I have gone for a couple of extracts from a diary. Think this shows how the mood of optimism turned to one of huge disappointment. But hopefully also how much we appreciated the support that we received, and how good a tournament the first Emirates Airlines Glasgow Sevens was.
The final two legs of the IRB Sevens series and it is exciting to be playing at home in Glasgow followed by a short hop down to London. The series is on debut in Glasgow and it is fitting city for sevens. As sevens continues to grow as a sport it is only right that it comes to the centre of the universe.
Have I mentioned that I’m from Glasgow?
It has been impressive to watch Scotstoun stadium change from a 5,000 seat athletics venue to a 15,000 seat rugby stadium. The temporary stands are nice and close to the pitch and I have no doubt that the atmosphere will be special. With plenty of entertainment on the back pitch and around the leisure centre it promises to be a cracking weekend.
Undoubtedly the weekend would be made considerably more enjoyable by a strong Scottish performance. We have probably underachieved this season but we are working hard to correct that for this tournament. Although we are well supported across the globe the support we receive in Scotland is on another level. Coupled with the addition of Jim Thompson and John Houston to the squad we have an excellent opportunity to make it to the cup quarter-final. This isn’t a foregone conclusion. We have a tough group, comprising of Wales, South Africa and Russia. Having played these teams this season we know what to expect. We have run Wales and South Africa close but are yet to beat them. Let’s hope the Glasgow support can make all the difference.
Certainly training has gone well this week. Having met up on Sunday evening, we were all ready to take to the training field on Monday morning. It made a massive difference that we had no jet-lag to combat, no journey to run out of the legs. Jim Thompson had the exertions of a weekend with Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup Semi-Final to overcome. Otherwise we were ready to go. And Monday’s training was a reflection of this. John and Jim bring a great attitude to training and having been involved in sevens previously they were quickly up to speed.
Everything had been building well. We had taken on France in a training game and looked sharp. The civic reception at the city chambers had passed without too much boredom. Scott Hastings had kept his speech short – a delight for those in attendance. My fiancée had organised a Winning Scotland Foundation evening at her work. Four of us went to give our support. These evenings have potential to be tedious and drag on. But this was light-hearted and entertaining. There was even a gourmet chef practically force feeding us all sorts of wonderful food. Finally, we had negotiated an entire week in Glasgow without any rain. All the omens were good.
But the outcome was the same as previous tournaments. We were leading against Wales and South Africa with little time remaining. But we couldn’t close out either game. This was even harder to take as the support we received was incredible. We were desperate to give them all something to cheer. Day 1 finished with a convincing win over Russia. But we had wanted to compete in the cup quarter-final. And we had let two glorious opportunities slip through our fingertips.
The only acceptable outcome now was to win the bowl. Kenya were our first opponents. Somewhat of a bogey team we were easily the better side. But we made hard work of it. I have no doubt that the Glasgow support played a huge role in our victory. There was a passage of play in the middle of the second half that lasted for minutes without a stoppage. Minutes in sevens are like an eternity. Play swung from one end to another. Struan Dewar was close to scoring in the right-hand corner. But we conceded a penalty and Kenya hoofed it downfield. Michael Fedo broke and was yards away from the left corner. Again Kenya turned it over. Yet they couldn’t escape their own half and the ball was turned over. Scott Riddell looked up to pass to Andrew Turnbull but Turny was exhausted. We all were. But then the crowd cranked up their support and the noise energised us. Eventually Turny managed to score, what turned out to be the winning try. We definitely owed the support for that one.
Unfortunately we didn’t repay them in the semi final. Spain are a useful team but one that, when we play well, we should beat every time. For reasons I have yet to discover, we failed to perform.
At our home tournament, we were defeated by Spain. We hadn’t even made the bowl final.
We were gutted. We had let our fantastic support down. We wanted to win some silverware for them but we came up short. However it was important we showed how much we appreciated their support, so we undertook a lap of honour. I wanted to apologise to every fan. But they were all great. They thanked us for our efforts and kept smiling, determined not to let one poor performance taint the fun they had had all weekend.
And it looked like they were having great fun. I really enjoyed the fact that we were changing in the leisure centre – a short walk from the stadium at Scotstoun. This gave us an opportunity to mingle with supporters as we walked back from each game. Win or lose they were in fine spirit, asking for photos and autographs. This proved a good way to overcome the disappointment of losing, and to revel in the joy of a victory. Disappointingly it did not work as a suitable form of recovery. We still had to plunge in to the ice baths after each game. In fact, our new protocol involved ten minutes in the ice at the end of each day. We then had to return to the hotel before we could shower to let the cold penetrate deep within our muscles. It then took us the rest of the evening to warm up.
Emotionally I’m not sure I’ve warmed up yet. There was real optimism that our home tournament was going to be the turning point for this team. We were going to make the cup quarter finals. However, as with the previous seven tournaments we failed. Fortunately we still have one more shot at it. Aboard the plane to London there is a sense of unfinished business amongst the squad. I hope the hurt of letting our home support down will be the catalyst we require to eventually break in to the top eight.