Scotland 7s Fall Short of Glory in Tokyo

Scotland 7s today fell agonisingly short of claiming another piece of silverware after New Zealand scored in injury time to break the deadlock and win the Plate Final in the 7th round of the HSBC 7s World Series in Tokyo.

After claiming the Bowl in Hong Kong the week before, a tough group draw with New Zealand and Australia suggested that this would again be the Scots best chance of success with only the top two teams qualifying for the Cup competition on day 2.

And it seemed like this was going to be the case as Scotland struggled to get out of the blocks in the early kick-off with the All Blacks dominating possession, territory and the scoreboard as they cruised to a 38-0 victory. Tries from Tim Mikkleson (2), Sam Dickson, Joe Webber, Sherwin Stowers and captain DJ Forbes meant that Scotland’s input in the game was even more limited than that of Northampton in their 37-5 destruction by Clermont. For the Scots, a win was now essential against Australia to hold any chance of qualifying for the Cup.

But with some rest, it was like a different Scotland showed up against the Wallabies as two quick tries from Colin Gregor and James Johnstone helped form an early 14-0 lead. However, either side of half time two quick tries from the Aussies (courtesy of Con Foley and Nick Malouf) meant that with less than two minutes left, the scores were level. James Fleming chipped in with a fine defensive effort and after a relentless attack, Australian captain Ed Jenkins saw yellow, allowing Gregor to take the simple penalty in front of the posts. Scotland took the win 17-14.

Their place in day 2’s Cup draw was in sight with only Portugal standing in their way; normally a simple game, although Portugal defied the odds to snatch a victory against Australia, making this the 2nd-place decider. And both teams made this a battle worth watching as Fraser Lyle crossed first, the recipient of Nyle Godsmark’s 50m attacking break.

With Portugal suffering from a sin binning, Damien Hoyland crossed twice with Gregor converting the latter try, although Portugal continued to threaten with two tries of their own. However, the Scots held off to win 17-12 and confirm their place in the Cup quarter-final stage, going up against South Africa.

Day 2

Day 2 came although Scotland started in the same sluggish fashion, eventually going down 22-0 to the World Series Leaders. Unable to effectively defend the wide channels, the Blitzboks had no problem scoring through Kwagga Smith and Seabelo Senatla. Cecil Afrika and Justin Geduld also crossed taking more direct routes.

This defeat meant that Scotland dropped down into the Plate competition where they would take on hosts Japan, who were in their first Plate semi-final since 2000 after defeating Samoa and drawing with Argentina on day 1.

With the Brave Blossoms looking to live up to their name by making the home support proud, the game remained fairly tight with neither team willing to take any major risks. With seconds left on the clock, Scotland lead 7-5 after Gregor converted his own try in the first half. However, James Fleming then produced one of the tries of the tournament as a little chip from his own 22 on the hooter gave him a clear route to the line and with the chase beaten, the converted try meant that Scotland were into the Plate final off the back of a 14-5 victory.

After a surprise defeat to Canada in the Cup quarter-final, the All Blacks found themselves languishing in the Plate competition and their victory over France meant that the two teams would once again face up, although there was now a lot more at stake.

Lee Jones was first to cross for the Scots after some impressive footwork allowed him to cross from short range. Stowers was next on the scoreboard for New Zealand with a converted brace of tries, however, Gregor had the vison to score from a quick tap and with his conversion being successful, he moved up to 4th place on the all-time scoring charts for the World Series, overtaking Fijian legend Waisale Serevi who sits on 1,310 points.

The scores were now level and as the hooter rung around the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground, New Zealand sat with a 5 metre attacking scrum and with the slippery conditions, Dylan Collier was able to cross, giving the All Blacks the Plate in fairly dramatic circumstances, although Scotland more than made up for their previous meeting with the victors on day 1.

Following the game’s conclusion, head coach Calum MacRae commented: “There is a mixture of emotions in the dressing room, disappointment to lose at the hooter against New Zealand, but also pride in the hard work that has got us into the top competition

“We’re working teams far harder when they have got the ball and developing trust has taken time, but I can now see a defensive unit forming.

