Twenty-four hours after officially being crowned Kings of the Sevens for a second successive season, Melrose confirmed their regal status with victory over Gala in the final of the Earlston tournament.
The straight ‘five’ at The Haugh is just one of several records established by the current Melrose side this season, and sits alongside the table-topping 68 points accumulation in the Kings competition, surpassing the club’s previous best for a season by three points.
And there are still two tournaments remaining.
Melrose coach John Dalziel has promised that his side will not ease off. He said: “We’re looking to pass as many milestones as we can. We’ve broken the points record. We’ve won six out of the eight tournaments. If you get eight in the modern era that would be quite an achievement.
“The boys love their sevens. They’re all hungry,” explained Dalziel, adding: “ But they’re broken and bust. I don’t know where they keep finding the energy. We’re maybe not so effective on the ball, but our defence is so good at the moment. We seem to be more comfortable when we’ve not got the ball”.
As with all successful sevens teams over the years, Melrose rely on individual skills, understanding of the sevens game and sheer fitness.
But the current Melrose side has also been helped by another factor.
“We’ve got five or six of our side all training with the Scotland squad on Wednesdays. So they go up to Murrayfield to be part of the back-up training squad.
“I’m worried that they overdo it on the Wednesdays, but you can see the fitness coming through. They’ve just got a real spirit among them. No one wants to let anyone down. There’s hardly a missed tackle all day,” observed Dalziel, himself an international sevens player.
Melrose came through the bottom half of the draw with ease, cruising past Northumberland with a 38-0 win and then knocking out Hawick in the quarter-final with a 33-5 scoreline.
Melrose then came up against a Watsonians side that contained four under-18 players, including the New Year Sprint winner Ben Robbins.
But in the event experience told as Melrose showed their strength in defence to finish winners 28-0.
For their part, Gala had an easy first-round tie against Merchistonians and then disposed of Jed-Forest in the quarters, before defeating Edinburgh Accies 24-12.
In the final, Melrose led 14-12 at the break from tries by Callum Anderson and Andrew Nagle to touchdowns for Gala by Ruairi Howarth and Craig Russell. Then in the second half Bruce Dick profited from turnover ball to score for Melrose, but in a frantic finish Keith Young crossed for Gala, only for Craig Dods to miss the conversion kick, leaving Melrose winners.
Watching the final was former Melrose coach, Craig Chalmers, who admitted to being impressed by Gala’s performance.
He said: “Chris Dalgleish has been working hard with them. They’ve got some good young players. I’ve been really impressed with Ruairi Howarth today. He’s certainly one for the future and one who’ll be in the headlines in the years to come.”
Galashiels Academy pupil Howarth, who was capped this season for Scotland under-18 in matches against England, Ireland, Wales, Portugal and Italy, scored five tries in the tournament.
Gala also fielded fellow under-18 cap Gary Robertson, who joined his elder brother Craig in the Maroons team.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh Accies , with Alex Blair a key player for the Raeburn Place team, and Watsonians, who were without key players, provided the city challenge, both sides reaching the semi-final.
Accies, however, had to overcome a gritty Selkirk side in the quarter-final. Elsewhere, St Boswells briefly threatened an upset against Hawick before the Greens pulled away to win their first-round tie.