Melrose Sevens: Seventh heaven for Saracens

IT’S difficult to judge just how important the Melrose Sevens might be to the reigning English league champions but Saracens looked happy enough with their afternoon’s work when they picked up the Ladies’ Cup after an eventful tournament.

The sevens took eight hours and four different seasons, with wind, hail, snow and sunshine all showing up at various times throughout the day.

Jed gave them a fright in the final, taking an early lead thanks to a brace of tries from Gregor Young in the opening few minutes but that was all they could manage until the death when Ross Goodfellow added a third score when the game was long gone.

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Sarries matched the two opening scores when flyer Ben Ransom cut an angle inside the cover defence and then hooker Scott Spurling showed everyone a clean pair of heels to score under the posts. Ransom grabbed his second and Saracens third after some poor kicking from Jed gave away possession cheaply to grab a 19-14 lead at the break. Sarries then took full advantage of some tired legs to run in five more tries in the second half to seal the 50-21 win for the first time visitors.

The London club were late replacements for Bay of Plenty but they always looked the class act on show and they proved too strong and quick for a gutsy Jed-Forest team that were making their first appearance in the final since 1993. It was their first experience of Melrose’ unique event so Saracens now boast an impressive record of having won every match they have played at Melrose tournament, admittedly just four in total, but it was enough for Kelly Brown’s club-mates yesterday.

Neither side had an easy run to the final. Sarries were pushed hard in the second round by Heriot’s who needed a touchline conversion to take the game into extra time only for Graham Wilson to shank his effort having kicked an identical kick in the first half. The Londoners had an easy enough time disposing of Edinburgh Accies in the quarter- finals but Aberdeen did well throughout and tested the professionals in the semis. Tries from skipper Greig Ryan, Steve Aitken and Murray Douglas which brought the scores back to 19-17 before the final play of the game when Sarries grabbed a breakaway try.

Jed celebrated their run to the final, claiming the trophy for amateurs as they saw it, although the route they took was an eventful one.

They may have beaten Stirling County in any event but two yellow cards shown to the opposition didn’t hurt any. They were shown to Stuart Edwards and Michael Donnegan for dump tackles but neither looked remotely dangerous and its just possible that referees are fixating on this a little too obsessively.

Two other cards for the exact same offence, one red and one yellow, were perfectly justified. The red went to Aberdeen scrum-half Morgan Ward, not that it interrupted Grammar’s serne progress to the quarter-finals. Playing Hawick in the first round, the men from the north scored two tries with seven men and added another brace when short-handed. Hawick were unable to trouble the scoreboard.

But more controversial than the cards was what looked from the sidelines like a blatant trip which changed the course of the tight quarter-final between Jed and Hawks.

With the scores tried at 12 apiece late in the game, Kerr Gossman stepped one defender beautifully and when he did the same trick on the last man standing between him and the Jed try line Ross Goodfellow stuck out a leg and tripped him up.

Instead of the red card and penalty try that the seven Hawks’ players and vast majority of the Melrose crowd expected, referee Andy Ireland adopted a Nelsonian stance, seeing nothing and waving play on.

Jed took the ball up the other end for the decisive score.

At last they made good use of their good fortune, deserved winners over Melrose in the semi-final when they probably played their best rugby,.

Their swarming defence was melded to some genuine pace from Gregor and Lewis Young, identical twins who both have pace to burn. They are targeting the King of the Sevens award and, on yesterday’s form, you wouldn’t bet against them.

It was a different matter for several other Border clubs.

Hawick were dismissed in the first round along with Peebles, Gala and Langholm, who leaked an eye-watering 50 points to Heriot’s. Kelso and Selkirk followed them out of the action in the second round but at least these teams hadn’t far to go at the end of the day.

Hong Kong Scottish and Singapore both traversed half the globe just to play one match of sevens. Andy Warhol probably didn’t have the Melrose Sevens in mind when he talked about “15 minutes of fame” but that is all these players got yesterday (one minute for halftime). London Scottish boasted more invites than exiles but they at least progressed to the quarter-finals where they were seen off by Aberdeen . It was left to Saracens to fly the flag for the invitation teams and this they managed with some aplomb.