ENGLISH champions Saracens may have won the 2012 Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens but Borders side Jed-Forest were the heroes.
Kevin Amos’s 10 battled away through rain, hail and sunshine to get to the final, beating hosts and title holders Melrose on the way, before running out of steam in the second half of a hard-fought match against the Kelly Brown managed professional outfit.
Coach Amos told TheSouthern: “I’m really proud of the boys. I really thought at half time that we were still in with a massive chance, but fair play to them [Saracens]. They took advantage at the kick-offs and they were on the money all the time.
“They had a couple of big guys out there and we just couldn’t get our hands on the ball and at that stage of the game if you have to chase ball all the time it takes a huge toll.
“It’s not every day you get into the final at Melrose Sevens. The last time we were there was 1993 when myself and Kevin Barrie were in the squad. We were beaten 61-0 by the Co-Optimists and it took us about three years until we could bear to watch the video. I can’t fault our boys for their effort and I’m sure they will move on and learn from today, it’s been a great experience for them.”
Despite the changeable weather throughout the day, a massive crowd turned out at the Greenyards to savour the world-famous sevens tournament.
The pick of the first round ties was the all-Border match between Kelso and Gala which the former just managed to take, 19-14. Peebles, Hawick and Langholm also made their exits at this stage.
Round two got off to an interesting start when Jed played a five-man Stirling team for a spell when Gala ref Andrew McMenemy brandished his yellow card twice in quick succession for what he ruled was dangerous tackling. Needless to say, the Jed men took full advantage to win 21-10. Jed’s try scorers were Darren Gillespie, Gregor Young and Robert Hogg.
Hong Kong Scottish were the first of the visiting teams to go out when they were beat by Glasgow Hawks.
Selkirk started and ended their tournament in the second round when they went down fighting to Watsonians. Nyle Godsmark and Darren Clapperton scored the Selkirk tries.
Title holders and hosts Melrose showed their intentions by riding roughshod over Dundee. Melrose try scorers: Allan Dodds (2), Andrew Skeen (2), Fraser Thomson.
David Dunbar’s London Scottish outfit added a bit of colour to the field when they donned their pink strips in aid of the Bill McLaren Foundation. And they were certainly in the pink when they ran in a narrow victory over Stewart’s Melville.
Singapore didn’t fare so well and found themselves on the receiving end of a 49-0 thrashing at the hands of Aberdeen.
Looking to boost the Borders contingent in the quarter-finals, Kelso put up a brave fight in their second match. Playing a fresh-legged Edinburgh Accies side, the Tweedsiders were 21-0 down at half time but a second half surge saw them pull the scores back to 21-14 thanks to converted tries by Mark Chester and Andy Tait. With 90 seconds to go, Kelso won the ball in a scrum in their own 22 and Richard Minto took the ball and ran the length of the pitch to score. Ewan Ford scuffed the kick, allowing the city side to go through.
In the final tie of round two, Saracens edged a win over Heriot’s.
With the hopes of the Borders resting on them, Jed and Melrose entered the quarter-finals with the prospect of playing each another in the semi’s dangling like the proverbial carrot.
Jed, up first against Glasgow Hawks, made the early running with Iain Chisholm latching on to a Lewis Young pass to blast through to score. Lewis increased the scoreline minutes later with an excellent solo score out wide which was equally brilliantly converted by Chisholm. Hawks added a converted try just before the break to reduce the leeway to 12-7.
Hawks levelled the scores after the restart and Jed had to commit themselves to some desperate defending for the remainder of the half as Hawks battered away at their line. As the game moved on, extra time looked a certainty but right on the last play of the game Jed captain Gregor Young broke away, sprinting the length of the pitch before passing to Robert Hogg who went in for the match-clinching try.
Next up were Melrose who got off to a great start against Watsonians when Fraser Thomson took a well timed pass from Allan Dodds to go over for a converted try.
Watsonians equalised but a perfectly weighted kick ahead from Scott Wight allowed Andrew Skeen to race in for the touch down, which was converted.
After the restart, Jamie Niven crossed the whitewash for the city side and silence descended around the ground but Mike Ker’s conversion fell short.
Dodds added another try for Melrose a minute later, which was converted, and Bruce Colvine touched down in the dying seconds to seal the win.
