Scotland today claimed fourth place in the Wellington leg of the HSBC 7s World Series. Moving up to seventh in the Series Rankings with that result, the Scots came within seconds of making their first ever Cup Final until an agonising final few minutes against the Auld Enemy saw the opposition take the glory after the Scots lost a commanding lead.
Scotland started the day in Wellington against the team sitting just 2 points ahead of them on the World Series rankings: Samoa. Early on, it was clear that Edinburgh and Melrose winger Damien Hoyland was looking for a strong tournament as he went over twice in the first half to give his side a 14-0 lead, with Colin Gregor adding the extras.
The second half was not so simple as the Scots were forced onto the defensive with penalties being leaked around the breakdown, allowing for Greg Foe and Samoa Toloa to crash over for the Samoans. With Toloa only managing to convert one try, Scotland were able to hold on to take the win 14-12.
A win over Kenya next would be enough to confirm Scotland’s place in the Cup Quarter-Finals for a 3rd successive tournament, a feat that had eluded the Scots for a number of years now. And they started positively with Hoyland going over for another brace in the first half, the former of which saw him run strong out wide, outpacing the whole Kenyan defence.
Scotland had a 7 point lead going into the second half, although soon saw this diminish with Lamech Billy Odhiambo scoring his brace and Scotland failing to make the most of their possession. In the dying moments, the Scots got within metres of the line, only to knock it on as the hooter went, giving Kenya the 21-14 win.
This win may have actually benefited Scotland, as after France beat World Series leaders South Africa in pool A, Scotland only required a win against high-flying Argentina to face surprise pool winners the USA in the Cup draw.
They duly provided the goods with Hoyland grabbing yet another brace, his 6 tries putting him in the top 3 scorers on day 1 in Wellington. The standout try of the game, however, was awarded to Colin Gregor, who benefited from captain Scott Wight’s excellent timing of the pass to run a strong line, cutting through the Argentinian defence, giving his side the win 21-14 and a date with the USA on day 2.
That Quarter-Final did not start with the same bang as Scotland’s performances from the previous day and with just 2 minutes remaining, they were trailing 15-0 to the Americans. However, this being Sevens, out of nowhere James Johnstone crossed the line followed by James Fleming twice scoring in overtime. With Wight’s 2 conversions, Scotland were now into their fourth ever Cup Semi-Final, and their first outside of the UK.
Their opposition would be England who, as usual, were in tremendous form and perhaps buoyed by the senior side’s result in Cardiff on the other side of the world.
Scotland’s start could not have been more perfect though, as Hoyland crossed for his 7th try of the tournament in the opening minutes, making him the top try scorer of the tournament as well as helping secure his spot on the tournament’s “Dream Team”. The tries continued to roll in as Johnstone crossed the line again, before setting up captain Wight for a try of his own. Two conversions by Gregor gave Scotland a 19-0 lead and the best possible chance of reaching their first ever Cup Final.
However, it was here that the fun ended.
England took full control of the match with tries coming in quick and fast to close down and then overtake Scotland, finished off by Charlie Hayter who went over for the winning score to book England’s place in the final after a 24-19 win.
Scotland still had a 3rd place playoff against South Africa to contest. While Fleming got on the score sheet early, it soon became clear that Scotland had become drained of energy, both physically and emotionally. The South Africans quickly ran through 6 tries of their own to confine the Scots to a very credible fourth place overall in the tournament, winning 40-7.
Speaking after the game, head coach Calum MacRae said of his side: “I’m very proud of the character shown by our group of players this weekend.
“To finish fourth shows that they have improved again.”
“We scored some great tries and it’s pleasing that the tournament’s top try scorer was a Scot. Damien Hoyland continues to get better and scoring 7 tries demonstrates that.”
SR Blog Scottish Man of the Tournament: Once again, the team was led strongly by Scott Wight with ex-captain Colin Gregor improving on his poorer performances earlier in the season. However, Damien Hoyland must be congratulated for being the tournament’s top scorer and a member of the Dream Team. The future looks bright for the 21 year old.
And so on it will be to Las Vegas next weekend where Scotland are joined in pool B by Australia, France and Brazil after being named in the top seed band for the first time in their World Series history. Will there be more success in the deserts of Nevada?