Monday, 14 April 2014

Melrose Sevens

12th April 2014

The Greenyards, Melrose

I had long yearned to go to one of these Rugby Sevens tournaments, and I suppose if one is going to attend, one should really attend the biggest and best (no, not the Hong Kong ones, the Melrose ones).  For here, of course, was the abbreviated form of the sport conceived back in 1883.

And whilst I certainly enjoyed some fine matches this afternoon, and witnessed a plethora of breathtaking tries, the overriding memory of the 2014 Melrose Sevens which I will take to my grave, was just how bastarding cold it was.

Proceedings had begun at 11:30 with the skies overcast and drizzling, but things soon cleared up and the sun even decided to show its face.  But what also arrived was some Boreas-conceived gale sporting a wind-chill factor seemingly well into double figures.  A wind which felt as if it had originated in Murmansk or some such, had howled south across the Norwegian Sea then funnelled down the Great Glen towards the borders, before being directed via that gap in the Eildons straight into the temporary stand I had just forked out £40 to supposedly watch proceedings from in comfort.

It was absolutely freezing sitting in there, and I only succeeded in maintaining my core temperature by taking frequent walks around the ground, soaking up heat of the watery sunshine, rather in the manner lizards are compelled to do each morning.

And it was not just me who suffered, for in the stand (which appeared to be some sort of open-plan old-folks home), small bird-like biddies sat and shivered on the edges of hypothermia – probably only here because their husbands had dragged them there for each of the last 50 years.

Anyway – enough of my complaints – what about the rugby?

The turnstiles at The Greenyards, Melrose.

Behind the ground the Southern Upland Way runs along the River Tweed for a spell

Jed-Forest get things underway.

The imposing Eilidon Hills overlook Melrose.

The Greenyards' Main Stand with press-box atop.

Panorama of The Greenyards, Melrose looking north.

Panorama of The Greenyards, Melrose looking south.

The temporary west stand AKA The Ice Box.

1st Round

I knew that there was a round for the non-seeded clubs in the tournament, but assumed there must be a plate or bowl or other for those sides knocked out of the competition early.  But no, when you’re oot you’re oot apparently. 

Thus it was that the losing players from the first tie, 14 minutes after kicking off the tournament (and some four hours before the French guests were due to play their first game) were at liberty to toddle off home.  Although I rather imagine they took advantage of their free afternoon to spend it in the bar.

These opening eight contests represented very much a sort of phoney war, something borne out by the fact the stand reserved for the corporate hospitality bods remained almost completely empty during these matches.  Sides came and went with remarkable swiftness, only the scores and the colours of the jersey changing.  Both Edinburgh Accies and Heriots ran up big wins in their ties and looked the picks of the bunch, although Boroughmuir’s 17-10 win over Dundee High provided the best of the early entertainment.

What did surprise me, however, was how lamentable most of the kicking for extra points was.  I do realise drop-kicking is a bit of an art form, but dearie me, some of the attempts really were woeful.

Aberdeen Grammar v Selkirk  (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Aberdeen Grammar v Selkirk  (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Aberdeen Grammar v Selkirk  (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Aberdeen Grammar v Selkirk  (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Selkirk's Scott Henry scores his side's third try.

Aberdeen Grammar v Selkirk  (Melrose Sevens 2014)
Erland Oag touches down for Aberdeen's final points in a 20-12 defeat to Selkirk.

2nd Round

Round 2 saw the introduction of the Big Lads – this description being particularly apt when applied to the Glasgow Warriors players.  Full-timers each and every one, they all looked just that important bit fitter, taller and muscular than all the others in the competition, and they breezed past Currie, barely even noticing they were there.

The lads from Trinidad & Tobago (operating under the silly name of SMT Trinbago) brought enthusiasm and athleticism to their tie, but little else, their cause hampered by a seeming inability to hold onto possession for more than 5 seconds without knocking-on.  The Caribbean visitors eventually lost narrowly to Boroughmuir.

