Plain sailing for Randwick in Melrose Sevens

Andy Purves of Melrose looks to the referee as Randwick's David Campese touches down. Picture: Hamish Campbell
Andy Purves of Melrose looks to the referee as Randwick's David Campese touches down. Picture: Hamish Campbell
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David Campese on song in rain as Sevens go Australians’ way, writes Graham Law

The Scotsman, 16 April 1990

THOSE souls saturated in the downpours at the Greenyards on Saturday would doubtless have taken a different view, but Australian wonder wing David Campese was rather glad of the rain.

“If it had not been wet, I would not have made that try against Melrose,” said the man who has scored a world record 34 tries for his country.

He made this confession moments after Randwick – following the lead of the French Barbarians in the Centenary Tournament – had dispatched Kelso 26-8 in the final to take the honours from the Bells Islander 100th Melrose Sevens furth of these shores.

The Kelso achievement of reaching their 11th final at the Greenyards in 13 years should not go unrecognised, yet it was the semi-final between Randwick and the hosts which captivated the 14,000 crowd.

Melrose, having already played an additional tie and more than four minutes of extra time against Ayr, predictably manufactured a herculean effort. A flash of Keith Robertson genius to bamboozle Lloyd Walker, and Graham Shiel and Craig Chalmers pummelling forward to set up possession for Andy Purves had enabled the home side to level at 12-12 in response to Campese’s brace of tries.

Six second-half minutes had elapsed when Chalmers sagely kicked behind Acura Niuqila and forced him to retreat. Purves tackled the Fijian-born internationalist and as Carl Hogg desperately ferreted for possession almost on the goal-line, the Australians were penalised.

As he had done earlier – though from a tighter angle and greater distance against Harlequins – Chalmers stepped up and slotted in a superb pressure goal.

Randwick secured ball from the kick-off and when Melrose infringed at a ruck full-time had been reached but, correctly, referee Jim Fleming allowed play to continue and Walker released Campese from nearly halfway.

Chalmers, with the first engagement, and Purves both made tackles but Campese, now domiciled in Italy, seemed to expand and aquaplaned to the goal-line. It was no-side and Keith Robertson’s men were out.

A colleague in the press box had remarked that it would be politeness personified if, having played some scinitillating rugby, Randwick had bowed out to the hosts in the semi-final, Melrose going on to win the tournament.

Any country, though, that is proud to call the Sydney Hill its own would not have entertained that scenario.

It was all rather ironical for Melrose that Campese – who, far from surprisingly, finished as both top try-scorer with seven and top points-gatherer with 44 – should revel in the wet weather, as he had apparently asked that he be accommodated in a house with a swimming pool during his stay in the Borders.

Local builder and club stalwart John Crawford had obliged though, as other committee men pointed out, the swimming pool was there before Campese’s request.

Prior to the semi-final, Randwick had blazed past Glasgow Acads before being made to work considerably harder against Edinburgh Acads.

The Raeburn Place men, after Australian-born Alex Moore’s four-haul try in the previous round, had the temerity to hold the guests to 6-6 at half-time, Rowen Shepherd crossing for a hugely popular try which he converted in response to Gavin Boneham’s opener.

Murray Fraser, an 18-year-old utility back whose father Stevie hooked for Highland, won further cheers for a magnificent tackle on Mark Ella but, thereafter, Randwick put the ball behind Acads and dominated possession to run in a further three tries.

In the other half of the draw, Kelso controlled frontal exchanges to sweep past last week’s beaten finalists, Gala, by five tries to zero, then accounted for another of their neighbours, Selkirk.

During their quarter-final win over London Scottish, the Tweedsiders lost Bob Hogarth with a hamstring strain, forcing Phil Dunkley’s call-up.

Hawick were then disposed of in the semi. However, throughout their passage Kelso had shown few signs of the pazzazz of old and John Jeffrey, though later insisting he was unhurt, was subdued and appeared to be carrying a leg injury.

In the final, Randwick began with one fresh player – John Flett replacing Walker who had reportedly hurt medial ligaments – and finished with two, Darren Phillips coming on at half-time for Niuqila, who was stretchered off and taken by ambulance to Borders General Hospital.

It transpired that, contrary to the fears that he may have cracked a leg bone, he was discharged after treatment at casualty.

Randwick, one fancied, were always going to have the edge in pace and the two newcomers merely reinforced that, though the club’s manager, John Howard, obviously sensing the notion that the injuries might be considered diplomatic, was quick to stress otherwise.

As Andrew Ker was to admit later, Kelso were “never in the hunt” in the final.

In the first minute, Flett had cruised in for a try and though Eric Paxton had benefited from Ker’s dash from a close range scrum for Kelso’s reply, it was 12-4 by the break, Campese thundering away from Niuqila’s collection of Jeffrey’s kick ahead and Flett’s linkage.

Boneham and Clive Millar exchanged tries, the Kelso forward seizing on a rare Campese guddle of loose ball before Flett and Michael Chelka put the matter beyond doubt.

Mr Howard added later that Randwick would “favourably consider” an invitation to defend the trophy.

Minus the services of the Lafond brothers and Frank Mensel, who was explaining his hamstring strain in the bar late on in the day, they exited to Stewart’s-Melville, who thus maintained the recent capital tradition of Royal High and Boroughmuir who accounted for the Barbarians and French Barbarians respectively in 1983 and 1984.

Harlequins had looked very sprightly against Boroughmuir, England’s captain Will Carling notching a hat-trick of tries, but after leading 12-0 at half-time against Melrose, tries from Robertson and Purves, both converted by Chalmers, who then popped over his penalty, ended their chances.

Last year’s beaten finalists, Ayr, had extended Melrose in the previous round to extra time, having recovered from 6-16 through two Phil Manning tries, but Craig Redpath saved home honour with the winning score.

Jim Telfer was to reflect the Border clubs, overall, had shown up in a more propitious light than their city counterparts, with three sides reaching the semis as opposed to only two capital clubs making the quarters.