U11 Loretto Sevens 

Exhausting, exhilarating and successful are three words which come fairly close to summing up the experience for the boys and coaches at the Loretto 7s today.
The Belhaven Hill U11s made a fairly early start to the day on Sunday to defend their title at Loretto. We travelled to the tournament with the belief that if we played well we would have every chance of defending the title but with the clear goals of, above all: playing good rugby, respecting our opponents and attempting to win over all who watched us play.
The tournament followed a round robin format with everyone playing each other; the top two teams at the end of that would then compete for the Cup, third and forth for the Plate and fifth and sixth the Bowl.
Our first game of the day was against a spirited St. Mary’s team but we managed three tries to their one to win by 10 – 3. It was a decent first match but certain elements were a bit clumsy and it certainly left room for improvement.

Sevens Jonty WEB
Jonty with Rob and Max in support.

With Merchiston next up we needed to iron out any creases quickly. Merchiston are a strong side and they play good sevens rugby. From the first minute (there are only 10 in a match), it was an exciting match played by two good and determined teams. While Merchiston kept the ball alive and out of contact, we went for a slightly more direct approach. They dominated the first half as we sat back a bit and scored a converted try to go 4 – 0 up at the break. The boys enjoyed (?) a rather stern talking to at half time as they had butchered a couple of chances and were not passing as they should. They took the message to heart and played an excellent second half.  Wave after wave of attack eventually led to a try but the kick hit the post and there was not time left for another. Final score: 3 – 4.
This result meant that we needed to win all our remaining matches to guarantee a place in the final.
After lunch, Cargilfield proved to be determined and good but were eventually beaten by two tries to one. Ardvreck didn’t roll over easily but were dispatched with three good tries to their one with big Thomas D having his best game of the tournament here and making some bullocking runs.  At this point, I was delighted: the team was improving with every half they played. The passing was becoming slicker and more effective, the defensive line was pushing up more aggressively and we were competing ever more fiercely at the breakdown.

Sevens Ruck WEB
Joe secures the ruck while Campbell presents the ball for Archie. Textbook stuff.

And then we played Loretto.  They were convincingly beaten by five tries to one but it was a scrappy, ugly game. Our shape disappeared, tackles were missed and the boys looked all done in. Though it was slightly worrying, it is not uncommon in a tournament to slump for one game – at least the boys had done it at the ‘right’ time.
And so to the final, played on the main pitch in front of a large crowd of spectators both neutral and partisan. I was pleased that we faced Merchiston as I felt that we needed to beat them to be able to call ourselves champions. Before the game got underway, I reminded the boys of their goals for the day and pointed out the crowd who were waiting to judge their rugby and their character.
The delayed start did nothing to ease the boys’ nerves but once the match started there was barely time to draw breath so fast and furious was the action. For play after play the ball zipped through the hands of Max, Archie and on to Rob who tore up and down the wings. At every breakdown the boys piled in to secure the ball with Archie and Campbell doing a great job of clearing out the opposition. Joe brought Hooper to mind as he jackled around every tackle and must have made five or six turnovers. Jonty was a menace, harrying the opposition every step of the way while Freddie darted in and out like a piranha, snapping up morsels and scraps. Indeed, after some sustained pressure, it was Freddie who, at a gallop, scooped up a loose ball and tumbled over the line for the first try of the match.

Sevens try WEB
Freddie goes over in the corner for the try.

The message at half time was for more of the same along with one final effort. The boys didn’t fail to deliver. William subbed on and immediately made an impact with his low tackling, good running lines and slick hands. Merchi, however, were not done and we spent much of the half defending for our lives. Tackle after desperate tackle scythed down the opposition but still they came. The occasional break or turnover offered some respite but then again they came. Eventually they broke through and a flying Merchi boy seemed set to reach the line. A few yards behind and refusing to give up was the blond streak also known as Rob. With just yards to go he hauled the boy down and then the rest of the defensive wall joined him. And still they came. In another phase of play an overlap and possible try was just cut out when Joe intercepted a crucial pass. And still they came.
With the clock ticking into overtime, a final turnover was made and Freddie grabbed the ball and ran. He didn’t get far before being tackled but he got within reaching distance of the touchline and that was far enough; as a second  Merchi attacker swooped down on him, he reached out an arm and placed the ball on the touchline. Game over.
It was a spectacular final and as good a display of U11 7s as one is likely to see. I return to our targets for the day: play good rugby, show respect to the opposition and win over the spectators. I have absolutely no doubt that they achieved all three. The boys did us proud.
Round Robin:
Belhaven Hill       10     -        3       St. Mary’s
Belhaven Hill       3       -        4       Merchiston
Belhaven Hill       7       -        3       Cargilfield
Belhaven Hill       11     -        3       Ardvreck
Belhaven Hill       18     -        6       Loretto
Belhaven Hill     3       -        0       Merchiston
No Man of the Match here. No chance.
Try Count: Rob (5), Freddie (1), Joe (2), Archie (2), Jonty (3), Campbell (1)       And another one which I failed to jot down somewhere in all the excitement!