Souters’ passion ensures last event thrills

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HERE is a conundrum.

You are trailing 19-15 in the final few minutes of your club’s sevens tournament, attempting to defend a record of three consecutive competition victories against all-conquering Melrose.

A scrum is awarded in your favour 10 metres from your opponents line. What do you do?

In the case of Gavin Craig, Selkirk’s talented stand-off, he chose to go with a training ground move which had a previous success rate of zero.

The player of the tournament told TheSouthern after watching Ross Nixon cross the try-line to clinch an incredible 20-19 win: “We have tried the move all season and it has never worked.

“I have no idea why we called it, but this time Ross Nixon scored.

“To beat a quality team like Melrose in the final is fantastic.”

The victory was described as a “fairytale ending” by Selkirk president Donald Macleod, and was all the more remarkable following the sin-binning of Fraser Harkness after his bust-up with Bruce Colvine.

In his two-minute absence, Melrose had taken a 19-5 half-time lead as Fraser Thomson sprinted over for two touchdowns.

It seemed Craig Chalmers’ men were bound for the title and a significant lead in the Kings of the Sevens table with just one tournament to go, but Selkirk’s second-half performance must rank as one of the bravest ever seen at Philiphaugh.

Harkness made up for his Ricky Hatton impression with his and Selkirk’s second try of the final before Craig spotted a gap to cross for number three.

Melrose attempts to get out of their own half and clinch a match-winning score were continually denied by fierce Selkirk defence, epitomised by the diminutive Michael Davies’ textbook tackle on Thomson, and Neil Darling’s bone-shuddering hit on Graeme Dodds.

With a partisan crowd of around 1,000 creating an atmosphere to rival most sporting venues across the country at the weekend, the Souters’ pressure forced another uncharacteristic error from the Greenyards men, allowing Craig and Davies to brilliantly to set up Nixon.

Reflecting on his sin-binning and Selkirk’s win afterwards, Harkness said: “He (Colvine) threw the first punch and I threw one back.

“I should have known better, but thankfully we did not go too far behind while I was off the pitch. The effort of the team was unreal – I am so proud.

“The crowd got right behind us and helped us make it four in a row.

“Ask Hawick or Peebles what a home support can do for you.”

He may not be used to losing this season, but Melrose’s Scott Wight was magnanimous in his praise of the home side.

“It shows what you can achieve with heart and desire,” said Wight.

“We played good rugby throughout the tournament, but we missed a few tackles in the second half of the final, and the loss of Allan Dodds after the semi-final to a hamstring injury was a blow.”

Until the final, the tournament struggled to provide exciting rugby in wet conditions, despite the efforts of Selkirk Silver Band to stir the players.

Selkirk and Melrose both cruised through their opening two games, with the Souters’ Ciaran Beattie notching four tries in the one match against Earlston.

The only other highlights from the early rounds came from Watsonians’ skilful stand-off Andrew Skeen.

He must be one of few players ever to score a solo try without touching the ball with his hands until the try-line. He did this against Langholm, taking a restart at halfway and dribbling past all seven of the Muckle Toon team.

The ex-Melrose player then produced an even better piece of skill against Hawick in the quarter-finals, chipping the ball down the touchline before volleying over Craig Smith to score in the corner.

However, Skeen could not inspire his side to victory against Melrose in the semi-finals as Colvine notched two tries in a 24-12 win.

The hosts edged past Peebles 21-14 in the first semi-final, thanks to a Darling double.

As for the other Borders teams, Gala and Kelso once again disappointed, knocked out in the first round by Edinburgh Accies and Peebles respectively.

Jed-Forest were edged-out by Peebles in the quarter-finals, but heading into their own tournament this weekend, still stand a great chance of picking up the sevens series title, along with Selkirk and Melrose.