Glasgow Warriors powered to their second consecutive win at the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose 7s after defeating surprise finalists Germany 36-21 in the final at the Greenyards.
As well as the Germans and Glasgow, the 20 amateur Scottish clubs were joined by Aviva Premiership side Wasps and North West University from South Africa. If the weather held out, the prospect of another exciting day of rugby was there for the taking.
With the first round of the competition largely featuring those Borders clubs fighting for valuable Kings of the 7s points, some quality rugby was on show, the performance of Scottish 7s internationalist Gregor Young for home club Jed Forest standing out among others. As the crowds quickly built in the ground, Jed were joined by Aberdeen, Ayr, Watsonians, Currie, Dundee, Kelso and Glasgow Hawks in the second round.
With the hosts along with Gala, Hawick, Edinburgh Accies and the guest teams all receiving byes into this stage of the tournament, interesting matchups were quickly created with the form of the guests likely to help determine the results. Melrose got off to a good start, dismissing Hawks 35-17 with victories for Wasps and Watsonians over Aberdeen and Hawick soon following.
At the time it was almost a welcome surprise for the Borders fans when Germany defeated BT Premiership semi-finalists Ayr 24-10, breaking the tradition of the guest international team failing to produce a decent result in the tournament (remember Trinidad and Tobago falling to Boroughmuir last year). On a slightly darker note, however, play was stopped for more than 10 minutes as one German player was removed from the field of play with a suspected neck injury.
Kelso and Accies had to go to extra time in the next tie with the capital side prevailing. North West University became the only guest side not to make it through to the quarter-finals after Jed-Forest got the better of them, winning 21-17 in a close-fought contest.
Previous champions Glasgow Warriors were last to make an appearance in the tournament, facing a tie against Dundee. The eventual 31-0 scoreline made the Warriors look impressive, but it was a mixed performance with improvement certainly needed if Glasgow were to once again lift up the Ladies Cup.
With the last 8 now confirmed, Melrose took on Wasps for a place in the semi-final and it was the visiting team who started strongly, scoring a couple of quick tries, although missed conversions may come back to haunt them. The hosts then managed to strike back through Tom Wilson, Bruce Colvine and Neil-Irvine-Hess, allowing them to hold off for a 19-15 victory.
Attention quickly moved on to seeing whether Germany’s previous win was a fluke or a performance consistent with their standard. 2nd division Watsonians have always stepped up their game in the 7s season, however it soon became clear that Germany had sent over a strong team. Quick tries came from Heimpel and Vollenkemper, although Adam Hastings (son of Gav) was keeping Watsonians in touch. In the end, however, the Germans had too much power as they cruised to a 22-14 victory.
Next up saw the battle of two Scottish 7s heavyweights, Jed and Accies. With each side holding three 7s internationalists in their ranks, yet another tight contest ensued and with Gregor Young again impressing alongside twin Lewis, only a skewed conversion by Alex Blair separated the two sides with Blair’s Accies going down 19-17 to the Borderers.
Last up the Warriors faced up against Gala, who had planned the day with Grayson Hart in their ranks but was a late call up to warm the bench for Edinburgh against Munster. With or without him, the Warriors dominated Gala to win 26-12.
Despite Germany’s impressive performances, it was still Melrose who went into the first semi-final as favourites, although by half time they were 5-10 down with Wilson’s try providing their only points.
Germany were showcasing an impressive defensive performance although Austin Lockington did find a gap under the posts to give Melrose the lead. However, it was only temporary and Germany eventually booked their place in the final with the final score reading 22-12 in their favour.
Glasgow had improved in their quarter-final, although Jed-Forest can still be a dangerous side in 7s. Glenn Bryce and Rory Hughes both got on the scoresheet as the Warriors won 17-12, however, things could have been completely different had Bryce not managed to stop Young after he made a clear break, although he did score a try of his own earlier in the game. Interestingly, Young was drafted up to the Warriors team for the final as injury cover…
To give Glasgow a chance to recover, an “exhibition” match was played between Melrose Ladies and Stirling County Ladies who were both competing for the Gentlemen’s Cup. Once again, it was Melrose who dominated proceedings, allowing them to retain the Cup for another year.
But before long it was time for the final. Glasgow got off the mark quickest with Niko Matawalu going over early, closely followed by Fraser Lyle, who last week was with the international 7s side in Tokyo and looked very impressive. However, Germany now took hold of the game with the big Anjo Buchman crashing over the line, leaving the scoreline reading 12-7 in Glasgow’s favour at half time.
The floodgates opened up in the second half as Germany showed their international class, Clemens von Grumbkow’s and Carlos Sortera Merz’s tries giving the European’s the lead for the first time, although Lyle soon levelled the gap with Gregor Hunter’s conversion reducing the deficit to 2 points.
In the end Glasgow showed their professional strength as Murray McConnell crossed before Gregor Young’s brace helped put the Warriors out of sight as they eventually won 26-21 to take back-to-back wins from Melrose.
With tournament policy meaning that teams tend not to come for more than two years at a time, next year’s competition will be lifted by another team, but will an amateur club be the first to claim victory since Melrose’s triumph of 2011?
SRBlog Player of the Tournament: It’s hard to single out a single player for a tournament of this structure, but it is almost impossible to ignore Gregor Young whose performances for Glasgow and Jed made him stand out, proving to be instrumental in leading the attack, no matter who he played for.