giants, comprising young Academy players, outmuscled the hosts, who played in the second semi-final and had extra rest time before the final test.
In a dramatic final, which saw referee Cammy Rudkin issue two yellow cards and award a penalty try, as well as ruling out a score when Charlie Walker was held up over the line, Harlequins won the trophy with a late try from Walker, England under-20 cap, who was awarded the William Lockie Player of the Tournament.
Harlequins team manager, Tim Diprose, praised Melrose for their efforts. “They are a physical side and have a lot to be proud of,” he said.
It was fitting that Melrose were the only Borders club to survive to the semi-finals – Selkirk apart, the remainder offered little challenge – and fitting too that Philiphaugh winger, Tytham Adams, should earn at least a losers’ medal after replacing the injured Iain Moody.
Adams pace was crucial with scores against Stewart’s Melville and the seeded GSI 7 (2) and the conditions ideally suited the South African.
Harlequins raced into an early lead in the final with a try from Walker before Bruce Colvine put the hosts ahead with Craig Jackson’s conversion.
A score by Calum Waters and then a penalty try, which saw Sam Asplano-Robinson yellow carded and conversion by Jackson gave Melrose a half-time lead.
The final ebbed and flowed after the break with both sides down to six men for a time with Colvine also sent to the sin-bin.
Jonas Mikalcius and Dino Lamb scored, Murdo McAndrew replied for Melrose, before Walker capped a great afternoon with the clinching try and conversion.
In the first of the semi-finals, Harlequins swept aside Gala Sevens winners a week earlier, Watsonians, 40-12.
An Austin Lockington try under the posts lifted Melrose’s hopes against Co-optimists in the other semi after scores from Terry Kennedy and Will Connors. A second Lockington try and a score from Sam Pecquer sealed the win.
Co-optimists were the third seeds to fall after wins over Boroughmuir and the Sweden national seven, who previously had accounted for Heriot’s and were also seeded.
The first of the seeds to fall were GSI Global Sports Innovation, who fell at the first hurdle to Selkirk for whom Ross Nixon scored a brace of tries.
Melrose battled their way into the semi-finals with victories over Dundee Rugby and Selkirk, but could not repeat their last success in 2011.
First round: Marr 15, Kelso 17; Currie 19, Gala 12; Glasgow Hawks 22, Stirling County 26; Hawick 7, GHA 35; Stewart’s Melville 14, Selkirk 20;
Dundee Rugby 19, Ayr 5; Boroughmuir 33, Peebles 14; Heriot’s 31, Falkirk 14.
Second round: Kelso 7, Watsonians 27; Currie 15, Jed-Forest 10; Stirling County 19, Edinburgh Accies 40; GHA 0, Harlequins 36; Selkirk 20, GSI 7 14; Dundee 19, Melrose 31; Boroughmuir 5, Co-optimists 22; Heriot’s 14, Sweden 31.
Quarter-finals: Watsonians 17, Currie 7; Edinburgh Accies 22, Harlequins 29; Selkirk 12, Melrose 24; Co-optimists 34, Sweden 5.
Semi-finals: Watsonians 12, Harlequins 40; Melrose 21, Co-optimists 19.