Fiona Scott soaked up the atmosphere at the new-look Five Star Taxis Gala Sevens
IT HAS been 91 years since Jed-Forest last got their hands on the Gala Sevens trophy but on Saturday, under the Netherdale floodlights, the long wait came to an end.
Kevin Amos’s men swept all before them to lift the cup and take the opening round of the 2012 Kings of the Sevens tournament.
The new-look, evening, round-robin format appeared to suit all participants but Jed edged the prize, coming top of their group and ousting hosts Gala and city side Heriots to claim the honours.
Sevens supremo Amos, assisted by regular first XV coach Darren Cunningham, was delighted with the performance of his men. He told TheSouthern: “It’s great to be involved again and all credit to the boys as today’s tournament was very much a case of blood and guts and I believe that their desire to win got them through.
“It’s certainly been a long time coming but they more than deserved that tonight. It’s a privilege to coach these boys as their enthusiasm is always there. They put their bodies on line, week in and week out, and then we ask them to train through the week and they just get on with it. It’s an absolute pleasure to be coaching them for the sevens.”
With many first XV players resting ahead of their forthcoming cup final it was a relatively young Gala side that took to the field at their own tournament.
But with the lighting-fast Craig Robertson and the solid defence of Euan Dods among their ranks, one had to fancy their chances as the pool stages progressed.
The hosts were the first team to make it through to the semis after early victories over Langholm (42-7) and Peebles 29-7. Any dreams they had of taking their own title, however, were stopped right there as Jed, who had earlier seen off the Co-optimists (31-12) and Hawick (24-17), stepped in to spoil the party.
It took a good four minutes for either of the Border sides to mark the scoreboard and when it did come, it was Jed’s Darren Gillespie who went over from close range. Gregor Young added another from further out to give his side a 10-0 lead at the break.
Gala came back in the second half and piled the pressure on and that man Robertson eventually got the ball across the whitewash when he went searing in from the Jed 22.
Despite a valiant attempt to reach the line by Lee Millar in the closing stages, however, Jed managed to steal possession and kick the ball out of bounds at the final whistle.
In the other semi, Heriots and Kelso went head to head. In the pool stages Heriots had beaten Kings title holders Melrose (36-12) and Watsonians (17-14).
Heriots scored first through Max Learmonth but Kelso came back with an excellent try from Andy Tait converted by Murray Hastie, to put the Tweedsiders in front. Minutes later Heriots took back the lead with a converted try from Andrew Scott.
A neat side-step and a lengthy sprint by Hastie, who also made the conversion, allowed Kelso to put their noses in front again just before the break. Half time 14-12.
After the restart, Heriots launched a try fest with Scott, Learmonth and Graham Wilson all adding tries before Alan Haig broke the chain with a brilliant solo effort for Kelso. Rory Carmichael added another for Heriots just before the final whistle.
It was five past nine when the final kicked off and a large turnout of support for the local team helped make a magical atmosphere for the first Kings final of the season.
Heriots speed merchant Scott got the ball rolling with a converted try from half way but Jed kept in touch when Lewis Young grabbed a spilled ball and wove his way over the try line and between the posts for an easy conversion.
Learmonth sneaked one over in the corner for Heriots before Jed notched the try of the day when Andrew Nagle took a pass behind his back at pace and found Gregor Young, who sprinted over for a converted try. Half-time: Jed-Forest 14 Heriots 12.
Jason Hill put Heriots back in the lead after the restart and a fantastic conversion by Graham Wilson edged the city side ahead once more. Not for long, however, as Lewis Young took control to sweep in for Jed’s third converted try.
Determined to ruin things for the Borders team, however, Heriot’s responded with another converted try from Scott. Jed were having none of it and Nagle himself scored the next try, which was also converted to reinstate the two point lead.
Heriots tried again and made their way down to the Jed 22 but the Jed defence held out and a tremendous tackle by Michael Weekly was the last move of a memorable meeting which saw Jed take the Gala title and the first 10 points in the 2012 Kings of the Sevens tournament.
Kaye Niven, representing sponsors Five Star Taxis, presented the winners with the trophy to put an end a highly successful tournament.
Gala RFC president George Marshall said: “I think the new format has been excellent. The weather remained good and we have had quite a good turnout and the players seem to have enjoyed it so at this present moment we are extremely happy.”
Jed-Forest: D. Gillespie, M. Weekly, A. Nagle, R. Goodfellow, I. Chisholm, L. Young, G. Young, D. Grieve, R. Hogg, D. Gobby.
Heriot’s: A. Spence, F. Brown, J. Hill, M. Nimmo, G. Wilson, A. Scott, G. Lawson, M. Learmonth, R. Carmichael, C. Ferguson.
Pool One: Co-Optimists 15 Hawick 33; Co-Optimists 12 Jed-Forest 31; Hawick 17 Jed-Forest 24.
Pool Two: Gala 42 Langholm 7; Gala 10 Peebles 7; Langholm 7 Peebles 29.
Pool Three: Selkirk 10 Edinburgh Accies 15; Selkirk 12 Kelso 24; Edinburgh Accies 21 Kelso 26.
Pool Four: Melrose 17 Watsonians 14; Melrose 12 Heriots 36; Watsonians 14 Heriots 17.
Semi-Finals: Jed-Forest 10 Gala 5; Kelso 21 Heriots 36.
Final: Jed-Forest 28 Heriots 26.