Some 127 years since Ned Haig’s ultimate fund-raising idea, Melrose, the birthplace of seven-a-side rugby was bathed in sunshine, as the Gibraltar Asset Management sponsored tournament got underway today.
The first-round saw two ties resolved in sudden-death extra time and Selkirk were first to book their place in the quarter-finals with a 24-14 margin against Stirling County. Holders Johannesburg University breezed past Boroughmuir while Watsonians saw off Hawick in a one-sided romp with Craig Sorbie teasing the palate with a couple of tries.
Earlier, in the first-round ties, it wasn't the best of starts for local interest as a youthful Gala seven lost to Stirling, who had former Scotland 7s internationalist Ben Addison orchestrating their success.
Boroughmuir, with the experienced Malcolm Clapperton and Charlie Keenan – the latter having been playing in a tournament in Bali a fortnight ago – had too much savvy for their city rivals, Stewart’s-Melville, albeit Jed Gordon and Blair Tweedie pulled back tries from a 7-24 deficit only for Boroughmuir to dominate the last battles for possession.
Hawick made their way through to the second round, courtesy of that strange commodity, a try from a Gala man. Craig Robertson, the teenager who won the Powderhall sprint a few years back, is now playing for the Greens and he stormed in, with Bruce McNeil and Graham Hogg, also among their try scorers.
Next up was a clash between city sides and Heriot’s, with Scotland 7s caps Rory Hutton and Chris Fusaro in their ranks, had to withstand a fightback inspired by another internationalist from the abbreviated game, Mike Adamson. Adamson’s second-half try and conversion closed the gap to 14-19, but the long-striding Colin Goudie’s second try and some neat footwork by Sam Johnson saw Heriot’s home.
Kelso, looking well-organised, accounted for an Edinburgh Accies team that lacked their craft, with Euan Ford, younger brother of the Scotland and Lions hooker Ross, setting them en route.
West of Scotland with Andrew Symington claiming a try brace were too strong for Langholm, then the first drama of the day as Dundee and Peebles slugged it out and endured five lung-bursting minutes of extra-time before Donald Sangster trusted his pace to claim the winner for Peebles.
A trend was set with the last tie of the first-round also going to extra-time and Aberdeen's Peter Nelson's try brace counted for nothing as Jed had the decisive score from Jamie McFarlane to book their place in the second-round.
First round results
Gala 10 Stirling County 19
Stewart’s-Melville 21 Boroughmuir 24
Hawick 31 Currie 17
Heriot’s 29 Glasgow Hawks 14
Kelso 26 Edinburgh Accies 14
Langholm 12 West of Scotland 29
Peebles 22 Dundee HSFP 17 (after extra time)
Jed-Forest 24 Aberdeen Grammar Rugby 19 (after-extra time)
Into the second round then and Selkirk eclipsed Stirling in a close-fought tie, only settled in the final minute when Fraser Harkness eluded a would-be challenge to escape for a score at the posts. It was Harkness’ second try of the tie, his team-mate, Scotland 7s cap Lee Jones, also weighing in with a brace.
Watsonians, fielding two Scotland internationalists in the rejuvenated Allister Hogg and centre Marcus Di Rollo, claimed the highest score of the day to date with a six try success against Hawick.
Another talented back-row forward, Chris Fusaro, was Heriot's hero as they defeated Cambridge University. Fusaro crossed twice as Heriot's responded from a 7-10 half-time deficit but it was his saving tackle (assisted by Jonny Alston) on Joey Wheeler which secured the success.
The Army in Scotland, consisting of Fijians serving with Scottish regiments, had too much gas for West of Scotland.
Second round draw
Stirling County 14 Selkirk 24
Boroughmuir 12 Johannesburg Univ 29
Hawick 5 Watsonians 42
Heriot's 21 Cambridge University 17
Kelso 19 Ayr 17
West of Scotland 7 The Army 33
Peebles v Melrose
Jed-Forest v Hamilton