The pre-tournament favourites Glasgow Warriors lifted the 124th Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose 7s on Saturday, a tournament which one again showcased some of the skill that we have in the amateur game.
The Warriors were invited to the tournament along with Clermont, the USA Tigers and Trinidad and Tobago. However, it was easy to see how much Glasgow wanted to win this with the whole squad having played international 7s as well as being led by the former Melrose fly-half Scott Wight, who knows the Greenyards just as well as anyone.
The tournament got underway with the first round of the competition which featured the top Borders clubs fighting to make it into the next round to gain precious points in the Kings of the 7s competition. From the start, the determination could be seen from these teams with Jed-Forest, Currie, Boroughmuir, Heriot’s Selkirk, Edinburgh Accies and Glasgow Hawks all coming out strongest in their ties to progress into the 2nd round.
By the time the first tie of the 2nd round had started, the crowd of around 10,000 was building even more with fan favourites Carlin Isles and Nico Matawalu both expected to be playing soon. Each team that progressed from round 1 now played a team which had got a bye into the next round, yet the contests were even tighter than expected. Ayr had to fight right to the end, until a Craig Gossman score meant that they took the win 12-7.
Next up saw Glasgow Warriors take to the field for the first time. The much anticipated debut of Carlin Isles in a Glasgow shirt had to wait until the 2nd half, however, on his first touch of the ball, we managed to storm the length of the field to score one of the tries of the day. The Warriors ran away with it 36-5.
In the other games of round 2, the USA Tigers just missed out on progressing by losing to Heriots 29-21. SMT Trinibago (Trinidad and Tobago) lost out narrowly to Boroughmuir and Hawick surprised their biggest rivals, Gala, sneaking it at the end. Hosts Melrose took their time to get going, before four good tries allowed them to move past Selkirk. The Accies beat their Edinburgh rivals Watsonians 36-0, who had been in the Gala 7s final last week, losing to Melrose. Perhaps the closest game of the afternoon was in the final tie of round 2 with Clermont scoring a late try to win 26-21, when it looked like Glasgow Hawks, a team which included 7s captain Colin Gregor were going to take victory. Alas, it was not to be.
Come the quarter-finals, the Warriors were again in good strength, beating Ayr 34-10, thanks to tries from James Eddie, Rory Hughes, Niko Matawalu, Mark Bennett, as well as Carlin Isles. In a much closer game, Heriots got past Boroughmuir 24-17 in an error strewn game. By now, the wind had really started to pick up meaning the long, floating passes were becoming an even bigger risk. Andrew Skeen produced a remarkable performance, scoring most of the points as they beat Hawick 21-1o. Finally, Edinburgh Accies surprised everyone again with a resounding win over Clermont 35-12. Their squad included 7s internationalists Scott Riddell, Chris Dean and Alex Glashan who all had very strong games as they fight for a position in the Commonwealth Games squad.
As the semi-finals started, Glasgow really showed their strength as Lee Jones, Carlin Isles and James Eddie all had strong game to help take the win 38-10. The tries came from Eddie, Isles (2), and Jones with Mark Bennett and Nico Matawalu both getting on the score sheet.
The other steamroller that was going through the competition was the Accies, and even Melrose could not quite stop them as they won 22-5. The scoreline does not quite reflect how tight the game actually was, and it was strong defence from the Edinburgh side which brought them the win. Former Edinburgh professional Alex Blair was key in the performance, making strong breaks and tough in defence. Tries came from Glashan, Nyle Godsmark and Scott Riddell, whilst Richard Mill scored for Melrose. It seemed almost surprising that just last week, the Accies were fighting to keep their place in RBS Premier 1, winning the play-off against Stewarts Melville.
To give the two finalists a chance to rest before the final showdown, the final of the womens competition was played between Melrose Ladies and Stirling Ladies with the hosts coming out on top with a strong victory to lift the Gentlemen’s Cup.
However, focus swiftly turned as to who would be picking up the Ladies’ Cup in the main competition. Unsurprisingly, it was Glasgow who managed to get an early score and then build on their lead as the game progressed. It was a try-fest, supplied by Rory Hughes (2), Lee Jones (2), Mark Bennett, Carlin Isles and Scott Wight, who was also joined by Nuia who took the final conversion. Glasgow won 40-14.
As usual, the fans all then ran onto the pitch with Isles and Matawalu the firm favourites, resulting in the latter being late for the trophy presentation.
The pinnacle of the Scotland 7s calendar once again failed to disappoint, even if it did start to become a one-horse race quite early on.
SRBlog Man of the Tournament: Hard to say when it is a tournament with this structure. However, it does have to go to a Glasgow player for the way in which they dominated proceedings. Local boy Wight had good control of the game, however James Eddie was instrumental in attack and defence. Surely he should be given more of a chance in the XVs game?