Monaco Impis celebrating winning 2023's Melrose 7s (Pic: Rob Gray)Monaco Impis celebrating winning 2023's Melrose 7s (Pic: Rob Gray)
Monaco Impis celebrating winning 2023's Melrose 7s (Pic: Rob Gray)

In photos: Melrose 7s win not mission impossible for Monaco Impis

It’s now a dozen years and counting since a Borders side won rugby’s Melrose Sevens, victory this time round going to an invitational side for the second year on the spin.

A new name was inscribed on the 1883 Centenary Cup for the second year in succession as international outfit Monaco Impis got the better of fellow invitational side Samurai, also beaten finalists in 2022, by 26-12 in Saturday night’s final in front of a crowd of more than 10,000.

David Boglashvili, the winners’ coach, was delighted to pull off that shock result, saying: “We’ve only existed for six years. We’ve never reached a final anywhere, so it’s a first and it’s been a great sevens experience.

“We are very happy, especially considering the level of some of the other teams.

“It’s a team pulled together from an international select to help them improve. The players come from different backgrounds from all over the place and yet they gelled together into a side.

“It is a magic experience. I’m very proud of the way they have come together, more so of that even than the result.

“It was difficult to create a game-plan in such a short time but somehow we seemed to manage it and earned ourselves a super result.”

Samurai made it to the final by knocking out last year’s winners, a British Army side mostly made up of Fijian players, in the semi-finals, winning 26-5.

This year’s final was preceded by a tribute to late Melrose and Scotland lock Doddie Weir following his death at the age of 52 in November after a six-year fight against motor neurone disease.

Tournament director Phil Morris was pleased to see attendance figures back up after a sparser turnout last year and two years off prior to that due to the coronavirus pandemic, saying: “We had lovely weather and a great crowd who had a great time. It was lovely to see a great final too.

“The tribute to Doddie Weir before the final worked well. It was an opportunity for us to pay our respects and remember a great player.”

Hosts Melrose – 12-times winners at their own tournament and the last Borderers to come out on top there, back in 2011, and also the most recent to make it to the final, losing 19-14 to Edinburgh’s Watsonians in 2018, a year after going down 31-19 to London’s Harlequins – were the only representatives of the region to make it to the quarter-finals, going out 31-14 to invitational side Speranza 22.

The Greenyards side got there by seeing off Kelso, 71-12 victors versus Boroughmuir in the preliminary round, by 45-0 in the first round, with Jed-Forest losing 17-7 to Speranza 22 at that stage after defeating Edinburgh Academical 38-12 the round before.

Gala went out in the preliminary round, losing 28-12 to Watsonians, as did Peebles, beaten 35-14 by Stirling County; Hawick, defeated 22-7 by Heriot’s; and Selkirk, 29-0 losers against Glasgow Hutchesons’ Aloysians.

Saturday’s results leave Gala and Melrose level on 20 points at the top of the Kings of the 7s leaderboard, thanks to the three points the hosts, captained by David Colvine, picked up for making it to the last eight.

Watsonians are third on 18, Peebles fourth on 13, Edinburgh Academical fifth on 11, Hawick sixth on ten, Kelso seventh on six, Selkirk eighth on five, Berwick ninth on three and Jed-Forest, champions last time round, yet to get off the mark.

Round five follows at Berwick this coming Sunday, with Langholm Sevens next up after that on Saturday, April 22.

This season’s run-in then comprises Kelso Sevens on Saturday, April 29; Earlston’s on Sunday, April 30; Jed-Forest’s on Saturday, May 13; and, wrapping proceedings up, Selkirk’s on Saturday, May 20.