The World Series takes a short break, but will return in May at the (final for at least 4 years) Glasgow 7s (May 8th/9th).

Looking ahead, MacRae said “We are evolving every tournament and we are now heading home for the Glasgow 7s. Coming home for the Scotland leg of the circuit is something the players have looked forward to all year.

“After so many fans came out to support them at the Commonwealth Games, we aim to put in a performance that family, friends and Scots can be very proud of.”

However, if you can’t wait that long, remember that the Kings of the 7s Series is now in full swing down in the Borders. Next weekend (11th April) is the Melrose 7s with visiting teams including Glasgow Warriors, Wasps and Hong Kong. If you are unable to make it, the day is shown live on BBC 2 Scotland and we will also be reporting on the day.

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From the Borders town of Melrose, Ruairidh has had more than enough time to admire the game by spending most of his playing career so far in the rather lonely position of wing. When time allows he may also be found with a whistle in his hand attempting control a disgruntled prop twice his size.
Follow Ruairidh on twitter @ru_campbell

13 comments on “Scotland 7s Fall Short of Glory in Tokyo

  1. FF on

    Scotland 7s should enjoy huge credit for really stepping up – they are probably the most improved side in the World Series this year and with the Glasgow and London 7s coming up, tournaments they typically post their better results at, they have a great chance to overtake the USA and finish the season in their highest ever ranking at 6th. Already confirmed as the second highest ranking European side after England, the days when Scotland 7s could be written off are hopefully over. I just hope that they have a development plan in place to keep refreshing the squad with promising players as inevitably some of the stalwarts will retire, other stand out players will seek opportunities in 15s and so we need a constant stream of quality replacements.

    Well done to all involved this year and good luck for Glasgow.

  2. Neil on

    Is it an improvement- maybe. But how come we still always for short of the mark at 7’s.s with the Edinburgh win over London Irish and the performance of our national team in the Autumn internations, I think we can just get carried away too easily. The success of any tem needs to be judged over 2-3 seasons or more. Just imagine this scenario in 3-5 years time- if our sevens team plays the odd game that is good but fails to win tournaments, if our national team cannot finish above 5th in the 6 nations, if we still only have 2 pro teams (both of which are full of foreign players), if the pro teams mainly finish mid table in the pro 12 and fail to make much of an impact in European competitions, if our youth teams have occassional games where they play well but they are generally poor and if we cannot get beyond the QF of the WC, then what will the obvious conclusion be in the assessment of our game? ANSWER: NO PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE.

    Does this sscenario sound ever so slightly familiar to some readers. I dont like to come over as being negative but I am a realist. The state of our game at all levels is in crisis but this is overhsadowed but the occassional bit of success. Unless we can sustain this success over an extended period then we have to reach the conclusion that nothing much has changed.

    I long for the opportunity to watch our club and national teams take on the world and win, as they did in the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. What we have now is a mere shadow of what existed in that golden period. The best comparisson is between Roy Laidlaw in the 80s and Greg Laidlaw at present. That just hypitomises the gulf in talent between then and now but I could site many more examples if you wish. The sooner supporters wake up and smell the cofee and, more importnatly, do something about it, the better.

    • FF on

      Neil – please give it a rest. If you find it so difficult to welcome what little success we achieve in rugby you should probably find a different sport to follow. Anyone would think you enjoy the wailing and gnashing of teeth you indulge in at every opportunity. The 6Ns was a huge disappointment – but I suspect that the reason you can’t see any progress in the last few years is because you barely watch any actual rugby. Glasgow are performing better than any Scottish pro-side has ever done before, Edinburgh are recovering from their slump under Moffat and Bradley and we will soon have two competitive pro-sides for the first time ever, our u-20s just enjoyed their most successful 6N ever, our 7s is enjoying its best World Series ever, we are in the process of opening four academies so will have more young players coming into pro-sport than at any point in the past, our debt is at its lowest for a decade and finally money is actually being invested in the youth and community game instead of being taken out.

      Now – I’ll say it again. The 6N was a huge disappointment to everyone (indeed, you were predicting 3 wins MINIMUM and I was the one telling you not to get carried away), but there is no point harking back to the distant past. Rugby is a professional sport now and we are finally beginning to adapt to it. But it could take time for progress to make a significant impact at test level – that does not mean that progress is not being made.

