Melrose Sevens: Saracens retain the Ladies Cup

Saracens celebrate their victory over Clermont Auvergne in the final of the Melrose Sevens.  Picture: Ian Rutherford
Saracens celebrate their victory over Clermont Auvergne in the final of the Melrose Sevens. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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CLERMONT players lay forlorn about the field after the final whistle signalled that Saracens had retained the Ladies Cup on Saturday.

The French had fought back from two tries adrift to lead the the final, only to see Joe 
Maddock equalise with the last move of the match before Nils Mordt stepped up to nail the winning conversion. I don’t know the French for “gutted” but the word must have been used whatever it was.

It was a fitting finale to a compelling afternoon of sevens played in benign weather as spring arrived just in time with sunshine and 13 degrees. It wasn’t quite T-shirt and shorts weather but try telling that to the assortment of gladiators, sheep, boxers and various other fancy dress aficionados who add to the atmosphere. If the tournament can just rid itself of the morons who invade the pitch during the final, we would all be better off.

Although the final was an all-foreign affair, the Scottish teams played their part. Gala put paid to India’s aspirations with a brutal 45-0 hammering before being seen off by Clermont in the quarter-finals. Jed-Forest pushed Aberdeen to extra time and Heriot’s made their way through to the quarter-finals where they fell to the eventual winners.

But it was the exploits of Ayr and Aberdeen that gave the crowd something to cheer about, at least once they had got over the fact that Grammar knocked out the hosts Melrose. What’s more they did it with the Greenyards’ favourite son sporting Aberdeen’s colours instead of the ones he grew up in.

If Scott Wight had a pound for every time a Melrose friend hailed him with a broad smile and a hearty “Judas!” in the clubhouse after the event he could have hired a couple of bouncers to protect him.

Not that he needed them. This is a man who is part of the fittings and furniture at the Greenyards. After playing all his life for Melrose Wight was, thanks to the Premier One draft system, turning out for Aberdeen and he proved instrumental in downing his former club. The stand-off made two tries and kicked the conversions. He knows a thing or two about the short game all right but it must have been a strange experience for him to show up in the oppositions’ shirt.

“It was pretty awkward to be honest,” Wight admitted. “I almost made for the number one dressing room. It was hard for me, but I am grateful to Aberdeen for giving me this opportunity because I have to keep my match fitness going and this is surely the highlight of the season for any club player. Anyway it’s preferable to standing on the terraces and watching.”

Wight has had few opportunities to impress Gregor Townsend at Glasgow this year but he played his part yesterday, tackling with ferocity and looking like the professional game has added a yard of pace.

He and Scotland Sevens star James Fleming helped propel Aberdeen to the semi-finals, where they came agonisingly close to knocking out the eventual winners. In a ding-dong match, the lead changed hands several times only for Saracens to take a five-point lead into the final few minutes.

Wight inspired an Aberdeen length-of-the-field fightback that culminated in Tony McGuinness diving over the Sarries’ line close to the posts only to drop the ball. When Fleming did eventually cross with the try that tied the game, it was in the left-hand corner and Wight was unable to claim the extras which would have put Aberdeen through. Sarries won it in extra time.

It is just possible that Aberdeen were paying for the extra time that they needed to beat Jed. Still, it was an impressive afternoon’s work by their press-ganged playmaker and, after Glasgow’s loss to the Scarlets on Friday night, might it propel Wight back into the frame for Glasgow’s final two league matches?

“Friday night was uncharacteristic of Glasgow,” said Wight, defending his pro team as you would expect. “The boys will bounce back from that disappointment. Obviously the two guys ahead of me [Ruaridh Jackson and Duncan Weir] are full internationals but all I can do is to stay in Gregor Townsend’s thoughts.”

Meanwhile another Glasgow player helped Ayr through to the other semi-final where they pushed Clermont hard before going down 22-12. It was perhaps asking too much of the Scottish league champions to reproduce the imperious quarter-final performance that had seen off a young Worcester side by 33-17. The English Premiership team led 17-14 at half-time but Ayr blew them away with three second-half tries while keeping Worcester scoreless.

Glasgow scrum-half Murray McConnell claimed one touchdown for Ayr in the right-hand corner and celebrated with a somersault. Neither Ayr nor Aberdeen made it through to the final but both teams gave the local fans plenty to shout about.