BRUISED and battered Melrose may be, but the pain suffered as another long, hard season came to a close at Riverside Park on Saturday was soon forgotten when the Greenyards outfit snatched their final victory.
Contesting both the PD&F Jed-Forest 7s and the Kings of the Sevens title, Scott Wight and his men made one last courageous attempt at retaining both titles won last year.
And, despite an heroic effort from the hosts to spoil the party, the effort paid off.
Like last year, the Kings tournament went right down to the wire on Saturday, keeping the throng of supporters surrounding the pitch entertained right up to the final whistle.
Following the trophy presentations, Melrose player/coach John Dalziel told TheSouthern: “We knew if we played the hosts in the final that they would come out with a large support behind them, but we learned a lesson at Selkirk last week and we were a lot more focused today.
“Most of the guys are carrying some hard knocks from the season and it’s credit to them that they have this great appetite to play and winning today has made it all worthwhile.”
Jed coach Darren Cunningham admitted his team were devastated following the final, but paid tribute to his men.
He told us: “I can’t describe how disappointed the lads are at the moment. We’ve worked really hard all season and it all came down to this one.
“We are absolutely gutted, Melrose were there for the taking and we really wanted to beat them in the final, but on the day it wasn’t to be.
“All credit to the lads, though, along with coaches Kevin Barry and Kevin Amos. Everyone has put 100 per cent into this and we can’t ask for more than that.
With three local teams still in line for the Kings title a large crowd arrived at the venue for the final event and disappointed they were not.
Melrose went through first in the top half of the draw, beating Edinburgh Accies (33-14) and Peebles (35-19) in their previous games, with a confident semi-final display against title contenders Selkirk.
Scott McCormack, Callum Anderson and Jamie Murray all touched down in quick succession, Scott Wight making two of the conversions, before Selkirk got in on the act with a Euan Dodds try.
The Souters found themselves on the receiving end of a rather harsh yellow card when Neil Darling was sent from the field for repeatedly enquiring why referee Andrew McMenemy had penalised his side, and Callum Anderson punished the Souters by nipping in for a try, converted by Wight, before the break.
The second half was fairly non-eventful in comparison with Melrose only doing the minimum to maintain their lead. Fraser Thomson ran in a fine solo effort to seal the victory before Dodds added a second for the Souters, and converted himself, making the final score 33-12 and ending the challenge for Selkirk.
The second semi-final proved to be a total whitewash for the hosts who ran roughshod over a weary-looking Heriot’s outfit.
In the earlier ties, Jed had disposed of Stewart’s Melville (38-7) and Haddington (43-17), but showed no signs of fatigue when they took on the city side.
In their semi, tries from Lewis Young (2), Gregor Young (3), Ross Goodfellow, Ewan Scott and David Gobby, plus five conversions from the boot of Scott, contributed to the final scoreline of 50-0 to the Riverside outfit.
The crowd were entertained by P6 squads from Jedburgh and Kelso before the final with the home youngsters receiving their trophy following a gallant 4-2 victory.
With so much at stake, the final itself was a feisty encounter with Peebles-based international referee David Changleng doing a fantastic job. Despite fists flying, all 14 men remained on the pitch and some sensible decisions by the man in the middle ensured matters didn’t deteriorate.
Melrose began the scoring with tries by Allan Dodds and Callum Anderson, both converted by White, before Jed countered with twins Lewis and Gregor Young grabbing a try apiece with Ewan Scott adding one conversion to leave the hosts trailing by just two points at the break.
When Jed got their noses in front after the restart, Andrew Nagle running through to take the honours, the crowd erupted, but Melrose kept their cool and got themselves back into contention with further tries from Anderson and Fraser Thomson to go in front again.
They should have stretched their lead when Jamie Murray scored a try, but play was brought back for an off-the-ball incident and Jed took advantage of the penalty to score again, Scott touching down and converting.
This brought them back to within a couple of points, but a late try by Thomson gave the Greenyards men the win by 31-24 and earned them not only the Jed title, but the Kings of the Sevens trophy for the second year running. To put the icing on the cake they picked up the Borders Team of the Year award for an outstanding season.