All set for exciting new format at Netherdale

2011 Gala 7's
2011 Gala 7's

SEVENS heaven is set to hit the Borders this weekend with the local teams ready to set out their stall in Border rugby’s abbreviated showpiece.

The 2012 BSPC Kings of the Sevens rugby tournament will kick off at Netherdale on Saturday and with all 10 events being played in the space of seven weeks it is sure, as always, to be a scintillating series.

Gala president George Marshall receives the new sevens strip from Kaye Niven of sponsors Five Star Taxis. 'Photograph Alwyn Johnston

Gala president George Marshall receives the new sevens strip from Kaye Niven of sponsors Five Star Taxis. 'Photograph Alwyn Johnston

Hopes are high that Gala’s new round-robin format will please the crowds as well as the players.

An innovative structure shake-up will see this weekend’s Five Star Taxis Gala Sevens final played out under the Netherdale floodlights at 7.40pm.

As well as changing the starting time of the 121st staging of the tournament to 4.30pm, the Maroons have also decided to cut the number of participating teams from 16 to 12 and to play the tournament in a pool format, guaranteeing everyone at least two games.

The winners of each pool will then play off in a semi-final to decide the finalists.

Club events manager Gordon Keddie told TheSouthern: “As a club we felt that our sevens was dying on its feet so we put our heads together to come up with something different and we are delighted to welcome on board sponsors Five Star Taxis who have been a driving force behind this year’s event.

“If it doesn’t work then so be it, but we will have tried it. All the teams that have been invited are really enthusiastic about it and are looking forward to taking part.”

Having contested the final of the first ever sevens against host club Melrose in 1883, Gala ran their first “sports” the following year, which contained athletics and goal-kicking competitions as well as rugby.

2009 saw the 125th anniversary tournament, in which Selkirk ran out convincing winners against Melrose in the final.

Gala have won their own sevens 26 times, the last time being in 1995 when they beat Stirling County 40-7.

This year, the hosts have been drawn in the same pool as Langholm and Peebles and will be striving to get through their pool to pick up some points on the Kings table.

Mr Keddie added: “It’s been difficult for the players to think about sevens with the league and the cup still going on, but I’m sure they will be trying their hardest when they get out their in front of a home crowd on Saturday.”

Because the event this year shares a date with Edinburgh Rugby’s Heineken Cup quarter-final clash against Toulouse at Murrayfield (kick-off 3pm), organisers of the Netherdale event have came up with an incentive to please both pro-team and local supporters.

Anyone attending the match in Edinburgh can gain entry to Netherdale at half-price if they present their Heineken Cup ticket stubs at the gate.

Fans needn’t wait until 4.30pm to go along to the ground, either. The traditional Vets’ tournament, likely to feature former players such as Chris Dalgleish, Mark Ballantyne and Alan Johnston, will kick-off at 3pm, with the town band entertaining the crowds from 4pm till 4.30pm.

Throughout the day, the usual beer tent and refreshments will be on offer while the Patterson Lounge will also be open to the public.

Kaye Niven of Five Star Taxis will be on hand after the final to present the winners with their trophy and medals and following that, there will be a free disco in the Centenary Lounge until late.

AM/PM Catering will be on hand to provide some much needed sustenance during the whole proceedings.

Tickets and merchandise for the RBS Cup Final between Gala and Ayr on Saturday, April 21, will also be on offer throughout the day.