The Scottish pro-team grip on the Melrose Sevens continued yesterday as Edinburgh won the 126th staging of the world’s oldest tournament in the abbreviated game.
Following back-to-back wins for Glasgow Warriors, who were not involved yesterday, a side coached by the recently retired flanker and former Scotland Sevens star Roddy Grant stormed to the title with a 29-19 win over Jed-Forest in the final.
It meant that for a fifth year in a row a professional side lifted the Ladies Cup, with Saracens enjoying a double in 2012 and 2013.
Edinburgh were pushed hard by the local sides in the semi-final against Melrose and the final but, in the end, they just had too much quality and were deserved winners of the tournament.
It was a first piece of silverware for Grant’s fledgling new career after he was forced to retire with a knee injury on Boxing Day.
Watched from the Greenyards stand by Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons, and joined on the sidelines by assistant coach Stevie Scott, who acted as manager for the day, Grant beamed with pride as skipper Chris Dean lifted the famous trophy.
“It feels so special. Such a different set of emotions from playing,” said Grant. “I’m so proud of the guys. The skills were good but there was guts too. We had some tough games there against Melrose and Jed but came through.”
Asked if he felt pressure as a professional side and favourites to win, the 29-year-old said: “No to be honest… but sevens is a completely different game. To actually win a trophy is really special. I’ll remember that for a while.”
Jed were dreaming of a first Melrose title in 42 years and got off to the perfect start when Lewis Young’s magnificent support work saw him bound over for the first try, which he then converted.
Edinburgh were looking a bit nervy, but those jangles were eased when Will Helu slalomed through and Nathan Fowles’ conversion squared things up before another Tongan, Otulea Katoa, arced round the outside on the left to make it 12-5 at the break.
A well-worked score for Sam Beard struck a decisive blow and, although the conversion was missed amidst the distraction of the inevitable streaker, man of the tournament Fowles broke away to put one hand on the cup with a try under the posts which he converted himself. But the impressive Ross Combe pegged one back and then set up Iain Chisholm for another. Lewis Young’s superb conversion squeezed it back to 24-19 with a minute left but Sasa Tofilau drove over in the corner to repel the fightback and see Edinburgh home.
It was by no means a cakewalk for Edinburgh, who had to battle through a semi-final against Melrose in which the hosts struck first through Sam Pecqueur before Katoa and Fowles’ conversion edged the pro-team ahead. The Tongan flier was over again to stretch the lead but Bruce Colvine burst away just before the break to make it a two-point game at the turnaround.
The biggest roar of the afternoon so far came early in the second period when Pecqueur skipped over and Richard Mill converted to give Melrose a 19-14 lead.
Tofilau found space on the left to level things up and Fowles nailed the wide conversion to haul Edinburgh back in front. When Fowles pounced on a ruck turnover to sear away Edinburgh were almost there, but his missed conversion meant there was only a converted score in it.
Fowles made an incredible try-saving tackle before Neil Irvine-Hess barged over in the corner as the clock ran out. It left a devilish touchline conversion for Mill and he dragged it across the front of the posts to let Edinburgh off the hook.
The first semi-final had seen Jed-Forest look impressive in their dismantling of Edinburgh Accies. Jed got off to a flying start with tries by Gregor Young and Iain Chisholm before a Ronan Seydak double either side of the interval got Accies back in the game, though two missed conversions left the Riverside Park club 12-10 ahead.
When Robert Hogg wriggled free to cross and stretch that out to a nine-point lead and Lewis Young sprinted away, Jed had sealed their place in a first Melrose final since they lost to Saracens in 2012. Alex Glashan grabbed a consolation for Accies before Chisholm finished off one of the best tries of the afternoon to make it a resounding 31-15 scoreline.
In the early rounds, Marr acquitted themselves well with a 24-5 first-round win over Stirling County and then a brave effort against Heriot’s in the second when they were edged out 22-21. The Belgian national team looked good in their first outing when they over-ran Aberdeen Rugby 34-14 but the guest team were outfoxed by the streetwise Jed-Forest in the quarter-finals, with Combe running in two tries.
The host club were involved in a dramatic quarter-final against Watsonians. Melrose hadn’t won their own trophy since 2011 but sneaked into the last four when a botched conversion by Jack Ferguson with the scores tied 24-24 took the game into sudden death extra-time. Murdo McAndrew’s try ensured the home side a semi-final crack at the eventual champions, who comfortably saw off Heriot’s 22-0 in the last eight.