EVERYONE expected a Borders v Edinburgh final at the Jed-Forest Sevens, but not the one that eventually took place.
The form book predicted Kings winners Jed and city slickers Watsonians to go head to head in the final show down of the season. It was in fact Melrose and Heriot’s who got the honour following an action packed, entertaining afternoon at Riverside Park.
In fact, the afternoon was full of upsets and surprises as weary players took to the field for the 10th and final tournament of the six-week circuit.
A first round exit for fourth seeds Hawick was the first tie to silence the large Borders support as 2012 sevens underachievers Heriot’s suddenly sprang to life, treating the tired Teries, who finished fourth in the Kings League, to a 29-14 thumping.
In the next round it was hosts Jed and Border rivals Gala that drew the revellers out of the beer tents, although this time silence certainly wasn’t an issue.
A fiery first four minutes of stalemate was ended when Craig Robertson secured an awkward ball for Gala and cruised up the touchline to score.
Three minutes later, the Maroons had chalked up try number two when Craig Dods ran over. The try was converted and as the teams stopped for the break there was a nervous air surrounding the Riverside faithful. Jed were clearly struggling and Gala made the most of it, but four minutes into the second half Darren Gillespie ran over to close the gap to just seven points.
The home crowd erupted shortly afterwards following the most exciting five minutes of the tournament so far.
After battering a resolute Gala defence for what seemed like an age, David Gobby eventually found a gap and ran through to touch down. Iain Chisolm converted to take the game to sudden-death extra time.
Home hearts were broken, however, when two minutes in, Ross Livingstone got a break up the stand side touch to fly in at the corner.
There was more excitement to come when, in a semi-final match worth £500 (the difference between finishing second or third in the league) to the winners, Melrose took on the team sitting in second place on the Kings table, Watsonians.
The game was neck-and-neck all the way through with tries coming from Andrew Skeen and Blair Hutchison (Melrose) and Mike Ker and Dom Dunnet (Watsonians).
Moving to sudden death, the tension was palpable as the city outfit looked towards their fourth sevens victory of the season.
It was not to be, though, as Melrose put their heads down and made an almighty charge towards the line. It was Ross Ovens who crossed it two minutes into extra time to send his team into their fourth final of the season.
The second semi was equally close. Colin Goudie and Graham Wilson touched down for Heriot’s, one converted, before Gala got in on the act and scored two converted tries through Craig Dods and Craig Robertson, putting the Maroons two points ahead at the break.
Heriot’s were gifted the ball just metres from their own line and Fraser Brown didn’t need to be asked twice to make the touchdown, which was converted, but Gala came right back with a Livingstone try. The missed conversion meant things were all square with a minute and a half remaining.
It looked as though another spell of extra time was on the cards as the seconds ticked away, but as it happened another error by Gala allowed Heriot’s one more stab and once again Brown took the opportunity to cross the line and touch down.
In the final, Melrose took first blood when Andrew Skeen spotted a gap to fly through before Scott McCormack added a second thanks to an inspired piece of running. Skeen converted his own try.
Action moved to the opposite end and Heriot’s levelled the scores with tries from Cammy Ferguson and Colin Goudie, one converted by Wilson, and that was the way it stood at half-time.
Three minutes into the second half, Ferguson put the Heriot’s noses in front with a fine solo effort before Goudie added another which Wilson converted.
Joe Hickman added his name to the scoresheet a minute later with Wilson making the conversion and all of a sudden Heriot’s were out on their own and held on to win their first final of 2012.
Melrose had already secured their second place on the King’s table, along with a cheque for £1,250, while Jed received their trophy and their £2,500 prize money. Melrose’s Skeen won player of the tournament.
Having received an unexpected late call-up to the Melrose squad, the now definitely retired Cammy Murray told TheSouthern: “It was very strange to be playing today to say the least.
“There has been 18 years between my first Jed Sevens and my second Jed Sevens, but it was good fun out there.
“I didn’t expect us to get to the final. To be fair, Heriot’s are probably a better team, but I was just delighted for the team that we got there and got a medal.”
The smiling but sore Murray added: “I got a text on Thursday asking me if I wanted to play. I foolishly replied yes.
“There was a few boys injured and one had flown back to New Zealand, so they were scraping the bottom of the barrel and got me.
“That is me definitely finished now.”
Heriots: J. Hill, F. Brown, H. Boisseau, G. Wilson, R. Carmichael, C. Ferguson, C. Goudie, C. Mulligan, M. Goldie, J. Hickman.
Melrose: R. Ovens, J. Helps, G. Runciman, S. McCormack, A. Skeen, C. Murray, F. Gogan, D. Crawford, S. Chalmers, B. Hutchison.