It was a case of mixed emotions for the Scottish 7s side as they finished 7th at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. In front of a new world record crowd of 171,000 for the two days, the tough pool draw meant that the Scots would have to go up against the best in the world to have any chance of gaining a medal.
Scotland came into the tournament with 6 XVs professionals helping to bolster the core 7s squad and with the support of the Ibrox crowd, they had their best possible chance of winning a medal.
New Zealand went into the competition having never lost a Commonwealth Games match and they continued in that form, taking a half time lead of 17-0 thanks to the Scots failing to retain possession. However, the second half saw a different Scottish team as they quickly capitalised on a spirited break from Stuart Hogg with the next phase seeing Lee Jones score in the corner. With Colin Gregor on the bench for the first match, Scott Wight successfully converted.
However, the All Blacks uncharacteristically lost the head and were reduced to five players for a succession of offences allowing Scotland to take advantage with Lee Jones scoring twice. However, even with Scott Wight’s two conversions, they still fell agonisingly short at 14-17.
It was a long wait for Scotland until they were next due onto the pitch against Barbados, who had qualified after Nigeria pulled out of the competition. They offered little opposition as the Scots won 56-0; the 4th biggest result of the tournament. Tries came from a Lee Jones brace, with singles for the very impressive Mark Bennett, Sean Lamont, Hogg, Colin Shaw, James Johnstone and Scott Wight. Inspirational captain Colin Gregor was successful with all 8 of his conversion attempts.
As Scotland took the pitch for their last pool game against Canada – which would decide who would progress into the quarter-finals – there were still chants of U-GAN-DA ringing around the stadium after they came from behind to surprise Sri Lanka 17-14 after being 0-14 down with four minutes to go. If Scotland were the most popular team there, then it seemed as though the Ugandans were in second place.
After the slow start against the All Blacks, Scotland flew out of the blocks against the Canadians as Lee Jones was once again on the end of some great play to continue his scoring run. Canada quickly responded with a try of their own, however Richie Vernon scored to give the Scots a 14-5 lead.
Scotland then kept up the pressure in the second half with Bennett and Roddy Grant both inches away from scoring. However, a great play from Scott Wight allowed him to offload to Bennett who put Scotland out of reach of the Canadians at 21-5. With just a few minutes remaining on the clock, Scotland’s defensive skill was tested as they held off the Canadian attack, keeping the final score at 21-5.
South Africa, who felt confident enough to do without Brian Habana, were next for day 2.
It was a case of another day, another huge crowd, as Ibrox was once again almost sold out for the lunchtime session.
In the knockout stages, only a win would allow them to have any chance of winning a medal. From the off, it seemed as though the game was shaping up to be just like the New Zealand clash a day earlier as the Scots quickly fell 21-0 down. Going into half-time a Mark Bennett try gave them a glimmer of hope that they could come back.
This pressure continued as Lee Jones went over yet again to close the gap to 21-12 and the Ibrox crowd once again found its voice. But Scotland’s chances soon disappeared as two quick South African tries ended all hopes of a medal.In all honesty, their ability to think and play at pace was too much for Scotland on the day.
Final score: Scotland 12 – 35 South Africa.
England were next in the plate semi-final. Scotland again got off to a slow start as three quick English tries were scored with Scotland hardly touching the ball. However, with all three conversions missed, Scotland could still come back.
That is what they were once again attempting to do, with Mark Bennett coming close to scoring, before eventually going over as he took the quick tap from a penalty 5 metres from the English line. Scott Wight then turned the ball over at the ruck less than a minute later, and got the offload away to Lee Jones who, with Colin Gregor’s conversion going astray, made it 15-12 to the English. Scotland continued to build up the pressure and after the siren, Hogg was in a foot-race with Dan Norton to score what would be the winning try. Agonisingly, Hogg was caught 10 metres out. The Auld Enemy won 15-12.
In what was Stephen Gemmell’s last tournament as coach, the Scottish team put in a hearty performance and came very close to victories against New Zealand and England. It’s no shame that South Africa were the team that walked away with the gold medal after shocking the All Blacks in the final.
Overall you cannot forget how good this tournament has been to boost support for rugby and the profile of Sevens, and Ibrox was by far the best venue that could have been chosen.
With a new coach in Colin MacRae, Scotland return to the European Grand Prix and the IRB World Series next season knowing they have the potential to beat the best. Can they do it without the pro-team ringers though?
SRBlog Scottish Man of the Tournament: Scott Wight did very well at controlling the game from stand-off, whilst Lee Jones’ 7 tries cannot be forgotten. However, Mark Bennett showed why he could soon be playing for Scotland in the XVs game with a performance that combined powerful, quick-footed running with good defensive ability.