The other transatlantic guests were USA Tigers, who swiftly raced into an early lead in their match.  Zar Lawrence left a trail of opponents in his wake, but rather than touching down in the corner, he wrong footed everyone by passing the ball back into play for a colleague to touch down under the posts.  This is the sort of fun what we had come to see.  But, regretfully, what the Americans could not do was defend, and there was an audible groan of disappointment when the ref blew time on a 29-28 defeat at the hands of Heriots.

Hosts Melrose opened against neighbours Selkirk and for the opening three or four minutes barely saw the ball.  But a breakaway try seemed to knock the heart out of the Soutars and Melrose progressed with a 26-5 win.

Boroughmuir v SMT Tribago (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Boroughmuir v SMT Tribago (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Boroughmuir v SMT Tribago (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Boroughmuir v SMT Tribago (Melrose Sevens 2014)


The Warriors disposed of Ayr 34-10 in the first quarter-final in a contest which was actually much closer than the score-line suggests.  Ayr were pretty much the only opponents who remotely troubled the Pro-12 side I felt, and would suggest this tie had brought together the two most accomplished sides in the tournament.  Heriots put out Boroughmuir, before the hosts again looked unconvincing in eliminating Hawick.

Edinburgh Accies, emerging as dark horses for the trophy after a brace of big wins, recovered to thump the French side Clermont Auvergne, after having lost a try in the opening seconds.  The biggest cheers of the day, I noted was reserved for anyone scoring against Clermont – Melrovians really hate the French I gathered.

Edinburgh Accies v Clermont Auvergne (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Edinburgh Accies v Clermont Auvergne (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Edinburgh Accies v Clermont Auvergne (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Edinburgh Accies v Clermont Auvergne (Melrose Sevens 2014)

Edinburgh Accies v Clermont Auvergne (Melrose Sevens 2014)


The Heriots lads, for all their effort were easily turned over by Glasgow Warriors, whilst Melrose finally came up against a side who could score on the break as well as they could, and succumbed 22-5 to Edinburgh Accies.

BBC's Dougie Vipond getting wired up prior to broadcast.

Large screen and scoreboard behind one of the goals


Glasgow Warriors 47-14 Edinburgh Accies

The final was disappointingly one-sided, and lent a rather anticlimactic air to the whole day - this being the biggest win in a Melrose Sevens final for over twenty years.  The Warriors were worthy winners, with American-born Carlin Isles (in my opinion, whatever that is worth) the outstanding player of the tournament.  But one has to question the wisdom of inviting such a powerful lot to the sevens.

I appreciate a number of the other sides, particularly the Edinburgh clubs may have had a few full time players on the pitch, and I know that the Warriors also had a league match at Munster on the same day.  But proceedings this afternoon did have a feel to it of a school sports day, in which the PE teachers had been allowed to compete.

Not that many of the folks appeared to mind, indeed I would suggest a fair old percentage of the crowd (certainty of those on the terracings anyway) did not even watch the tie.  A number were by this time extravagantly drunk, and many of the younger ones were already honing their flirting technique in preparation for the evening’s socialising.  I saw four women all in Rod Stewart wigs on the receiving end of some particularly cringeworthy chat-up lines.

But for all the alcohol consumption, I have to say there was never any hint of nastiness.  Indeed, the only perpetrator of any aggression I came across was actually myself, when after having queued for an age to get a portaloo, some clown dressed in stars and stripes garb jumped the queue and stole my cubicle.

“Haw sir, we’re fuckin’ queuing back here!!” I shouted, but he paid no heed.  Given he was about half my age and twice my size, I rather wonder what would have happened if he had.

Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh Accies (Melrose Sevens Final 2014)

Winners collect their medals..........

..........and the Ladies Centenary Trophy.

Panorama of The Greenyards, Melrose.


  1. Even though I am no means a rugby fan I found the photos amazing and even the write up gripping and informative ( gulp )
    Your style and articles seem to improve all the time Ian. Great stuff !