Hey everyone Have been glued to my television all afternoon and I have been privileged to watch a brilliant afternoon of top quality sport covering both football and rugby. Yes I know some people will say its a men in shorts thing and I’ll admit that the idea of good looking hotties in shorts doesn’t make me want to reach for the remote and change channels. However I do know my sport especially these sports and if either of the events had been boring or failed to live up to expectations I would have quick to switch off but I needn’t have worried it was quality all the way.
The afternoon kicked off with the Scottish Cup semi final between Hibernian and Falkirk. This was a game which Hibernian were strong favourites to win but nobody told Falkirk this little fact or if they did it seemed to inspire as they stormed out of the blocks faster than Usian Bolt and raced into to a 3-0 lead in half an hour. This was or so their fans thought at the time rapidly turning in to a nightmare for Hibs. Fearing the worst and a humiliation worse than their 5-1 thrashing by their bitter rivals in last year’s Scottish Cup Final many headed for the exits. Being outplayed by a premier league team would be bad enough but being made to look less than ordinary by a team containing four or five players who wouldn’t be allowed to drink anything stronger than Irn Bru was too much for some people to take.
Knowing the final score and the fact that their time came back from the dead to win in the most dramatic of fashions it would be very easy to criticise those who did this but not this blogger because like any other neutral watching the first half of this game I have to ask what would I have done in their situation? And if I’m honest I don’t actually know. Now me being a stubborn little madam I think I might have toughed it out but I can’t say with any degree of certainty. Well the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing but like most people I am not endowed with this most precious of gifts.
However perhaps the most telling comment of the game, was made just before the half time whistle by Ex- Hibs player Craig Paterson which I’ve paraphrased his words only slightly. ‘Falkirk won’t be wanting half time they’ll just wish they could play on. they’ve been on top from the start half time will give Hibs the break they need and might be the last thing Falkirk need. How right those sentiments proved.
As the second half started it could be clearly seen that Hibs were a very different side from the shambles of the first 45 minutes. Knowing they were lucky to be 3-0 down they set about Falkirk straight from the re-start and in 18 year old Alex Harris they had the boy who manned up and showed the rest of his team mates how it should be done with a cracking shot from outside the box to reduce the arrears and give those Hibs fans who had stayed with their team just a glimmer of hope. Just before this goal Hibs had been denied a blatant penalty and cracked the woodwork Now having given themselves the slimmest of lifelines Hibs were creating plenty of chances but the woodwork the match officials and the brilliance of Falkirk goalkeeper Michael McGovern were it seems conspiring to defeat them. Then it seemed their luck might be turning and they were awarded a penalty but the usually reliable Leigh Griffiths missed the spot kick. However it is the sign of a top quality striker when undaunted by his set back he scores the goal which brings his team back into the game and that’s exactly what he did. An equaliser from Owen Doyle took the game to extra time and in the last five minutes of that extra time Leigh Griffiths scored the winner in one of the most enthralling games of football I have ever seen.
Also I have to say that the post match interview with Hibs captain James McPake was of the most honest I’ve heard in a very long time. Refreshingly honest James McPake was a credit to himself to his club and the sport. There were no phoney platitudes for the losers I think he respected the Falkirk players far too much for that. Instead he said that ‘ a few home truths were spoken in the dressing room and a lot of people were hurting’. Honest words and sincerity from an honest sincere man.
So having watched a seven goal thriller I quickly switched the channels for entertainment with a different shape of ball as football was replaced by rugby and in my opinion one of the highlights of the sporting calender the Melrose sevens. Whilst it may be true to say that Rugby was invented in England improved in Wales and perfected in New Zealand. The shortened version of the game was not only invented in Scotland it was invented in Melrose which is why this annual tournament is considered the gold standard of sevens rugby at club level.
The sevens game is designed to be entertaining Seven players on the pitch for two halves of seven minutes meant you could hold a full tournament in a day. Melrose were the first club to do this and that’s why this tournament is about so much more than just rugby and always a near capacity 10,000 crowd to the Greenyards to enjoy what is always an excellent day out which combines rugby fun and tradition creating a really unique occasion which has a history all of its own.
