As usual, Scotland’s sevens squad saved their best till the last competition, the 100th event in the IRB World Series since it began several years ago.
International sevens is a major attraction on the world stage now, with it being included in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, and the crowds were up at Murrayfield although still around a quarter of the two-day attendance figure which London enjoyed a week earlier. That fact alone may see the Scotland and England legs of the 10-event series swapping next season, although nothing official has been released as yet.
We’ve already heard about Glasgow being an option to take over from Murrayfield, and of course the old chestnut of hosting it at Melrose keeps raising its head – and rightly so – but these are subjects to discuss over the next few months. Instead, let’s focus on the weekend’s activities and without doubt Edinburgh put on a grand show for spectators, and Scotland’s team didn’t let the punters down in terms of what they achieved.
Selkirk wing Lee Jones, Jim Thompson, grandson of the late, great Bill McLaren, and Colin Gregor were brought into the fold for the final two legs and made a big difference. Thompson’s strong running was a plus, Gregor’s brain for the abbreviated game helped immensely, and Jones – who is rising through the ranks of Scottish Rugby at a great pace – was one of the team’s best players on view, thrilling the fans with his speed and causing the opposition problems.
There is no doubt that, while we were all delighted to see them winning matches, they also made a lot of errors, which typifies Scottish rugby. Dropped balls, wild passes, some incredible howlers at the breakdown enabling opposition to turn the ball over, and weak tackling combined to frustrate the fans.
But when Scotland were good, they were very good. Beating Fiji in the first round of their pool 14-12 after being 0-12 down at the break gave them a huge boost, but their first half was shocking.
Samoa fairly leathered the Scots in the next match before Scotland set about the USA in the final game on Saturday like men possessed. They needed to win by 40 points. They won by 38 – extraordinary!
On Sunday in the Bowl competition, they again saved their best rugby for the second half against Canada, Argentina and Kenya, but it was Kenya who turned the tables on them by winning in injury time to lift the Bowl and gain revenge after losing seven days earlier in the same competition at Twickenham.
Jones couldn’t believe beating Fiji and scoring 45 points against the USA would not be good enough for a Cup quarter-final place – particularly when France scored just 22 points in total in all their three pool games to qualify.
But that is the luck of the draw.
“It was our match against Samoa that let us down in the pool,” he told TheSouthern. “We’re all very tired, but the spirit in the camp has been good. A lot of the club guys have been involved this season and they’ve built some strong foundations. I think Scotland can certainly be up there in the top eight. You can see how tight it is and if we can just get that little bit of luck we can definitely get into the Cup quarter finals in the future and challenging for more.”
Coach Graham Shiel added: “I’m very proud of the boys this weekend, but with regard to the future, we’re waiting clarification as to where sevens rugby sits within Scottish Rugby to get some direction and that will enable us to build for the future and be more competitive next year.”
With New Zealand already clinching the world title in London the week before, they were hot favourites to end the season in style in the cup, but Australia knocked them out in the semi-final.
South Africa were their next opponents – the team who beat them in the pool stage – but after racing to a 28-7 lead the Aussies threw it away in the last three minutes when they conceded three tries to lose 36-35 in a thrilling match.
Scotland: Scott Riddell (c), Michael Fedo, Jim Thompson, Tom Brown, Stuart McInally, Lee Jones, Colin Gregor, Scott Newlands, Andrew Turnbull, Andrew Skeen, Peter Horne, Struan Dewar.
Pool: Scotland 14 Fiji 12, Scotland 10 Samoa 33, Scotland 45 USA 7.
Bowl: QF, Scotland 26 Canada 14; SF, Scotland 22 Argentina 7; Final, Scotland 14 Kenya 21.