Young Harlequins get their hands on oldest Sevens’ trophy

Austin Lockington of Melrose keeps hold of the ball in a challenge with Quins' Max Coyle  in front of an appreciative crowd. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Austin Lockington of Melrose keeps hold of the ball in a challenge with Quins' Max Coyle in front of an appreciative crowd. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Harlequins maintained the grip of the guest sides on the Melrose Sevens trophy yesterday evening but were made to work hard for the Ladies Cup by a valiant home side in a competitive final.

A big crowd descended on a sun-drenched Greenyards for the 126th staging of the world’s oldest sevens tournament to witness a classy Quins side made up mainly of young academy prospects ultimately triumph 31-19 to win the club the title for a second time in its history following success in 1987.

It meant that the silverware ended up with a guest side for a sixth successive year, but Melrose were in with a shout for the bulk of the final and only let the Aviva Premiership side get away in the closing minutes.

Robert Chrystie’s men will now look to take the positives from an excellent run to the final into next weekend’s BT Premiership final against Ayr back on their home patch.

Harlequins skipper and England Under-20 cap Charlie Walker opened the scoring in the final but the try was unconverted and, when Bruce Colvine drove over and Craig Jackson bagged the extras, it was an early 7-5 lead for the hosts.

Melrose continued to have a go but Calum Waters was lucky to have a charge down ricochet back into his hands and he was able to run in from 75 yards to regain the lead.

Semi-final hero Austin Lockington then made a searing break which could only be stopped illegally by the Londoners. A penalty try was awarded, Sam Asplano-Robinson was sin-binned and Jackson converted to give Melrose a 14-12 lead.

Despite being down to six men, Harlequins still looked threatening and Walker looked like he had snatched the lead back right at the end of the first half but heroic work by Patrick Anderson to hold him up over the line meant Melrose clung on to the lead at the break.

The man advantage was swiftly rescinded soon after the restart when Colvine was pinged for an off-the-ball challenge and Quins made hay as Jonas Mikalcius strolled over. The dream was beginning to ebb away when Dino Lamb crossed to open up a ten-point lead but Melrose showed admirable fight and Murdo McAndrew forced himself over to bring them within five points heading into the closing minutes.

The pressure seemed to have got to the English side when a forward pass gave the home side one last chance but possession was lost and man-of-the-tournament Walker sprinted away to score and convert and seal the title.

The hosts’ hopes of a first title since 2011 were not looking good against the Co-Optimists in the second semi-final as the select side initially proved a step up in class from the Dundee and Selkirk VIIs Melrose had dispatched in the earlier round.

Tries from Terry Kennedy and Will Connors gave the invitational side made up of young Irish players a 12-0 platform but Melrose showed admirable dig with some spirited tackling and rucking which stalled the Co-Ops’ momentum. The efforts were rewarded with a magnificent jinking run from deep by Lockington to make it just a five-point game at 7-12 heading into the turnaround.

Lockington then added a 40-metre burst in addition to the 70 metres he covered for the first to put the hosts in front as Jackson knocked over the conversion.

The biggest cheer of the day so far then erupted around the Greenyards as Sam Pecquer dragged himself over the line and, suddenly, the gold and blacks were 21-12 to the good and within touching distance of a first appearance in their own final for six years.

With Selkirk’s impressive South African wing Tythan Adams drafted in as an injury replacement for Iain Moody, the hosts hung on, despite a late riposte from the guests.

In the first semi-final Quins got off to the perfect start against Watsonians as three early tries from Walker, Asplano-Robinson and Lamb opened up a 21-0 half-time lead which meant they had more than a foot in the final.

Rory Drummond pegged one back for the Edinburgh side but the young English outfit had too many gears and the procession continued in the second period. Euan McHirdy got a late consolation but Harlequins marched on to the final with a comfortable 40-12 victory.

In the Varsity Challenge played ahead of the final, a late try gave Edinburgh University a 19-12 win over their St Andrews counterparts.