Scotland finished second in a strong showing at the Paris Sevens over the weekend. They lost in the final to South Africa who were also crowned World Sevens Series champions at the Stade Jean Bouin.
The Scots started the tournament with an upset against the eventual winners, and went on to record further wins against Canada and Japan on Day One to top their pool for the second time this season. With a strong start to the tour last year and what looks like a strong finish ahead of the finale at Twickenham next weekend, Scotland just need to arrest their mid-season slumps and they could be truly competitive at the top of the league table – currently, they lie in 7th, having been in the top 4 during the opening weeks.
It’s unclear what the reason is – whether it is injuries kicking in, playing conditions or just tricky draws, it will be something for John Dalziel to get stuck into when he takes over next season.
There is no doubt that on their day they can beat anyone, in this case knocking off the 1st, 2nd and 3rd ranked teams on their way to the final with a mixture of wholehearted scramble defence and some electric footwork from rejuvenated players like Mark Robertson or the young tyro George Horne.
Horne was probably player of the tournament and although his stature sometimes caused him trouble in defence, his eye for a gap and ability to get through it at some speed created many memorable tries. There is probably a place for him in the Sevens squad permanently should he choose that route – I am sure Glasgow Warriors fans hoping to see him in black next season would disagree!
The return of captain Scott Riddell shows that he is arguably the heartbeat of the side and they seem to play so much better when he is in the squad but they have a core of playmakers in Riddell and Wight that will be hard to replace when the time comes. Also worth a mention is Hugh Blake, who looks a different player to the one pitched up at Glasgow amidst talk of Project players. He could turn out to be a centre after all…
Calum MacRae has them playing a determined and patient style of Sevens that is hard to break down and hard to stop scoring now that they can keep the ball and if you have an off day like Fiji did at the start of day 2 then you could come off looking silly. Scotland ran out winners 24-0 before a much closer semi against England edged them into the final to face the Blitzbokke once again.
Their skillset under MacRae has massively improved and they look like the keystone cops far less regularly than they used to. Competitiveness is the new norm but unfortunately, the errors crept into the final from both teams and the Blitzbokke were better positioned to capitalise. Scotland couldn’t get their lineout working at all and so plentiful chances went by without points being scored. Horne blotted his copybook with a yellow card. It wasn’t a nightmare game by Scotland but the Blitzbokke have been imperious for most of the season – they were in something like their ninth Cup final – and needed few excuses to take the win away from the Scots.
As MacRae moves to Edinburgh with an impressive legacy in place, for his swansong Scotland have been drawn in Pool B against France, Argentina and Russia as they look to defend the title they won at Twickenham last year.