AT THE penultimate stage of the Scottish Borders Semi-Junior Sevens Series played at Philiphaugh on Saturday, Gala Wanderers more or less had the championship tied up before they even set foot on the pitch, writes Stuart Cameron.
Seventeen points clear of Selkirk Youth Club before the start, the Wanderers knew that they could wrap things up provided their nearest rivals didn’t win their own tournament, and with the Souters playing their Under-18 Youth Cup Final at Murrayfield the next day, they were always going to struggle to put out a competitive team.
And so it proved. Selkirk were knocked out by Duns Colts in round one and that, effectively, was that.
The Wands would step out for their first round tie against Tynedale Colts knowing that the title was in the bag. The Colts were spurred on by the partisan Selkirk supporters with every touch of the ball, bringing about cheers and much stamping of feet, and any mistake by Gala was greeted with even more noise in what became a good-natured mauling from the majority of the very large crowd of well over 1,000.
Gala Wanderers turned over Tynedale 17-5 and then set about destroying Biggar Colts 38-7, but Melrose Wasps provided a shock by beating them in the semi-final 15-12, while in the other half of the draw, Jed Thistle put out North Berwick, Duns and Kelso Quins to reach the final.
Wasps, featuring Craig Chalmers’ sons Ben and Sam, and David Colvine, brother of senior player Bruce, had earlier got rid of Haddington Colts and Hawick PSA with ease and looked a real threat to lift the trophy.
Indeed, Sam had played for Melrose six days earlier in the main Kings of the Sevens tournament at Berwick, showing a lot of pizzazz.
In the final, Jed went into the break with a 12-5 advantage.
Wasps skipper Blair Hutchison drew first blood with a try following a lung-busting break from well inside his own half.
Although chased down well by Scott Richardson, Melrose won a penalty and Hutchison scored.
Back came Thistle with tries from Declane Wallace and Jack Fraser, but after the break Wasps blitzed Jed with three further tries from Luke Riddell and a brace from Michael Rodgerson before a consolation score from Thistle’s Ewan Munro.
Melrose Wasps: L. Riddell, M. Rodgerson, M. Kerr, B. Chalmers, D. Colvine, S. Chalmers, B. Hutchison, C. Donaldson, R. Taylor, A. Runciman.
Jed Thistle: G. Young, M. Wilson, G. Law, E. Munro, M. Chisholm, S. Richardson, J. Rowley, J. Fraser, J. Richardson, D. Wallace.
First round: Hawick Wanderers 21 Peebles Colts 0; Langholm Colts 19 Kelso Quins 21; Selkirk Youth Club A 17 Duns Colts 27; North Berwick Colts 12 Jed-Thistle 19; Edinburgh BATs 0 Hawick PSA 24; Melrose Wasps 43 Haddington Colts 0; Gala Wanderers 17 Tynedale Colts 5; Berwick Colts 7 Biggar Colts 20.
Quarter-finals: Hawick Wanderers 14 Kelso Harlequins 21; Duns Colts 12 Jed Thistle 19; Hawick PSA 5 Melrose Wasps 24; Gala Wanderers 38 Biggar Colts 7.
Semi-finals: Kelso Harlequins 7 Jed Thistle 17; Melrose Wasps 17 Gala Wanderers 12.
Final: Jed Thistle 17 Melrose Wasps 26.