Its a history which hasn’t always been kind to Scottish clubs with clubs from England France and South Africa having won the event in the last
20 years. In fact when Melrose won the event in 2011, they were the first Scottish club side to do so since 1998
This year teams from England and France including last year’s winners Saracens competed against the best Scotland has to offer. There was no glory for the home side the 2011 winners beaten by a talented and feisty Aberdeen Grammar team who really can play this seven’s game and play it well. Having played well in their opening tie Ayr were hopeful of giving a good account of themselves against English Premier League side Worcester. Despite trailing at half time, Ayr surprisingly in the eyes of some fans outplayed their more illustrious opponents in the second half to record a convincing win book a deserved place in the semi finals and by doing so delayed the kick off to another important event, the stag party of their ace try scorer Grant Anderson.
Next up the young and highly talented French side Claremont brushed aside the challenge of a plucky Gala side who though a competent outfit were no match for the visitors flair and speed. Then came the Melrose defeat which I mentioned at the start of this paragraph and in last of the quarter finals Herriot’s FP were clinically despatched by the defending champions Saracens.
So the semi finals gave us the tantalising prospect of an all Scottish final or more realistically a final between the best of England and France as it turned out the latter proved to be the case but not before Ayr and Aberdeen Grammar had given their more fancied opponents a really hard fight. Of the two Scottish teams it was Ayr who would have been more fancied to reach the final but it was Aberdeen who would suffer the heartbreak of an extra time defeat to Saracens having a missed a kick for victory with the last kick of normal time. Had Aberdeen managed to pull off this victory it would have been one of the sensational sevens victories of my lifetime. It will be no consolation to them that their conquerors went to win a thrilling game of rugby with a last minute converted try with the very last move of the game. Cruel though that may be to the gallant French visitors there is in my opinion no better way to illustrate the theatrical drama of sevens rugby at its best.
As I said earlier this day of all days in the rugby sevens calender is about so much than just rugby. Its about the spirit not just of the game but of the entire rugby community. A real family occasion and the commentators convey this to those of us watching the game on our televisions. The best examples of the humour of the day came when the camera zoomed in to the commentary box and captured an image of former Scotland and British Lions international Doddie Weir in a pair of tartan trews which were so loud I had reach for the remote control and turn the sound and adjust the brightness settings on my screen.
Its a good job he was one of the greatest front row forwards ever to have worn the Scotland Jersey. Aye Doddie only the bravest of the brave could get away with trews like that and you were certainly counted amongst their number.
Another great example of the rugby community to send ourselves up came during the commentary of the first of
the semi finals between Ayr and Claremont. Referring to how well Ayr had done to fend off a Claremont attack and set up one of their own The commentator Bill Johnston said ‘Ayr did really well as there were a lot more yellow jerseys than there were pink ones’. He then asked his co-commentator John Beattie ‘What is Rugby coming to when we’re talking about pink jerseys and yellow jerseys’ Really Bill, I think they are the perfect colours for a lovely spring day. Anyway it proves the game of rugby has no time for stereotypes.
You know its fitting that the final of the Melrose sevens Ladies Cup was refereed for the first time by a woman
New Zealand born Alex Pratt. In her pre match interview, she said she had been selected on ability rather than gender and so it proved as I had no doubt it would. It is often said that the sign of a good referee is when you can’t remember their name such was the case with Alex Pratt. In the best traditions of sevens rugby she let the game flow and those watching whether at the Greenyards or on television were rewarded with a thrilling final in which Saracens retained the trophy they won last year by 24 points to 22 with the winning score coming in injury time at the end of a game where first one team then the other enjoyed periods of dominance. It was a wonderful way to an end of the thrilling an event day of seven a side rugby.
And so ended a magnificent afternoon of top quality sport and I was a very lucky girl to have enjoyed such a feast on a day best summed up by saying that sport really is all about the game. Well that and the magic number seven.
Love And Best Wishes