      • Neil on

        FF- again you miss the point. I am and have always been keen to see progress at club and international level and there are reasons for quiet optimism but I feel that all too often supporters get carried away by the occassional bit of success that our teams achieve and fail to see the bigger picture. The point I wish to make is that we should only really get excited when that success is sutained over an extended periosd of 2-3 years or more rather than celebrating ‘one off’ successes or ‘here today and gone tomorrows’

        Regarding the 6 nations, I am probably as guilty as anyone in getting carried away with the success of the Autumn internationals. I didnt think we could win the competition this year but I thought we would do alot better than a 6th finnish. I felt this would not have happened had our players given 100% and played to their full potential. Sadly that did not happen. I have learned my lesson to have low expectations w.r.t our national team.

      • Ad Nauseum on

        Neil you are still an idiot The 7s are having their best season in years and all you want to do is bag them – give it a rest

        maybe it is better??? IT IS BETTER

        This thread is about the 7s so shut up about things that are not related to this thread and stop hijacking threads we have been over you doing this before and again and again so let it stay on topic for once

  3. Neil on

    Ad Nauseum

    I go onto this site almost every day. What I find a bit odd is that you never make any contributions. Do you have an opinion on our game and not justy on me? What do you think about 7’s, our club side, our effort on the 6 nations? The only time I every see your name is when you go online to have a dig at me.

    Anyway- back to rugby. The 7s have had a couple of good games here and there but they are still quite far down in the world standings. The point I have tried to make is that we should not get carried away with one off successes here and there that are not sustained over the medium-long term. If our 7’s team consistently win over a period of 12 months and are in the top 4 nations in the world over that period then I will admit that we have turned a corner. Before that, lets just remain quietly optimistic.

    • Ad Nauseum on

      I do post a lot. I just use this name when your posts make me sick. You see here we go again you will bitch and moan unless Scotland is No1 in the world. You seem incapable of understanding or even appreciating it is a long road from where we are in 7s or 15s to the top – a place we have never been by the way

      Top 4 in the world at the end of the year before you are happy FFS what planet are you on? If we can finish 6th that would be a MAJOR improvement

      • Neil on

        The problem is that I dont see much improvement except for Glasgow. Edinburghj are 8th in the pro 12- hardlty a great achievement. Our national team finished 6th in the 6 nations and we coulndt even beat Italy at Murryfield. Sure i aspire to Scotland being number 1 but I would settle for an improvement at this stage. Unfortunately I dont see any signs of one.

  4. Angus on

    If I can bring this back on topic. What about these reports that the SRU are considering doing away with the 7s programme? I read a report in Planet Rugby or maybe Rugby World

    • Allan on

      Wales and ireland manage without it. I would rather see the money invested in grass roots tbh.

      I understand that the 7s is partially funded (how much anybody?) through hosting the world sevens at Scotsoun so without that revenue, it isnt sustanable without cuts eleswhere. It wouldnt be such a momentous decision to cut it in my opinion as it doesnt really aid either of the pro teams or the national side at present. After all, what else does colin gregor actaully contribute (no disrespect to his efforts) and i am sure he isnt the only player who seems to be solely sevens focussed.

      More games for our under 20s would be a more effctive option to give our youngsters exposure to top level games. Perhaps this summers u20 world cup is a chance to look at this as a future development tool.

      • Neil on

        I agree Allan. It would be far better for us to concentrate on the full game than 7s. I also agree that we shouold place a greater emphasis on youth development.

    • Angus on

      Wales have a long established 7s programme and there’s a few 15s internationals who played 7s

      Ireland don’t have a programme but the word I got in Hong Kong is they are looking at starting one

      You are right in the respect it doesn’t appear to fit in anywhere and it would be great if it did but TBH with 7s now a Commonwealth and Olympic sport does it have to? I mean it is a sport in its’ own right and should have to be a feeder or provider to any other club or side

      As I have mentioned before I don’t believe the 7s programme is funded straight from Murrayfield and that means that if it was stopped that the money it costs to run it would not all become available to be spent on other programmes such as U20

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