Rampaging Glasgow Warriors retain Sevens title

THE spirit of old Ned Haig lives on in the Borders after defending champions Glasgow Warriors smacked down all rivals to retain the Ladies Cup at the 125th tournament.

Glasgow Warriors' James Eddie celebrates having won the tournament. Picture: SNS

The Melrose butcher lies contentedly in his grave just outside the town while the fast-growing abbreviated game he invented pulls on its boots and goes charging round the globe.

As Sevens’ popularity grows worldwide, including becoming an Olympic sport, Scotland is likely to lose Scotstoun as an IRB World Series venue after this year and is seriously considering saving money by scrapping its international squad – some small irony on a blustery day of sleet and sunshine when Warriors’ opponents in the final were the German national Sevens squad.

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Ultimately, the amateur Germans couldn’t live with the Scottish professionals but they gave as good as they got for most of the game before losing 36-21 in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 people.

Warriors were the last of 24 teams into action, dispatching Dundee 31-0, then Gala 26-12, and surviving a scare against Jed-Forest in the semi-final when Lewis Young was racing away for a try that would have won it, only to be tackled a few metres short of the line, so the score stayed 17-12.

Passage to the final may have been earned largely through Rory Hughes’ six tries but the final itself belonged to the great Fijian entertainer Nico Matawalu, so influential in the 2014 victory, who went three-quarters the length of the pitch for the first try in the first minute.

A trio of unanswered tries after half-time put Germany into a brief lead, but the Warriors overtook them and stretched away with their own try treble, the last created in the last minute by Matawalu with an outrageous cross-kick the width of the pitch straight into the arms of Gregor Young, recruited from Jed-Forest as injury cover for Hughes, who went in under the posts as the crowd came pouring over the barriers in a good-natured pitch invasion that brought proceedings to a natural end.

Double try scorer Fraser Lyle said: “It was exhausting but an incredibly enjoyable day. To reach the final was excellent and we faced a tough Germany side, but the guys showed great character to battle back from behind and get the win. Winning the Melrose Sevens is a dream come true.”

Germany may not be regarded as a prime rugby country but they have been winning regularly on the second tier European Grand Prix circuit and aspire to more. They defeated Ayr, Watsonians, then hosts Melrose in the semi-final scoring a dozen tries, and another three in the final to prove their ability and add the likes of Clemens von Grumbkow, Anjo Buchman and Phil Szczesny to the litany of great names like Campese and Serevi that have graced the Melrose event.

Team manager Manuel Willhelm said: “Melrose is the place where sevens rugby originated, so playing at the Greenyards feels like being part of history and a long tradition. We are honoured to be part of that story.”

The other two invitation teams among the two dozen who started out didn’t fare nearly as well. English Premiership side Wasps, now based in Coventry, thumped Aberdeen 49-0, the highest total of the day, in the second round but then came up against a never-say-die Melrose in the quarter-final who snatched victory with a brilliant late, late try down the left wing by Neil Irvine-Hess.

The South African visitors, North West University, let the occasion overwhelm them after two quick tries by Tjokkie Odendaal and John William Durr put them ahead, only to be reeled back in by tries by the rampant Young twins, Lewis and Gregor, that were enough to put it beyond recovery despite a late counter by Ryno Wepener. Jed-Forest went on to squeeze past an impressive Edinburgh Accies before being beaten by Warriors in the semis.

Elsewhere, little local vendettas and grudges were played out. Currie, who belatedly ousted Gala from the fourth BT Premiership play-off place, were well beaten by the Borders side. Hawick and Boroughmuir, who will contest the Scottish Cup final later this month, were both out after one game. Heriot’s, who will play Melrose in the BT Premiership play-off final, didn’t get past the first round.

The Kelso-Accies match was the only one to go to extra time after being locked at 12-12. Jamie Sole thought his try had won it for Accies only to see it disallowed for a forward pass. In extra time Kelso hardly touched the ball before Alex Blair went in under the posts.

The marquees and the temporary stands are dismantled and stored and most of the Borders club teams now move on to compete in the local Kings of the Sevens series, of which Melrose, with all its rich history, is only the second on a list of ten scheduled events.

The others may not have as high a profile or international reputation but one thing they will have in common is the same spirit of the Sevens.

First round: Glasgow Hawks 22 GHA 12, Aberdeen 12 Peebles 12, Watsonians 19 Boroughmuir 7, Stewart’s Melville 7 Ayr 26, Kelso 35 Langholm 21, Jed-Forest 22 Heriot’s 5, Selkirk 15 Currie 31, Dundee 24 Stirling County 12

Second round: Melrose 35 Glasgow Hawks 17, Wasps 49 Aberdeen 0, Hawick 0 Watsonians 39, Germany 24 Ayr 10, Jedforest 21 North West University 17, Kelso 12 Edinburgh Accies 17, Gala 19 Currie 7, Dundee 0 Glasgow Warriors 31

Quarter-finals: Melrose 19 Wasps 15, Watsonians 14 Germany 22, Edinburgh Accies 17 Jed-Forest 19, Gala 12 Glasgow Warriors 26

Semi-finals: Melrose 12 Germany 22; Jed-Forest 12 Glasgow Warriors 17

Final: Germany 21 Glasgow Warriors 36

Germany: A Buchman, CS Merz, C von Grumbkow, P Malguria, P Szczesny, A Leessen, S Rainger, C Anderson (Melrose), R Greenhalgh (Watsonians).

Glasgow Warriors: J Eddie, W Bordill, T Spinks, H Blake, F Lyle, N Matawalu, M McConnell, G Bryce, G Hunter, G Young (Jedforest).