In the other half of the draw, London Scottish were disposed of easily by Aberdeen while Saracens turned on the style in the second half to send Edinburgh Accies home.
In fine Borders style, the skies opened for the semi-final between Jed and Melrose and brollies went up as no-one wanted to miss this tie.
Jed made the first attack but Ian Chisholm was stopped short by Bruce Colvine who then rubbed further salt in the wound by running in for the first try, at the opposite end, which was converted by Scott Wight.
Chisholm continued his outstanding performance, however, and following another failed break, he finally managed to orchestrate a Jed try during which he played the middle man between the Young brothers, Lewis being the scorer.
No sooner had Chisholm landed the conversion than the boys from Riverside were off again. This time Andrew Nagle squeezed over in the corner to give his team a 12-7 half-time lead.
A searing break by Darren Gillespie was halted by Fraser Thomson after the restart before a rare mistake by Wight saw Jed with a scrum five metres from the posts. A knock-on put an end to that attack and Melrose eventually got hold of the ball. They didn’t get far with it, however, as Jed continued to get right in their faces.
Melrose tried everything but struggled to get out of their own half and when John Dalziel knocked the ball on, all that was left for Andrew Nagle to do was to boot the ball out of play and the Jed arms were up to signal a momentous victory.
Fifteen minutes later Jed had their opponents when Saracens scraped through following a tremendous fight back from Aberdeen to set up a mouth-watering finale. Jed certainly looked up to the challenge
Gregor Young got the ball rolling with a break right up the middle of the field to score the first try. Chisholm converted before Jed were forced into a spell of defence where Darren Gillespie and Michael Weekly came into their own.
Midway through, Ben Ransom broke through to score, Nils Mordt converting, to make things all square. Gregor Young was in again minutes later after brother Lewis broke through a tackle and off-loaded. Chisholm added the extras.
Once again Saracens came back. This time Scott Spurling touching down, pulling his hamstring in the process, for Mordt to convert.
The visitors went ahead for the first time just before the break when an attempted kick ahead went wrong for the Borders outfit and Ransom ran in for his second. The conversion was missed leaving Saracens leading 19-14 at half time.
That gap increased after the break when Duncan Taylor touched down, Mordt converting, and Jed were left with an uphill task. Tom Jubb was next on the score board although the majority of folk on the touchline thought Ross Goodfellow had managed to hold the ball up. Further tries by Kameli Ratuvou and Ali Price (2) with Mordt making two conversions sealed the win for Saracens but Jed had the final say when Ross Goodfellow ran in for Chisholm to add the conversion at the final whistle.
“We’re all gutted about the result but in general it was great to get to the final and great for the club as a whole,” said captain Young.
“Beating Melrose in the semis was just a fantastic feeling, everyone gave 100 per cent and we just came up short at the end. We can learn from that and who knows? Maybe next year.
Jed-Forest: D. Gillespie, M. Weekly, A. Nagle, R. Goodfellow, I. Chisholm, L. Young, G. Young, D. Grieve, R. Hogg, D. Gobby.
Saracens: J. Saunders, S. Spurling, T. Jubb, E. Sherriff, D. Taylor, K. Ratuvou, J. Maddock, B. Ransom, A. Price, N. Mordt.
Melrose Sevens results
First Round: Currie 0 Stirling County 15; Glasgow Hawks 19 Boroughmuir 14; Watsonians 27 Hamilton 14; Dundee 41 Whitecraigs 7; Stewart’s Melville 19 Peebles 12; Aberdeen 26 Hawick 0; Kelso 19 Gala 14; Langholm 0 Heriot’s FP 50.
Second Round: Stirling County 10 Jed-Forest 21; Glasgow Hawks 31 Hong Kong Scottish 12; Watsonians 17 Selkirk 12; Dundee 10 Melrose 33; Stewart’s Melville 19 London Scottish 21; Aberdeen 49 Singapore 0; Kelso 19 Edinburgh Accies 21; Heriot’s FP 17 Saracens 19.
Quarter-Finals: Jed-Forest 17 Glasgow Hawks 12; Watsonians 12 Melrose 28; London Scottish 7 Aberdeen 34; Edinburgh Accies 5 Saracens 29.
Semi-Finals: Jed-Forest 12 Melrose 7; Aberdeen 17 Saracens 26.
Final: Jed-Forest 21 Saracens 50