123rd annual Gala seven's at Netherdale. Hawick vs Watsonians in the semis.
123rd annual Gala seven's at Netherdale. Hawick vs Watsonians in the semis.

Hawick fell just short of back-to-back final appearances at Gala Sevens when losing to Watsonians in Saturday’s semi-finals.

A quality display of rugby saw all the teams familiarising themselves with the demands of the abbreviated version of the game, and Hawick came through their pool D matches well, securing a comfortable 26 points to 15 victory over Heriot’s, thanks to tries from Bruce McNeil, Rory Hutton, Greg Cottrell and Lee Armstrong, and three conversions from Neil McColm.

The Robbie Dyes followed this up with a hard-fought 19 points to 17 win against a lively Edinburgh Accies side, with touchdowns from Cottrell, Armstrong and Hutton, and two conversions from McColm.

In the second of the two semi-finals, Hawick faced Watsonians, one of the few sides to continually mix it with the Borders teams, and they had shown in their pool matches against Kelso and Glasgow Hawks that they were serious title contenders.

The Edinburgh outfit played fast and skilful sevens, led by Scotland under-20 back row Neil Irvine-

Ness, outside backs Ally Ledingham and Scott McKean, and the ever-present veteran Michael Kerr.

After racing into a 12 -0 lead, Watsonians allowed a powerful Greens seven to gain a foothold, as Bruce McNeil used his tenacious running ability to score Hawick’s first touchdown, converted by Neil McColm.

Both sides worked tirelessly before another Watsonians try on half-time saw them take a 19 points to 7 lead into the break.

A strong second-half performance by the city men produced their third converted try from scrum-

half Ramsay Young. Hawick’s only response coming through an unconverted Ali Weir try, as the Mansfield Park men were unable to orchestrate any genuine fightback.

Watsonians moved onto the final where they met Melrose who, after a very competitive and close opening half, eventually ran out winners by 35 points to 19.

Speaking to the Hawick News, the Greens’ Bruce McNeil admitted the Mansfield Park men committed some basic sevens errors at Netherdale, but remained positive about Hawick’s chances in this year’s King of the Sevens competition.

“It was a good run-out and great to get two wins over a couple of quality Edinburgh sides. Reaching the semi-finals was pleasing but we were a bit disappointed on how we lost to Watsonians, giving away early tries and easy points.

“There was a bit of rust but as a unit we are pretty confident we can challenge for the King of the Sevens title and hopefully next weekend we can continue to improve.”

Next up for the Robbie Dyes is tomorrow’s showcase tourney at Melrose, and McNeil added: “It will be a great experience but when you play against the likes of Clermont, Glasgow and the USA it is always going to be tough. We will be looking to take some scalps but overall we are aiming to continue our improvement.

“The pressure is on them to win these tournaments and it will be a big ask for us but we will be going out there looking to cause a couple of upsets.”

Hawick: B. McNeil, G. Johnstone, K. Davies, J. Evens, G. Cottrell, L. Armstrong, R. Hutton, R. Graham, S. Graham, N. McColm.