THERE were scenes of utter jubilation at the Greenyards on Saturday as Melrose lifted the Ladies Centenary Cup for the first time in 13 years.
A cacophony of sound greeted the final whistle as cheers mixed with the sound of vuvuzelas and the pitch became a sea of black and yellow.
After lifting the cup to an ecstatic home support, captain Scott Wight said: “We worked hard for that. It was a massive achievement.
“As a wee boy you dream about something like this – walking up those stairs and lifting the cup. Fortunately, I was captain this year and it was me who lifted the trophy.
“But the boys’ attitude was first class. We were asked questions in the final and we came up with the answers.
“I’ve won a cup final at Murrayfield, but to win an event like this in front of your own crowd is extra special.”
Anton Moolman, the Hamilton coach, added: “The boys are very down, but there is no disgrace in losing to a side like Melrose. They deserved to win; they played a great brand of rugby.
“But this has been a great experience for us and we’d like to thank Melrose, and the Scottish people, for welcoming us. We will remember this for the rest of our lives.”
Around 12,000 supporters came from near and far to enjoy the event and none were disappointed as the dazzling sunshine which fell on the Greenyards lent itself to what is ultimately one of the greatest showpiece events on the Scottish rugby calendar. Many embraced the tournament’s 70s theme, but none could argue that the main focus of the day fell on the rugby pitch.
Jed-Forest were the first of the Borders teams to stake their claim to a place in the last eight with a battling victory against Dundee, while Selkirk and Melrose also made it through.
With all three Borders teams confined to the top half of the draw, the quarter-finals were going to be a case of survival of the fittest and Jed showed early promise against Hong Kong Scottish which was enough to see them hold on for a 22-17 win, ensuring in the process that one Borders team would definitely be appearing in the final.
Next up was the all-Borders clash between Melrose and Selkirk, which saw the hosts stroll through with a fairly comfortable 33-19 victory.
In the bottom half of the draw, the guest sides ran rampage with Waikato disposing of Glasgow Hawks and Hamilton ousting Heriot’s.
So, to the semi-finals. And a now rampant Melrose could smell victory. Jamie Murray, Callum Anderson and Scott Wight all went over in the first period, Wight converting all three, to build up a half-time score of 21-0.
Iain Chisolm crossed for Jed just after the restart, but normal service resumed shortly afterwards when Graham Dodds ran in for Wight to convert. Fraser Thomson added another before Jed’s Darren Gillespie got in for the final score, converted by Ewan Scott.
Hamilton’s path was not as easy as the Waikato defence made life difficult, but the South Africans made it through thanks to two tries from Alshaun Bock either side of the break and another self-converted effort in the later stages from Janno van Zyl.
Cohen Masson scored a late consolation try for Waikato.
The Kiwis were not quite finished, however, and an impromtu haka before the final had the Melrose crowd on their feet.
In the final, Terry Jacobs took first blood with a converted try for Hamilton, but Melrose fought back and a try for Scott Wight, which he converted himself, levelled the scores. Jeffrey Williams added a second for the visitors, but still Melrose chased and a searing run from Callum Anderson had the crowd in raptures as it ended in a try. Wight converted, making the interval score 14-14.
The hysteria continued after the restart when Anderson repeated the feat and a perfectly-timed pass from Jamie Murray to Scott Wight saw the Melrose skip go in for another, which he also converted.
Nervousness peppered the atmosphere as Bock scored his 11th try of the day, but the home support erupted once more when Allan Dodds broke to touch down. It was too much for Jandres du Plessis, who, for the second time in the game, tried to stop the try by lunging a boot at the scorer, and he and Dodds came to blows.
Du Plessis spent the rest of the final in the sin-bin, and Melrose held on with great determination.
Van Zyl scored and converted a last try before Gala ref David Changleng sounded the final whistle, igniting a pitch invasion and a party in Melrose unlikely to be forgotten for some time.
Trophies were presented to the winners by the club’s press and media manager Lesley Thomson.