It is no exaggeration to say that, courtesy of convincing victories over Selkirk, Gala, Peebles, and Heriot’s in the final, Melrose are well on their way to reaching peak performance ahead of the new rugby season.
The Greenyards men played a relentlessly vigorous, high-intensity, pressing game – not to mention with a kaleidoscopically flexible style – that bewildered and tired out their opposition.
They were a class above and sent a message to rivals ahead of the new league season.
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“We didn’t expect anything going into Saturday. It’s still only the first week of August, so guys are only now just coming back, but we are thrilled with the overall result and how the lads looked,” said delighted head coach, Rob Chrystie.
Considered an outlier for shifting their Kings tournament from its usual spot among the crowded April/May schedule, Peebles’ move to August has proved to be a raging success among supporters, sponsors and the players.
The move has other Kings clubs, who have militantly resisted changing their own tournament dates in the past, suggesting a change to August could be discussed.
If not for a last-minute cancellation from Bigger, this year’s event – which featured rolling substitutes and squads of 12, an increase from 10, for the first time in its history – would have passed without issue.
After a number of competitive ties, Melrose, Heriots, Watsonians and Peebles all easily progressed out of their groups into the semi-finals.
In the opening semi-final match-up, Melrose were pushed to their limits by a determined Watsonians. The Myreside outfit led 12-5 at half time but a second-half flurry from Fraser Thomson, who had crossed the whitewash in the opening period, and Ian Sim, helped Melrose hold off their rivals, who could have sent the game into extra-time if not for a wayward conversion.
Hosts Peebles fell agonisingly short against Heriot’s in the second semi. Tries from Ross Combe, Tom Bramwell and Iain Wilson sealed the Goldenacre side’s finals berth.
In the final, Melrose’s class shone through. Converted scores from Craig Jackson and Gavin Wood helped Melrose take a 12-7 advantage into half-time before a third score from Stuart Hutchison after the break clinched the Peebles title for the Greenyards men.
“We are pleased with how everything went. The boys did exceptionally well against some very tough sides, especially Watsonians, who came with a very strong side,” added Chrystie.
“There is nothing better than playing meaningful matches like these at this time of year. The new system of rolling subs and bigger squads meant we could have a lot more flexibility. It meant we could give guys a rest after long runs, bring in guys when we need a bit of something and make changes when needed.
“Overall, it was a great event and gives us a good start ahead of a busy three weeks.” Results:
Pool A – Melrose 29, Selkirk 14; Selkirk 22, Gala 27; Melrose 47, Gala 7.
Pool B – Watsonians 26, Hawick 12; Hawick 12, Jed-Forest 19; Watsonians 20, Jed-Forest 5.
Pool C – Edinburgh Accies 10, Heriot’s 32; Biggar withdrew.
Pool D – Peebles 14, Kelso 0; Kelso 7, Berwick 17; Peebles 14, Berwick 5.
Semi-finals – Melrose 19, Watsonians 17; Heriot’s 17, Peebles 12.
Final – Melrose 17, Heriot’s 7.