GLASGOW Warriors cruised to victory in the Melrose Sevens on their first appearance at the world’s oldest tournament, bringing a professional mindset to their play and never scoring less than six tries in any of their games.
In the final it was seven tries in total, five in the first half to crush any hopes a spirited Edinburgh Accies might have had, and the last try with a bit of an emotional twist as it was scored under the posts by former Melrose captain Scott Wight. “It couldn’t have worked out any better for me,” he said after lifting the Ladies’ Cup. “It’s such a great feeling.”
While the Warriors 7s were celebrating, the full XV were beating Munster over in Limerick in the PRO12 league to improve their chances of a play-off place and round off a day the Warriors can look back on with considerable pride.
“It was an honour for guys like Niko Matawalu and Carlin Isles to play here at Melrose with all its tradition and history,” said 7s coach Kenny Murray.
“These are the playing opportunities they have to take and I know they were really excited about coming here.
“It wasn’t easy. I don’t want to disrespect other teams but we made a lot of opportunities and took our chances well. We were pretty clinical at times and showed what we could do with space when it opened up.”
The 12,000 crowd was highly appreciative of the Warriors talent on show. There was a sharp intake of breath every time the American speedster Isles got his hands on the ball and began one of his trademark mazy runs, the most notable being against Heriot’s in the semi-final when he collected a loose ball and scorched through the middle at a pace that meant no-one could lay a hand on him.
Fijian Matawalu seemed to have his following in the crowd too, but the outstanding Warriors player on show was probably Scotland winger Lee Jones who can do the long runs but also the intelligent close quarter stuff.
Beaten finalists Edinburgh Accies had a ten-man squad packed with Scotland 7s and under-20 internationalists, including players of the quality of Chris Dean, Scott Riddell, Alex Glashan and Jamie Farndale. They navigated their side of the draw without too much difficulty and as an antidote to their disappointing league form this season where they have retained their Premiership status only after a play off.
They disposed of Kelso and Watsonians without conceding a point and then dismissed last year’s losing finalists Clermont Auvergne in the quarter-final 35-12. Clermont had previously scraped past Glasgow Hawks with an injury time try by Killian Handaoui that gave them a 26-21 win but when it mattered they couldn’t summon up the same kind of craft and commitment against Accies that saw them run English premiership side Saracens so very close in 2013.
Melrose, who last won their own tournament in 2011 when Scott Wight was skipper, came through against Selkirk and Hawick but Accies halted their progress at the semi-final stage with a comfortable 22-5 victory, surviving one slip up when Alex Blair lost control diving for the line for what would have been a fourth try. Melrose snapped up the loose ball and went the length of the pitch for Richard Mill to score and bring the home team back into contention. But Scott Riddell added another try for Accies and when Mark Robertson was yellow carded Melrose were out.
Accies last won the Melrose tournament in 1949 and may have been entertaining dreams of glory but the final proved a game too far for their weary limbs. Despite tries by Alex Blair and Sam Pecqueur, Warriors were just too strong, too powerful and too good to be seriously challenged once they had racked up those five first half tries.
The other two invitation teams, SMT Trinibago and USA Tigers, didn’t get past their first contests when thrown into the fray in the second round. Boroughmuir squeezed out the Caribbean visitors 10-7 with an early try by Alex Cox and a late one by Murray Johnston. In between, Anthony Lopez reached out a long arm to dot down for his team’s one and only try.
Heriot’s did for the Tigers who turned out in very fetching quasi-tartan strips and flattered to deceive at the outset when Perry Baker cut through tackles and passed inside for Zach Pangelinan to score the opening try. Heriot’s fought back and were 14-10 down at half time but then ran in three tries after the break to Tigers’ two to eventually win by a single point, 29-28.
Heriot’s, who play Glasgow Hawks in the Scottish Cup final this weekend, went on to beat Boroughmuir in the quarter-final, but then came up against the all-conquering Warriors and were buried under an avalanche of six tries.
Spare a thought too for those among the 24 teams destined to lose their first games and play no further part: Stirling County, Stewart’s Melville, Dundee, Langholm, Howe of Fife, Aberdeen, Kelso and Peebles. The Borders 7s circuit now rolls on to the Hawick 7s this Saturday.
Glasgow Warriors: J Eddie, F Gillies, F Brown, L Jones, S Wight, M Bennett, C Isles, F Nuia, N Matawalu, R Hughes.
Edinburgh Accies: N Godsmark, R Godsmark, S Riddell, A Glashan, I Chisholm, A Blair, C Dean, R Bonner, S Pecqueur.
Glasgow Warriors 47 Edinburgh Accies 14.
Glasgow Warriors 38 Heriot’s 10; Melrose 5 Edinburgh Accies 22
Ayr 10 Glasgow Warriors 34; Boroughmuir 17 Heriot’s 24; Hawick 10 Melrose 28; Edinburgh Accies 35 Clermont Auvergne 1
Jed-Forest 7 Ayr 12; Currie 10 Glasgow Warriors 36; Boroughmuir 10 Trinbago 7; Heriot’s 29 USA Tigers 28; Hawick 17 Gala 12; Selkirk 5 Melrose 26; Edinburgh Accies 36 Watsonians 0; Glasgow Hawks 21 Clermont Auvergne 26
Stirling 5 Jed-Forest 24; Currie 29 Stewart’s Melville 5; Dundee 10 Boroughmuir 17; Heriot’s 43 Langholm 0; Hawick 22 Howe of Fife 12; Aberdeen 17 Selkirk 20; Kelso 0 Edinburgh Accies 38; Glasgow Hawks 12 Peebles 10