Due to injury, unavailability and the 2nd XV cup final, only 7 Mackie men headed up to Inverness to compete in the Highland 7s...and compete they did!
The snow and rain beating down onto the windscreen did nothing to enthuse the team as they made the long trip up to Inverness. Knowing they had no substitutes and with 3 players getting injured within the first 2 games the week previous meant that the day could be a short one!
Within 10 minutes of arriving the team found out there were more games to play due to a restructure of the competition format. Not only that but Mackie was up first against borders side Duns 1 hour earlier than they thought they were starting. Quickly jumping into their new strips - courtesy of The Barclay Clinic - they jogged over to the pitch to kick off without even a warm up. Duns were a useful outfit and Mackie struggled to get possession and when they did, seemed to lack composure - probably due to the lack of preparation. Duns were ahead 14-0 quickly before Simon Morgan spotted a gap and raced through underneath the posts to peg one back, converted by Cameron Gray. In the second half Mackie continued in a similar vein and frustration was kicking in as they knew they were better than this. Final score 26-7.
The second match was against Ross Sutherland Stags. Getting in a warm up and brushing off the last defeat as a warm up game Mackie kicked off with confidence. Immediately they got off to a flyer with Simon Morgan again showing great pace off the mark to wrong foot the drift defence and scythe through the gap before changing direction on a sixpence to cut past the sweeper to arc round under the post. From the restart the mackie forwards constested well and possession was soon re-established and held onto which was key. Calmly passing around before morgan chipped and chased through. The stags defender knocked on resulting in a scrum. Winning the scrum, Levack at 1st receiver gently chipped into the gap and regathered before passing to Thompson who out paced the defender to score. Levack converted. Disappointingly, Mackie let two scores through in the second half - a particularly pacy winger exposing some tiring defensive patterns, before the referee who was involved in many woeful decisions allowed a very very dubious turnover and subsequent score. Mackie were undettered and kept their cool, Mikey kelly injected some penetration at the vital point. usually known for the trademark goose-step and twinkle toes, he offered a handoff that sent his opposite man halfway back to Invergordon! Ahead still through conversions, Simon Morgan put the result in no doubt with another trademark try, Cameron Gray converted. Final Score Mackie 21 - Ross Sutherland Stags 12.
Match 3 was against 'MacKinnons' - an unknown quantity, we think they were Highland 2's but could not get a straight answer. Mackie were starting to purr along nicely as they pressed for any sniff of a turnover and when they had possession played back and forward across the park to open up the gaps and when they did went in for the kill. Dave Garden notched his first for the day with a hand off and rounded the winger to dash off to score under the posts - New to 7s, Dave was starting to get into the swing of things and this score was a great finish to a composed team move. The score of the match went to levack, but was noteable due to Steve Akauola's 'turkey step' to get cut through the defence before sprinting off about 10 yards laughing...realising he was too tired before stopping to wait for support to take over the sprint from the half way line to the posts...levack obliged happily because he is an attention seeker. The Game finished 31-7 with Morgan getting another 2 scores and Thompson adding another to his tally.
Match 4 was against Caithness, a team who they had played the week before in the quarted finals at Garioch and Mackie won in extra time. Knowing that the Caithness boys had come with a strong squad and were unbeaten so far - talk had turned to maybe resting up for a game to keep fresh for an easier quarter final in the sheild rather than go for the win to contest for the cup competition. With Morgan needing a sleep and niggles starting to take hold...it was a tough decision. in the end as they jogged to the pitch the decision was unanimous...we play to win every game and play as well as we can. the game was as expected tough but again in possesion Mackie played well and composed. Mikey Kelly boomed through a gap to open the scoring - a quality sevens player, Mikey had done a power of work all day and the try was well deserved and well executed - he added his own conversion too. Morgan added yet another try, weaving breaking the first tackler then weaving in and out - even his own support gave up trying to figure out where he was going! Tiring legs and a perhaps less desperate than usual defence however allowed Caithness to score twice however to level the scores. However from the kick off, Akauola gathered and drew the tackle before offloading to Levack in a pre planned move and he scampered off down the pitch to outsprint the defence and score with only 2 minutes remaining. However in a moment of madness, Dave Garden became isolated and was turned over and Caithness levelled almost at the death. Displaying calmness though, again Mackie took their time and at he right moment Cameron Gray took his chance to break the defence and sprint away before opening the door for Levack to finish the game crossing the line.
Quarter Final - Mackie vs Black Watch
Mackie had enjoyed watching the all Fijian Black watch team from the Mackie Bears Base Camp during the rest time between matches. After playing the first 4 matches with no substitutes - the prospect of playing Black Watch was met with hilarity. Tired but in good spirits Mackie entered the show pitch in the first quarter final. Unfortunately the physicality was just not there and were down 5 tries to nil at half time. A Caithness player had been drafted in as a sub for Mackie but the 7 Mackie players wanted to finish as a 7 and in the second half upped their game, got possesion and scored two tries through Garden and Morgan to finish on a high.
A really great day, the weather held up nicely, made some friends within the Caithness team and many otheres, the guys learnt a lot and played some great rugby. Next week will be Banff 7s where a full compliment will be back but the 7 who played this week will be hard to be displaced in the starting 7s side.