Melrose maul Shimlas
SINCE the game went professional, there has been an increasing danger of the Melrose Sevens becoming dominated by the invitational sides who yesterday made up seven of the 17 sides on show. Indeed, although both Heriot's and Melrose have contested finals, the only Scottish club side before yesterday to have collected the Ladies Cup this century was Boroughmuir in 2002.
Yesterday, the Meggetland side also came close to making the quarter-finals when they took last year's winners, the Shimlas of the Orange Free State, to extra-time. Indeed, had Elgin O'Donnell successfully converted Angus Martyn's try from in front of the posts, the South Africans would never have been given the chance to score the golden try that assured their progress to the last eight.
That was symptomatic of a day on which, with the exception of a muscular Leicester side that bristled with pace and aggression and to a lesser extent of an Ulster side that was effectively Ireland's sevens team in disguise, the imported outfits of assorted fancy dans – many of them professionals and some, such as the Gold Coast Breakers' Lloyd Johanssen, capped players – failed to dispatch the locals with the sort of ruthlessness that has come to be expected of visitors to these parts at this time of year. Instead, much of the invention and incisive sevens play came from the home-grown amateurs, even though all but one of the Scottish sides played an extra game before joining the big shots in the second round.
Melrose, in particular, were never less than superb. Marshalled by the old head of John Dalziel, Scott McCormick, speedster Jordan Macey, John Murray and Mark "son of Keith" Robertson put in assured displays of sevens play in front of a packed Greenyards, dispatching a disappointing Glasgow Hawks side 36-7 in their opening match tie. They were equally impressive when knocking out newly-promoted Selkirk, the current Kings of the Sevens, by 24-0 in the second round.
They continued to carry the flag into the final eight when they beat the reigning champions the Simlas in one of the most remarkable wins of the day. Having conceded a try within seven seconds of the start, and then another to go 12-0 down, Melrose dominated the rest of the match against the speedsters from the high veldt, dramatically snatching the victory with seconds to go when Macey jinked over to make it 17-12 after Melrose's inspired play had dragged the Shimlas' defence all over the park. It was a tumultuous end to a rousing game, and one which took the home side through to a semi-final meeting with Leicester.
The second biggest cheer of the day, however, came when JedForest, having looked like a handy crew when edging past Hawick 20-17, then took on the Chinese Agricultural University of Beijing – effectively the same national side which recently beat Scotland – in the second round. Beijing to Melrose is a fair old journey for 14 minutes of rugby, so their lack of humour at being well-beaten by a spirited and typically physical Jed side was entirely understandable. It hasn't been a good week for the sportsfolk from the People's Republic.
Jed were, however, unlucky to then meet a Leicester development side which was a yard faster and half a stone heavier than anything else on offer. With brothers Ben and Tom Youngs the rapier, Vivea Tuilagi the bludgeon and Billy Twelvetrees the comedy turn, they looked like winners from early in the tournament. Jed were undaunted, though, and went down fighting, tries from David Gobby and David Grieve due reward in a 38-12 defeat.
The Scottish Thistles, effectively Scotland's Sevens team, were expected to be one of the most formidable outfits among the invitation teams. With highly-rated young Scots such as Mike Adamson, Richie Vernon, Greig Laidlaw and Ally Warnock, all battle-hardened in the IRB World Sevens circuit, they were expected to breeze into the latter stages. In the event, they struggled to make it past Currie's committed but limited artisans. Only two highly dubious tries awarded for no apparent reason saw the Thistles win by 22-7, a margin of victory far less convincing than it sounds.
The young Scots really hit their stride in the second round, however, comfortably outclassing a Roma side featuring exactly no Italians. Their comfortable 19-5 win, in which Glasgow's Richie Vernon excelled, at least ensured that there would be a Scottish side in the semi-finals.
There they met an Ireland side led by Seamus Mallon which had become increasingly efficient and whose self-belief had grown throughout the tournament.
Results: First round: Langholm 5 Currie 7; Dundee HS 24 Gala 5; Watsonians 29 West of Scotland 5; Peebles 21 Edinburgh Accies 7; Kelso 19 Heriot's 15; JedForst 20 Hawick 17; Glasgow Hawks 7 Melrose 36; Ayr 0 Boroughmuir 33. Second round: Currie 7 Scottish Thistles 22; Dundee HS 12 Roma 19; Watsonians 5 Ulster 28; Peebles 10 Gold Coast Breakers 36; Kelso 5 Leicester Tigers 40; JedForest 24 Chinese Agricultural University 14; Melrose 24 Selkirk 0; Boroughmuir 12 Simlas 19 (aet); Quarter-finals: Scottish Thistles 19 Roma 5; Ulster 26 Gold Coast Breakers 5; Leicester 38 JedForest 12; Melrose 17 Shimlas 12.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
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Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
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