The penultimate leg of the XIVth world sevens series is now over. South Africa came from behind to stun New Zealand and take the Cup trophy and Glasgow 7s title, and there were trophies for the USA, Australia and France as well.
Following the events of this weekend Scotland are now in very real danger of losing their status as a core team in the Sevens tournaments. They now travel to London next week in order to play in a qualifying event, against seven other teams, Russia, Spain and Portugal included and must come either 1st, 2nd or 3rd to remain a core team and part of the Series. If not, then Scotland 7s will not partake in every stage of the World Series and only be invited to join in certain legs, (one would hope that this would include the Scotland leg!)
France, Russia, Spain and Portugal were all battling it out for this trophy, after being knocked out of the Bowl tournament.
The first semi final saw Russia put seven tries away over Portugal to cruise through to the final. This match was fast, and despite Russian dominance throughout Portugal did show flashes of brilliance and innovation; Luis Sousa’s try being one of them.
Immediately following this France put Spain to the sword, running in a 41-0 victory. France’s Pierre-Gilles Lakafia was instrumental in this effort, creating and controlling the flow of the play, as well as steam-rolling over the Spanish defence, and setting up his team-mates for tries on numerous occasions.
With two big wins in the semi finals, the final was a low scoring affair in comparison. Both teams were a little cagey in the opening minutes before running in a try each before half time, France with the crucial extra points from the conversion. The second half saw end to end rugby as both teams fought for supremacy; France again demonstrated the team effort, as Julien Candelon came sprinting up from deep in his own half to support his team-mates, and was perfectly positioned to catch the wild offload and dart, unmarked over the line for the try. In the end it was three tries each, but Russia missed two conversions giving France a four-point victory to take the Shield.
Samoa, Australia, Kenya and Scotland all progressed from the morning games in this tournament.
Semi final one saw a big hitting encounter between Samoa and Australia. James Stannard and Lolo Lui putting in some massive tackles, including one by Lui on Stannard that had the crowd flinching! It was an evenly matched game, Samoa had almost edged the win, coming from behind at half time, until a Cameron Clark try half a minute from time saw the Australians go through to the final.
The noise of Scotstoun could not drown out the Kenyan fans in the top corner of the party stand, especially as the Kenyan team ran rampant over Scotland in the first half, three tries gave them a 19-0 lead. Scotland spent plenty of time in possession, but for all of the passes they completed they gained inches, not yards. The second half saw a concerted fight back from Scotland, but they had given themselves too much to do in the time remaining, and Kenya came out on top.
In the final, the Australians dominated from the off, effectively shutting down any Kenyan attack, and on form with their counter rucking to ensure that any Kenyan possession was short lived. However for all their dominance the Aussies had a challenge breaking through the Kenyan lines, play was focused mainly in the Kenyan 22. Eventually Nick Malouf made a break down the wing and teammate Lewis Holland crossed the line for the score. And in the closing seconds of the game Pama Fou was perfectly placed to chase down Holland’s chip forward and ground the ball for the win.
Continuing with the kitchen-themed trophies the Plate tournament had the USA, Canada, Fiji, and Argentina all hoping to cook up a victory.
The first semi final saw the vastly improved USA take on the Fijians, who had been knocked out of the Cup tournament in extra time by England. On paper this should have been Fiji’s game, but the USA, who have been improving consistently throughout this series, gave the Scotstoun crowd a demonstration in expansive and innovative rugby. Nick Edwards and Zach Test were the stand out performers in this match, eating up the yards with pace and power. Half time saw the Americans leading ten points to nothing. Fiji responded instantly after the restart with a fantastic try, Samisoni Viriviri crossing the line after sprinting from deep within his own half. But ultimately it was not to be, and the USA went on to win 22-7.
Canada versus Argentina was the other semi final in this tournament, and Argentina showed us what they could do, as they asserted dominance over the Canadians from the word go. Two tries in the first half saw them leading at the break, but it was only by a few points, and Canada could have clawed it back. Second half tries from the (I assume) Panceyra Garridos brothers: Facundo and Anibal respectively, Canada slipped out of the competition and Argentina went on to face the US in the final.
Argentina took first blood in the final, and looked to try and dominate the USA from then on, but the pressure was eased when the USA turned the ball and cleared the line, pushing Argentina back deep into their own half. Andrew Durutalo kept the USA in the game with his try on the half time klaxon, jumping over Matias Moroni to ground the ball. In the second half the US scored another two tries courtesy of Edwards and Test to win the Plate in Glasgow.
It was northern hemisphere versus southern hemisphere in the semi finals as England and Wales took on the South Africans and New Zealand respectively to challenge for the final. England trailed South Africa 19-5 at half time, before staging a comeback in the second half before just missing out. And Wales were the leaders on the half time buzzer before the Kiwis made a successful comeback to take the game 14-24.
There was a large travelling support for both England and Wales as they faced off for third place, and the game looked to be going Wales’ way much to the delight of the Welsh supporters (i.e. most of Scotstoun.) They were quick and they were ruthless, dismantling the England defence and pushing them further and further back. Three converted tries meant England had an uphill struggle in the second half if they wanted to win. And England proved they could climb as three tries later they were the victors 24-21.
In the final, the odds were in New Zealand’s favour. Again plenty of vocal travelling support, and the rest of the crowd picked a side and went with it…I suspect that the prospect of a topless haka should New Zealand win may have swayed some! South Africa’s Seabelo Senatia had looked dangerous all weekend, showing he had the speed, and skill to exploit even the tiniest of gaps in any line. The fearsome All Black 7s were no different, and less than a minute into the match he was sprinting unchallenged towards the posts for the score. The game was end-to-end rugby, New Zealand instantly responded to this and the game was on. Scrappy at times, as both teams scrambled at the restarts and thanks to some impressive hits in tackles the ball went loose more than once. New Zealand led at half time 7-14, as the South Africans dealt with an injured Paul Delport.
The second half was just as thrilling as the first, substitute Steven Hunt created the plays for the South Africans, darting straight down the middle with two New Zealanders on his back. But it was Sherwin Stowers being sent to the sin bin, that allowed South Africa to equalise, and settle into the game a bit more, in a way that would see them through to victory. There were more tries from Trinity Spooner-Neera, Conor Hendricks and Philip Snyman, and as Hunt kicked the ball into touch on the full time klaxon it was South Africa who were the victors, beating New Zealand by a converted try, 28-21.