Saracens, 11th hour replacements for Bay of Plenty, brought every ounce of their professional nous to bear as they won the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens at the Greenyards.
Both Heriot’s and Aberdeen Grammar Rugby asked serious questions of the Aviva Premiership side who in the end overpowered Jed-Forest 50-21 in the final.
Jed, winners at Gala in the earlier round in the Kings of the Sevens, had relied on dervish-like engagement at the breakdown, sound defence and the long strides of the Young twins, Gregor and Lewis, as they saw off Stirling County, Glasgow Hawks and the holders, Melrose, to reach the final.
In the quarter-final against Glasgow Hawks the city side so dominated territory in the second-half that you thought something had to give. As it was, a cracking saving tackle by Michael Weekly on the admirable Grant Strang kept the scores tied at 12-all, before Robert Hogg’s late try booked Jed their place in the semi.
Tries from Lewis Young and Andrew Nagle ensured Jed a 12-7 half-time lead and such was their work-rate in the second-half that Melrose just could not find an opening.
In the other half of the draw, Heriot’s, beaten finalists at Gala last week, shared the try count three each against Saracens but Graham Wilson could not repeat his touchline goal from wide on the right, which he managed in the first-half, as Max Learmonth’s second try, went unconverted for Saracens to edge one of the better ties of the day 19-17.
Aberdeen Grammar, a heady combination of bludgeon and rapier, had powered past Hawick and Singapore before seeing off London Scottish 34-7 in the quarter-final.
Steven Aitken, the former Ellon and Scotland age-grade internationalist, gave a notable lead up front, as did Murray Douglas, whose radar was attuned for the shortest and least complicated route to the try line.
With Callum Anderson adding some gas behind the pack, Aberdeen looked to have the components to take on Saracens but three first-half tries from the English side appeared to deflate the challenge of the men from the north.
Not a bit of it, though, as Greig Ryan crossed before the break and Aitken and Douglas roared in for tries number two and three to leave the tie beautifully poised at 17-19.
Aberdeen were in possession and the crowd were willing them on. Hindsight suggests that a bit of patience would have served them well. However, Erland Oag set off on an individual run, was tackled, penalised for not releasing and Saracens' Duncan Taylor claimed the decisive try.
In the final, two Gregor Young tries had given Jed-Forest the lead at 14-7 but they were unable to heed their own mantra of “hud on tae the ba’” as Saracens scored eight tries, five in the second-half, to lift the Ladies Cup.
Elsewhere there were some notable individual contributions from Scotland 7s internationalist Scott Riddell in the colours of Stewart’s-Melville FP, former Scotland A lock Mark Rennie, as an eager runner for Watsonians; and Edinburgh Accies’ Scotland under-20 wing Jamie Farndale, who is truly a player to watch.
First round: Currie 10 Stirling County 15; Glasgow Hawks 19 Boroughmuir 14; Watsonians 27 Hamilton 14; Dundee HSFP 36 Whitecraigs 7; Stewart’s-Melville FP 19 Peebles 12; Aberdeen Grammar Rugby 26 Hawick 0; Kelso 19 Gala 14; Langholm 0 Heriot’s 50
Second round: Stirling County 10 Jed-Forest 21; Glasgow Hawks 31 Hong Kong Scottish 12; Watsonians 17 Selkirk 12; Dundee HSFP 10 Melrose 33; Stewart’s-Melville FP 19 London Scottish 21; Aberdeen Grammar Rugby 49 Singapore 0; Kelso 19 Edinburgh Accies 21; Heriot’s 17 Saracens 19
Quarter-finals: Jed-Forest 17 Glasgow Hawks 12; Watsonians 12 Melrose 28; Aberdeen Grammar Rugby 34 London Scottish 7; Edinburgh Accies 5 Saracens 31
Semi-finals: Jed-Forest 12 Melrose 7; Aberdeen Grammar Rugby 17 Saracens 26
Final: Jed-Forest 21 Saracens 50