Seeing a Scottish pro-team waltz off with the Melrose Sevens trophy for a third successive year may stick in the craw of some hard-core Borders rugby enthusiasts but there was no doubting how much it meant to the Edinburgh coaches and players on Saturday.
Roddy Grant had a smile as wide as the River Tweed as he reflected on a first piece of silverware in his new career as a coach after being forced to retire with a knee injury at the end of last year.
He was bursting with pride after seeing his troops beat Jed-Forest 29-19 in the final and, as a former Borders Reivers player who has represented Gala in the world famous tournament, was fully appreciative of what an honour it was to have their name engraved on the Ladies’ Cup.
“It was an amazing day. Really tough with a couple of 20-minute turnarounds between games and only three subs which presents challenges that we are not used to in the World Series, so it just highlights how amazing these guys are – professional or amateur,” said Grant after watching his skipper Chris Dean lift the trophy.
“Everybody has played so much rugby and to come along here at the end of the season and put in that sort of effort makes you proud to be a part of the sport.
“It was amazing for the guys. We didn’t have much preparation, so it was just about digging deep and pulling through as a team fighting for each other.
“It’s an amazing tournament. The fans are great, the atmosphere is fantastic, the history is really special, so the guys really wanted to come in and make the most of the opportunity. They really wanted to win it. They are born competitors so this was a great day for them.”
Edinburgh’s Pacific Island contingent of Tonga pair Will Helu and Otulea Katoa and Samoan Sasa Tofilau were instrumental in the triumph, all scoring tries in the final, with Sam Beard and man of the tournament Nathan Fowles also crossing.
A gutsy effort by Jed-Forest, who went into the last tie of the day hoping for a first title since 1974, made the pros work for their bounty.
The impressive Ross Combe and Iain Chisholm scored second-half tries which kept it competitive.
Fowles, pictured above, who contributed brilliant tries, conversions and scintillating running lines all afternoon, admitted it had not been easy. “It was tiring. I’m not going to lie, we were knackered by the end of it but it’s been a brilliant day,” he said.
“We’ve had a few young guys there and some others, like myself, who have not played much rugby recently, so it was great to get an opportunity to go out there and express ourselves.
“We played Gala Sevens last week and got beaten by Melrose so we learned a lot from that tournament. Obviously we are not all sevens players, but the likes Damian Hoyland and Chris Dean, who have played on the World Series circuit, had an influence.
“The boys just showcased what they can do individually and we are so tight as a club we work hard for each other no matter what.”
The Rochdale-born 22-year-old said it was a definite career highlight so far.
“It’s massive. It’s a prestigious tournament so to get our name engraved that trophy is an important achievement – nobody can take that away from us now.”
Fowles is third-choice scrum-half at Edinburgh behind Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Sean Kennedy and said his focus now was to try to get more first-team action for Alan Solomons’ side.
“It’s tough at the minute but I’ve just to keep my head down, keep working hard and take my opportunities when they come,” he said.
“Just to get some competitive rugby was great. It’s all right training but there is nothing like getting in that match-day mindset and it was just what I needed.”
The weather was good and the entertainment decent at an enjoyable if not vintage 126th staging of the tournament. The other guest sides were found wanting as French team Seventise were drummed out by Watsonians in their first match. Belgium showed flashes of promise when they beat Aberdeen but were no match for a well-drilled Jed-Forest side. The men in blue, along with hosts Melrose, were the pick of the Scottish club sides but, understandably, couldn’t contain Edinburgh in the semi and final.