AFTER the Langholm tournament the day before, Hawick’s win lifted them to third in the Kings of the Sevens table, with a real chance of getting themselves in the mix for the rest of the series, and there was a great deal of excitement as the circus rolled into a bitterly-cold and blustery Peebles on Sunday.
The Peebles draw raised a lot of eyebrows when, incredibly, seven Borders teams were pulled out to go into the bottom half, with only Peebles and Berwick from the area were in the top section.
Two of the top three sides in the table, Jed-Forest and Hawick, were drawn together in round one and this meant that one of the two would be playing just 14 minutes of rugby at the Gytes. Worse, they would be heading home with no points.
A win for Hawick in this tie, followed by a good run and maybe even a third Kings of the Sevens win would close the gap dramatically and blow the tournament wide open, whereas a Jed win would heap pressure on the Greens.
After the previous day’s feisty encounter which ended in a bout of fisticuffs, there was so much at stake that Jed scrum half Ross Goodfellow’s comments before the match that this was “just another game” seemed surprising, but maybe ignoring the media hype was exactly the way to play this tie.
It certainly worked for the Kings leaders as they took the match 19-7 and sent Hawick home.
Peebles, meanwhile, enjoyed safe passage through to the semi-final stage by beating Biggar and Dumfries, and with the inclusion of former Gytes man Callum Anderson (now with Aberdeen Grammar following his stint at Melrose) it gave a big boost to the home side.
He joined up with brothers David and Donald, and there was no reason to believe that Peebles wouldn’t make it one step further to try and retain their own trophy.
But they met a Watsonians side which has been getting better and better each tournament – and the capital men continued on that form to win the tight semi-final to take on Jed, who came back from 12 points down to knock out Gala in the other match.
It was always going to be a tight game and Watsonians had just enough nous to close out a tight encounter and win 10-7.
All of a sudden the Edinburgh team were in the spotlight and hasty calculations proved that a win at Peebles would rocket them into fourth place, just behind Hawick.
There’s no doubt that Jed had the toughest path to the last game. After a gruelling encounter to beat Hawick, they knuckled down to put Melrose out at the quarter-final stage for the fifth time this year in five attempts, but it needed a last-second penalty kick from Iain Chisholm to get the win by 15-14. By the time they had overturned Gala 21-12, winning the final was one step too far.
In a one-sided contest it was Watsonians who romped home to win 38-12 their fourth win at this tournament in the last eight years – but for Jed it put them 14 points clear with four events remaining, and with the bonus of having the Young twins playing for Jed-Forest instead of Scotland over the next two weeks, it’s advantage Jed for the Kings of the 7s title.
But there’s still a lot of points up for grabs
And if history repeats itself, we could yet go down to the wire at the final round at Riverside Park on May 19.
Jed-Forest: D. Gillespie, M. Weekley, A. Nagle, R. Goodfellow, I. Chisholm, C. Robertson (Gala), G. Young, D. Grieve, R. Hogg, J. Hogg. Not in final: L. Young (injured).
Watsonians: D. Dunnett, H. Grant, L. Draycott, J. Ferguson, R. Steele, T. Hart, S. McKean, M. Ker, B. Walls, C. Smith.
First round: Berwick 17 Old Redcliffians 24; Watsonians 36 Musselburgh 0; Biggar 0 Peebles 22; Lasswade 0 Dumfries 43; Melrose 17 Selkirk 5; Hawick 7 Jed-Forest 19; Gala 24 Hawick YM 0; Kelso 24 Edinburgh Accies 17.
Quarter-finals: Old Redcliffians 14 Watsonians 31; Peebles 45 Dumfries 5; Melrose 14 Jed-Forest 15; Gala 19 Kelso 17.
Semi-finals: Watsonians 10 Peebles 7; Jed-Forest 21 Gala 12.
Final: Watsonians 38 Jed-Forest 12.