The Scotland 7s were slightly overshadowed by the Calcutta Cup match on Saturday as they competed in the 5th round of the HSBC 7s World Series held in Wellington, New Zealand. However there, as closer to home, it was a case of more of the same from the Scots.
Scotland went into the tournament making 3 changes to the team that made it to the semi-finals of the plate in Las Vegas 2 weeks ago: Andrew Turnbull and Darren Gillespie replaced Scott Wight and Lee Jones respectively who had to travel back for Glasgow Warriors duties whilst Mark Robertson replaced John Houston who injured his hand in the previous competition.
Scotland started day 1 with a narrow loss to Canada (14-17). Tries came from James Johnstone and the ever reliable Andrew Turnbull with captain Colin Gregor converting both tries. Canada eventually went on to lose in the Plate final to Australia 10-12 but it was some lazy defence that cost the Scots with one of Canada’s tries coming from a little grubber kick to the young Harry Jones.
Scotland’s next opponents were Argentina and we saw another tight game with Scotland coming off worse, losing 12-17. The two tries came again from Turnbull and Gregor got one of the conversions.
Coming into the last match of day 1, Scotland knew that they were going to be confined to the Bowl competition for day 2, but it was now about trying to get the better draw. A day of tight games concluded with a 19-19 draw between the two sides. Turnbull added another two tries to his tally with Alex Glashan being the other player to cross the whitewash. However, it was still enough for Scotland to finish 3rd in their pool meaning that they advanced to the Bowl quarter-finals with the better draw.
Reflecting on day 1, head coach Stephen Gemmell said “We’re overwhelmed with feelings of disappointment. All week we spoke about the opportunity this group gave us to qualify for the Cup competition. However, we were too indecisive throughout the day and have ultimately ended up on the wrong side of three very close matches.”
Gemmell had talked about a strong improvement being required for the second day and that was what we saw. In the quarter-final, Scotland came up against Spain and the day’s try-fest started with Scotland winning 38-12. Tries came from a Mark Robertson hat-trick, 2 from Turnbull to take his tournament tally up to 7 and Colin Gregor, who also managed 4 conversions. This was a much improved performance from the Scots who showed determination in attack and were much stronger as a team in defence. This result meant that they moved into a tough semi-final with Wales.
However, Scotland’s surprise turnaround continued as they managed to score 4 unanswered tries to win 28-0 against a Welsh team who have had quite a successful season so far. 19 year old Glashan scored a hat-trick whilst Mark Robertson got the fourth try of the game. Captain Gregor was successful with the boot landing all four conversions.
This set up a Bowl final rematch with Kenya who won 21-7 when the two sides met in the Bowl semi-final in Las Vegas two weeks ago. However, despite the strong performances earlier in the day, Scotland eventually lost 24-14 and finished runner-up. Darren Gillespie and Struan Dewar scored the two tries whilst Gregor converted both attempts at goal.
Scotland managed to go one step further than they had done in Las Vegas. After the final, Gemmell said “Our performances were better today and we played with more intent and accuracy. Against Kenya though some individual errors cost us and we let a 14-12 lead slip from our hands.”
“We have come away with seven points this weekend and there is a sense of improvement, but the tale of missed opportunities has continued and we are still not where we want to be operating.”
This was a much improved performance by the Scots, which also saw Andrew Turnbull score his 138th World Series try, whilst Colin Gregor became the 4rd highest points scorer of the season on 121 points. Scotland now lie 12th on the Series rankings on 30 points (Leaders New Zealand are on 99 points)
The draw was also made for the 6th round of the HSBC 7s World Series in Tokyo (22nd-23rd March). Scotland have been drawn in Pool D with Spain, Australia and England. Looking ahead to the tournament, Gemmell said “We’re looking forward to Tokyo and there is a genuine sense of optimism in the camp for this Pool. We have beaten Australia and Spain on the circuit this year and England are doing very well at the moment.”
“However, in order to progress in that group we will have to be consistent and play at the top of our game. If we can do that we will get results like we did against Spain and Wales today.”
With just 4 rounds left, Scotland are looming dangerously close to the relegation zone and will have to pick up some more points to guarantee their spot in next year’s World Series.