Thursday 18 April 2019

Melrose 2019 Finalists

The 7s squad may have been riding high after their win at Gala, but there was no complacency going into Melrose, with its knock-out format and our draw into the first round, when technically, as semi-finalists last year, we would have expected a bye into round two.

Our starting squad contained eight of the Gala winners, with Vinny Hart and Nick Stephen replacing Michael Badenhorst (who has now returned home) and Will Stephen (injured).

Ours was the penultimate first round match, but the long wait did not appear to have taken the edge off our players, who took a fairly easy 40-0 victory from Ayr. We then had a more athletic encounter against a Durham University squad that contained two Accies - Saul Melvin-Farr and Ciaran Armstrong - but secured a 29-10 win to progress to the quarter-finals.

The quarter-final was a tight, low-scoring match against the hosts. With both sides obtaining a try-apiece in each half, it was only Richard Mill's conversions that made the difference, giving us a four-point lead (14-10) at full-time. Being knocked out in the quarter-finals is not what Melrose would have been anticipating, which perhaps made our narrow victory all the sweeter. Saul Melvin-Farr had joined the Accies squad at the start of the game, replacing the injured Max Love.

I cannot speak for the squad, but I was certainly nervous about our semi-final, having watched the big and very physical British Army side in earlier rounds, and those nerves were not helped by them scoring a quick try against us. However, we gathered ourselves and fought back admirably, with a Robbie Chalmers try evening things up. Unfortunately, the Army side managed another flyer before half-time, taking us into the break 5-12 down.

In an heroic second half performance, Accies displayed deep reserves of determination, keeping the attacking pressure on the Army throughout and bringing the scores even again with a break by Jamie Sole putting Mill over for a try he then converted. We then threw everything we had at the opposition, who surprisingly for an Army team seemed to be struggling with stamina, and our efforts were rewarded as Ruairi Campbell scored the winning try in the dying moments of the game, with Mill once again adding the extras. A 19-12 victory and a place in the Melrose final - our first time since 2014.

So onto the final against London Scottish. We had played an extra round to them and, being on the second half of the draw, had less recovery time after both our quarter and semi-final games. We had also lost another player to injury - Robbie Kent - during the semi-final, so our squad going into the last match was augmented by Melrose's Gavin Wood, who has been coaching at the Edinburgh Academy this past season.

The London Scottish side, made up of professionals and England academy players, showed their superior fitness with three tries in quick succession (just one converted) and it was not until just before the break that we were able to fight our way onto the scoreboard, with a try from Vinny Hart. HT: Accies 5-17 London Scottish.

We then flew out of the blocks at the start of the second half, winning the ball from a London Scottish scrum for Mill to score and convert: 12-17. Unfortunately, those were to be our last points of the afternoon, as exhaustion and injuries took their toll. However, as we went down to six men (due to injury and having used all our subs), we did extremely well to constrain London Scottish to two further tries, with the full-time score a respectable 12-29.

It was an incredible afternoon of sevens from our entire squad and coaching team and they should all be justifiably proud of their efforts.

Accies progression to the final
R1: Accies 40-0 Ayr
R2: Accies 29-10 Durham University
QF: Accies 14-10 Melrose
SF: Accies 19-12 British Army
Final: Accies 12-29 London Scottish

Man of the Tournament
Richard Mill was named Player of the Tournament, and deservedly so. As one comment on twitter summed it up: "Some engine on Richard Mill. Never stops."


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