Rugby Union: Hopley not the happiest hooker

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S forward planning came unstuck in more ways than one as they made an early exit from the Selkirk Sevens at Philiphaugh. Launching preparations for the inaugural World Sevens, to be held at Murrayfield next April, England went out in the second round to a Gala club team who went on to beat Northampton in the final.

England used every one of their 10-man squad, except Bath's Ben Clarke, during what their coach, Dick Best, had labelled an 'exploratory exercise'. At least Best could claim to have learned a valuable lesson, for it is unlikely that England will rush to repeat the experiment which saw Damien Hopley, normally a centre, turn out at hooker.

Looking highly uncomfortable at the core of the scrum on Saturday, Hopley conceded three heels against the head to the Scottish international, Ian Corcoran, and these were instrumental in helping Gala recover from a 12-0 deficit.

The deadlock was broken in extra time by a penalty from Michael Dods, the 22-year-old brother of the Lion Peter Dods, putting an end to the misery of Hopley who earlier, with the scores level, had twice been denied by try-saving tackles from Grant Farquharson.

Given bitter club rivalries in border rugby, some in the 7,000-crowd had to examine their conscience before urging Gala to victory even over an England side who had cantered through a preliminary tie against Glasgow High-Kelvinside.

What had not been anticipated was the strangely mute reception accorded a Scottish seven who made heavy weather of defeating Jed-Forest and Kelso before losing to Northampton in the semi-finals.

Dougie Morgan, the Scottish coach, admitted to being perplexed by the reception but claimed to have learned much from the venture. Morgan is not to be envied trying to blend a side and it may not have escaped the shrewd tactician's notice that, given the excellent teamwork displayed by Gala, there is a strong case to be made for fielding a club team in national colours come the World Sevens.

SELKIRK SEVENS: First round: Gala 38 Peebles 7; England 31 Glasgow High Kelvinside 0; Stirling County 14 Howick 26; Selkirk 24 Dundee HS 12; Kelso 31 Gala Star 12; Scotland 17 Jed- Forest 7; Northampton 33 Langholm 7; Melrose 19 Bedford 14.

Quarter-finals: Gala 15 England 12 (aet); Selkirk 24 Hawick 5; Scotland 26 Kelso 14; Northampton 21 Melrose 12. Semi-finals: Gala 33 Selkirk 12; Northampton 19 Scotland 14. Final: Gala 33 Northampton 26.

Comments