Kings of the Sevens title-holders Melrose continued their incredible record at Earlston by winning a sixth successive title at the Haugh.
The Greenyards outfit defeated Gala in the final for the second time in a winning weekend.
The double success at Kelso and Earlston puts the Greenyards men firmly in second place, but with just three rounds of the Kings of the Sevens competition remaining, the chances of ’Rose closing the 21-point gap on leaders Gala look slim, unless of course the Maroons perform catastrophically at Selkirk, Hawick and Jed.
The arithmetic says that Gala need to garner 10 points from the three remaining tournaments to seize the Kings crown, and given the Maroons’ form this season such a target seems eminently achievable for the Netherdale side.
At a wet and windy Haugh, Melrose showed that they are not going to lose their regal status without a fight, by improving through the rounds before fronting up to a Gala side that looked to be heading for victory.
Alex Clark, the Melrose coach, praised his side for performing well when it mattered.
He said: “The boys put in a fantastic effort today.
“At times we were backs to the wall. Determination and grit won that final.
“In defence we decided to put pressure on teams and that makes it really hard for them. We got better as the final went on. Our defence pushed them back and stopped them playing.
“We’ve got a squad of 10 that just work hard for each other. We were struggling to pick a squad for this weekend with injuries from last week. But that gave a couple of young boys opportunities.”
Outstanding for Melrose in the youth department were David Colvine and George Taylor, who both contributed massively, but in points terms it was playmaker Richard Mill, benefitting from incisive running by Austin Lockington, who stole the show by scoring a hat-trick of tries, converting all three as well as kicking a penalty goal.
For Gala, there was evident disappointment. The Maroons would have virtually tied up the Kings competition with victory at the Haugh, but when it mattered they fell just short, despite possessing pace in abundance and skilful playmakers.
For the men from Netherdale, it seemed the whole was less than the sum of the parts.
Elsewhere, Hawick Quins nearly caused a first-round upset after coming within two points of defeating Watsonians, Selkirk showed better form ahead of their own tournament on Saturday, while Hawick, for whom Finlay Simpson impressed, also stepped up the pace with a eye to the rescheduled Mansfield Park Sevens.
Melrose had worked their way through the top half of the draw, edging out Watsonians in the second round and then dismissing a malfunctioning Jed-Forest side in the first of the semi finals. For their part, Gala had an easier passage through the first two rounds, with wins over St Boswells and Kelso, before having to find extra reserves to subdue a strong Hawick team in the second semi-final.
In the final, Gala trailed 17-5 at the break, Gavin Young having scored the Maroons’ only first-half try and Richard Mill having converted both his tries and kicked a penalty goal. Second-half touchdowns from Graham Spiers and Fraser Hunter, both unconverted, brought the score to 17-15, but against a determined Melrose defence, the Maroons were unable to produce a winning score and it was left to Mill to sign off the final with his third try and conversion to give his side victory.
Melrose: G. Taylor, C. Anderson, G. Runciman, D. Colvine, R. Mill, A. Lockington, L. Mallin, G. Dodds, G. Wood, L. Riddell.
Gala: S. Cairns, G. Graham, G. Young, C. Dods, D. O’Hagan, G. Spiers, J. Parker, F. Hunter, C. Robertson, K. Young.