Epic Weekend in Bournemouth for Mackie Bears!
Mackie Academy FP RFC travelled to the South of England last weekend for their last 7s tournament at the Bournemouth 7s Festival.
Kitted out their new strips, generously donated to the club by The Physiotherapy Department at the Barclay Clinic in Stonehaven, the team drove the 11 hour trip overnight on Thursday to arrive early Friday morning, ready to relax, mingle with other teams and enjoy the professional and elite tournaments on the Saturday.
After 60 hours together and only about 8 of those sleeping, there was some understandably tired eyes on the morning of Mackie’s tournament. However, everyone was in tip top condition and raring to go once they had made the trek to pitch 7...a pitch far enough away from the grandstand pitch that the champagne rugby on show from Mackie would not distract too many spectators from the so called ‘elite’ teams. Unfortunately due to a spate of serious injuries, the squad had been decimated and only arrived with 7 fit players for the whole tournament so this would be a stern test of fitness and staying power to get anywhere. Particularly unfortunate for the team was the fact that 7s Captain Simon Morgan had badly broken a finger the week previously and could not play. He did however make the trip along with Jo Roberston his girlfriend Mary and not forgetting Annie Reid who was brilliant enough to come along and help with the driving.
In the group stages, Mackie faced Ampthill from Bedfordshire and Beer Rats from Cardiff (an exhibition 7s team). Played in intermittent sunshine, Mackie played some exceptional stuff straight from the off and ran in 9 tries over the 2 games to win the mini group convincingly.
In the quarter finals the played the runner up of another group. This time it was Rolle Rats, a group of Ex Plymouth University players who got together played on the 7s circuit this year. They had some obvious 15 a side pedigree but Mackie showed resolve and hardness to thwart their straight up the middle style of play whilst in possession displaying some textbook 7s to win the match with 6 tries to nil.
Jubilant at their quarter final win, the team celebrated with a team snooze at the side-lines. After an hour they were roused and got started on their now patented warm up – entertaining the crowd with acrobatics, handling skills competitions and bags of enthusiasm and laughs. What seemed to others like an unfocussed warm up actually did the trick every time to get the whole team loose and playing with a smile, and at the same time it got the increasing crowd numbers onside and asking about this team who seemed like they were enjoying themselves more than anyone else on the pitch. A referee was also quoted as saying that no-one wanted to play the Mackie Bears as they looked so good.
The Semi Final kicked off against Southampton University Medics – the current champions of the South England Medics League. Mackie started well with Leask and Fourie combining well to score a great breakaway try. This team had been noted for their stepping ability and any of their players it appeared could beat a man easily one on one. However they hadn’t been up against Mackie’s defence yet. Big tackles were going in left right and centre, Fourie, Levack and Kelly making their presence felt in the midfield. Unfortunately however Fourie was sin binned for a marginally high hit and the resulting extra man was made to count as the Medics scored. They had some serious speed on their side and some good fortune which resulted in their second try to take the lead 10 – 7 at half time.
Without any substitutes all day, the Mackie boys were tiring but rallied further and continued to play some exceptional patient play which opened a half gap for Garden to score. Gray converted to lead 14 –10. With just a few seconds to go however the Medics had fresh legs on and played some good rugby to make space for their main man to step and go through the tiring defense and race to score a converted try. 17-14 and with not enough time left to regain possession and mount another attack the game was ended.
Every player came off the pitch happy that they had done their all. It was a numbers game, and without quality fresh legs to bring on, the 7 Mackie Bears were spent. It was a fantastic way to end the season, every player playing well, no mistakes, no poor decisions, just good entertaining rugby. Injured but proud Captain Simon Morgan was instantly thinking about next year on the back of this result and plans are already in place to mount a serious challenge to the cup next year and probably a higher level of cup. With Chris Kay scoring 5, Cameron Leask scoring 6 and the rest of the squad posting 2 or 3 each (barring Mikey 'no scores' Kelly, Mackie have many try scorers and can only improve. Last week in Glasgow 7s reminded this author of where Mackie used to be – all talented, but some keen and some not, some committed and some not – which results in poor performances, in 15’s as well as 7’s. This week speaks volumes about where Mackie is and where we want to be. Everyone was switched on, everyone was committed and everyone was allowed to show their talent, and show it they did. Cut to half an hour later and the Mackie squad were sitting in a hot tub right on the try line looking up the pitch for the elite competition final sipping champagne...a fitting celebration for their efforts.