TALK of an all-Border final between hosts Melrose and Kings of the Sevens leaders Gala was soon knocked on the head on Saturday.
For once again English Premiership side Saracens travelled to the Greenyards and swept all before them at the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens tournament.
Nils Mordt and his team followed up their win in 2012 by beating fellow guest side Clermont Auvergne in an exciting final in which Saracens came from behind to win 24-22 with a last-second converted try.
Saracens coach Joe Shaw paid tribute to his team as well as commending the young Clermont side.
He said: “I have to give credit to Nils and the lads. They stuck at it and did what they had to do. And I’m really chuffed for them.
“Clermont are under-23 players from the senior academy and they all played really well today. I must admit I was getting a little nervous at the end of the first half and credit where credit’s due, they took it to the very last minute.”
In turn, Clermont coach Alex King applauded his opponents.
“It was a cruel ending, but Saracens were deserved winners and I take my hat off to them,” he said.
“It was great that we got to ply our skills on the big stage today and we were close, but not quite close enough.”
Scotland skipper and former Melrose back row man Kelly Brown was not present to watch his club side take the victory, but Saracen’s sevens captain Joe “Mad Dog” Maddock, who will retire at the end of the season, told The Southern he was sure he would be listening in somewhere.
“Kelly will probably be jumping out of his boots right now,” he added.
“He is captaining our XV’s team tomorrow, but he sent us all messages of support. We desperately wanted to do it for him and, indeed, the support we have had from all at Melrose has been brilliant.”
Both Gala and Melrose from the Borders made the quarter-final stage, which allowed the Maroons to hold on to their top spot on the Kings of the 7s table, before being ousted by Clermont and Aberdeen Grammar respectively. To make matters worse, former Melrose captain Scott Wight played a pivotal role in the defeat. The Glasgow Warriors stand-off made an appearance at his home sevens for his draft team Aberdeeen and his eyecatching breaks caused his former side no end of problems.
The 10,000 strong crowd didn’t seem to mind too much, though, and soon turned their allegiances to Wight’s side, who took Saracens to extra time in the semis.
Ayr were the fourth semi-finalists following their victory over guest side Worcester, but hopes of a Scottish side making it through were soon dashed.
Summing up another great afternoon at the Greenyards, Melrose president John Reed said: “I think it was a hugely successful tournament.
“I managed to see a couple of tight quarter-finals, two hair’s-breadth victories in the semis and an absolute cliffhanger of a final. How close we were to having two Scottish sides in the final and it was great to see Scott Wight, albeit in the wrong colours, playing so imperiously.
“We get a few messages and comments at the club about how it should be a Borders tournament with no outsiders taking part, but they just don’t get it. Melrose Sevens has grown and developed to be a celebration of its roots and birth as the original tournament. It tests all of the teams beyond their comfort zones and in the last three tournaments, Melrose, Jed, Aberdeen and Ayr have all shown that they can compete. Long may Melrose Sevens be the showcase for club sevens.”