Rugby Union: Gala justify format

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The Independent Online
Gala. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

Wasps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

THE devotion of 10,000 spectators who endured seven hours of icy wind and continuous rain to witness the 104th Melrose Sevens was matched by the emotion of the winning Gala players.

Skipper Mike Dods described the 17-7 final victory over a scratch Wasps side as a 'dream come true' and the overseas challengers, Manly from Sydney and Villagers from Cape Town, must have wondered what it means to win a cap or a league title in Scotland.

In their moment of well-deserved triumph Gala may have unwittingly given justification to a contentious 20-team format which required some to play through a preliminary round.

Gala reached the final having played one more tie than Wasps and saw off opponents who included Willie Ofahengaue's Manly (31-14) and the host club (19-5).

Assessing the effect an extra tie had on his team, the Gala coach, Peter Dods, remarked afterwards: 'Sitting in the dressing-room before the final it seemed as though we had been there for a week. It isn't just Gala players who believe the format is unfair.'

No doubt Melrose's committee will give the format renewed consideration this week when they meet to review a tournament graced by the Princess Royal, a spectacular coup at a time when border sevens generally are under threat. Even the Scottish coach, Dougie Morgan, was moved to remark when writing in the official programme: 'For how much longer will the second Saturday in April be sacrosanct as far as seven-a- side rugby is concerned?

Melrose must now know their tournament is safe given the amazing interest on a foul day and indications are the preliminary round will survive since it suits the sponsors to have an enlarged entry.

Gala: G Townsend, M Dods, J Maitland, G Farquharson, J Amos, I Corcoran, N Crooks.

Wasps: L Scarse, A James, A Thompson, A Gomarshall, R Scaramuzza, S Holmes, D Shaw.

Referee: J Fleming (Boroughmuir).