With the Las Vegas 7s over and done with, it was an all too familiar site for the Scottish fans who watched their team once again fall short by losing in the Bowl semi-finals.
Scotland was drawn in the toughest of the pools for days 1 and 2 by being joined by New Zealand, Fiji and Australia. On day 1, Scotland opened against Fiji losing 24-0. Although Scotland have managed to beat Fiji already this year (21-19 in South Africa), they struggled to make the most of their attacking opportunities in Las Vegas. Next up was New Zealand and again, Scotland struggled to do much with the ball and was washed over by the World Series Champions. The game finished 26-5 with Scotland’s only try coming from James Johnson.
Scotland were only featuring in one match on day 2, against Australia which was meant to be the easiest of the three games. Unfortunately, it finished 26-7 to the Wallabies with former Merchiston Castle School pupil Johnson scoring Scotland’s only try. Captain Colin Gregor got the conversion. This meant that Scotland finished last in their pool meaning that they were set up for a bowl quarter-final against Portugal.
Thankfully, Scotland now managed to show some of the form that they are capable of by beating the inferior Portuguese team 31-7. Tries came from Scott Riddel, Lee Jones (2), Colin Gregor and Struan Dewar. Gregor successfully converted three of his attempts at goal. After the game, captain Gregor said “We knew we were up against it in that pool, and we’re disappointed we couldn’t get a win. But we knew what we had to do here and we deprived Portugal of some ball, and it was nice to score some tries. We are a team that goes through the phases, and we’ll have to do more of that if we are to beat Kenya tomorrow”.
However, by day 3, Scotland were not able to stick to their word in the bowl semi-final match and they had a big challenge in the form of Kenya, a side that have come on leaps and bounds the past few years. The game finished 21-7 to the Kenyans with Scotland’s points coming from Edinburgh professional Lee Jones and the conversion from Gregor. Reflecting on the weekend, head coach Stephen Gemmell said “This weekend we made too many errors and were punished dearly for that, despite at times playing good rugby.”
Overall for Scotland, it was yet another tournament where they were not able to bring home any silverware. However, now that the tournament is over, attention has quickly sprung over to the upcoming Wellington 7s from New Zealand (7th– 8th February). On looking ahead to the tournament and Scotland’s opponents, Gemmell said “We moved up into the third pot of seeds today… which is good, but Canada finished third here and played really well all weekend, USA will be disappointed with their finish, losing a couple of games by a point or two and Argentina are a well drilled physical side, so it’s going to be challenging group.” Although, looking at the pools for next weekend, Scotland will fancy their chances slightly more compared to who they were up against in Vegas.
Another important thing about this week was that the 2014 Commonwealth Games has come a step closer with the announcement of the pools and a big press conference at Murrayfield to kick off the year of 7s. However, through all of this good news, there is a bad omen, and that is who Scotland have been drawn against for the Commonwealth games: New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria. It looks like it will be yet another tough tournament for the Scots who will have quite a challenge trying to beat the team which has won every 7s gold medal contested and has done it all remaining unbeaten. Scotland will be hoping that the crowd will be able to lift them against such a big challenge as New Zealand. Canada, like we saw this weekend, are becoming a very good 7s team after finishing 3rd in Las Vegas beating teams such as Samoa and France along the way. It will be interesting to see what they can do throughout the rest of the season in preparation for the Games. At least Scotland should be able to win a game (I hope) against Nigeria who came through the African qualifying system to make it to the Games.
The Scotland squad for the Games has now started to take some shape as the SRU have got their core group of full time 7s players being supplemented with some professionals from the 15s game with players such as Lee Jones and Scott Wight trying to show why they should be given a place in the squad.
So, the year of 7s has well and truly kicked off. The Minister for Sport and Commonwealth Games, Shona Robison, said “This year marks a significant opportunity to promote rugby sevens and reinforce Scotland’s place in the development of the game. The IRB Sevens World Series and the Glasgow 7s at Scotstoun together with the Commonwealth Games will leave a legacy for players, coaches and clubs across the country inspiring them to take rugby sevens forward.” This is the chance for 7s to boost its profile massively throughout Scotland with all of the tournaments coming up later this year and this is Scotland’s chance to try and demonstrate why we are the creators of 7s and that we can actually be a contender in world 7s events.
By Ruairidh Campbell