Sevens Team Fall Short in Wellington

Scotland could only make it to the bowl final in round 3 of the HSBC 7s World Series this weekend, crashing out to Samoa in the final (19-7). A tough draw with a pool including South Africa and New Zealand really set up a challenging weekend for a relatively inexperienced Scottish side.

The squad for this weekend included two 7s debutants in Glasgow’s Junior Bulumakau and BT Sport Academy player Nick Grigg, whilst Edinburgh centre Chris Dean returned to the squad. Former Melrose boy Scott Wight remained as Captain once again.

Thanks to some poor performances recently, New Zealand were drawn alongside South Africa in the pool, meaning that it was always going to be tough to qualify into the cup competition for day two. In the first game against South Africa, Scotland failed really to get into the game late on and by the time Bulumakau crossed to score on his debut, the hooter had already sounded. Final score: Scotland 5-28 South Africa.

Next up were hosts New Zealand, fielding a team including World Cup winning Sonny Bill Williams and Julian Savea’s younger brother, Ardie. New Zealand got off to the best start with a couple of quick tries and got lucky when Captain Wight’s potential try-scoring pass was deemed forward.

The All Blacks claimed a few more quick tries with Savea in particular impressing off the bench. Much like the first game, Bulumakau crossed right on the hooter, although by then, the score was already 27-5 to the hosts. Scotland would now do battle with Russia to decide who would get the better draw in the bowl competition.

Meeting the Russians for the third time in as many tournaments, Scotland made hard work of what should have been a fairly simple game. Gavin Lowe got the scoring going with a clever step to score but Russia quickly responded with a brace of tries to take a 5-10 lead.

Just on half time, Lowe crossed for his second and after the break the young man from Ayr completed his hat trick. Crucially, Wight converted these two tries and so even a late converted try by Russia was not enough to steal victory. The 19-17 win drew Scotland with Portugal in the bowl quarter-final on day 2.

Kicking off late on Saturday night back home, the Scots looked wide awake and tries from James Johnstone, Scott Riddell and Joseva Nayacavou helped contribute to a 17-0 half time lead. However, Portugal quickly got back in the game with speculative tries from Belo and Fernandes and the deficit was reduced to just five points.

However, winger Johnstone then scored an excellent individual try, throwing a dummy to burst through the red defence. Mark Robertson soon added his name on to the try-scoring sheet and Scotland held out for a 29-12 victory. Next up: Japan.

Still playing to a near-empty stadium, those that showed up were treated to a nine try, extra-time thriller. Scotland led 19-14 at half time thanks to tries from Grigg and a Jamie Farndale brace. However, following the break, the Japanese demonstrated their expansive attacking rugby and went up 26-19.

As the hooter sounded, the score remained the same, although Scotland were still in possession. After testing the defence, Nayacavou showed off his power to break through and offload to Nick McLennan, whose converted try took the game to extra time. Just three minutes later, it was Nayacavou who crossed to snatch victory.

The 31-26 win took Scotland to the bowl final against a Samoan side who have struggled for consistency this year. A more physical first half saw Samoa hold a small lead thanks to Hunapo’s try, although the Scots still seemed in touch.

However, the Samoan’s responded after half time with another brace of tries to put a Scottish victory out of sight. Nonetheless, Scotland continued to fight and eventually it fell to Lowe who scored to put himself out as his side’s top try scorer for the weekend. Final score: Scotland 7-19 Samoa.

This weekend’s performance has kept Scotland in 10th place on the HSBC 7s World Standings, just a single point ahead of Samoa and seven behind France. Next week, they will play Kenya, Russia and Series leaders South Africa in Sydney for round 4. The team made it into the cup competition last time round in Australia so will be hoping for some similar success this year.

Interestingly, the turnout was just 13,000 on day 1, a similar figure Scotstoun achieved over its final few seasons as a World Series host. Will New Zealand also be put under the same pressure as the Scots to improve turnouts in order to continue hosting the tournament? After all, Scotland only had the tournament for so long because of the country’s history of inventing the sport. Why should one of the world’s best still get to host a tournament if no one shows up?

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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

12 comments on “Sevens Team Fall Short in Wellington

  1. Angus on

    Wellington is already under pressure re crowds, They have a contract for a certain number of years and it is either now up or almost up

    Biggest disappointment for me was in the Japan game how little respect Hugh Blake had for possession. I like him a lot but he turned over far too much ball

    The first rule in 7s is you don’t pass unless you can GUARANTEE the ball is going to hand

    • Angus on

      Well Kitty obviously had words with Blake because he barely passed the ball v Kenya but he did power over for tries himself so no problems there

      Disappointing to lose on the bell when all Grigg had to do was tuck the ball under his wing

      Much more positive with forward movement as we went lateral but again we sadly miss out on the cup rounds and I have to consider finishing in the top 2 of our pool the pass mark on every tournament

  2. FF on

    Haven’t been able to see any of the sevens. How are our young guys doing individually? Is farndale showing any of the promise he had in the u-20s? Does Blake look like a potential test 7? Is Grigg going to break into the Glasgow squad in a year or two?

    Now that we have firmly decided that sevens will be a development platform for 15s I wonder when we’ll see credible results. Argentina have done this well in the past with most of their young backs getting their first taste of professional rugby at 7s. Cordero was probably the young player of the World Cup for me.

    • Ruairidh Campbell on

      Certainly the performances so far this season have not been quite as good as last year where we qualified more often for the Cup competition on day 2. As for the younger players, I still believe it is greatly aiding their development as they are exposed to this level of competition – Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is a good example of someone who benefited from this.

      Farndale’s pace put on a good show although was on the bench for a few games so game time was more limited. Still struggle to rate Blake, in 7s at least he hasn’t looked too comfortable. I think the fact he couldn’t break his way into either the Glasgow or Edinburgh sides would suggest that for now at least, there are a number of players ahead of him in the international pecking order.

  3. Angus on

    Grigg played strongly and was one of the best, as was Bulumakau.

    Despite what I said, Blake was a decent performer overall without being outstanding but if you are playing 7s the ball is king and you do everything in your power to guard it. He didn’t and in the game v Japan if we had lost the blame would have lain at his feet. to put it in a nutshell he made great breaks and yards but ruined them by making offloads that were 50:50 at best and resulted in tournovers. A review of the video should sort that for Sydney as he is a smart and conscientious player who will understand where he went well and went wrong when he sees the tape

    We have changed our style a bit from last year with the recycling out wide being the more traditional 7s move of the deep pull back. Nothing wrong with that per se. However, one of the major issues pre McCrae was Scotland’s ability to top the passes completed stats without actually going anywhere. That has changed for the better since Callum took over but in Wellington it seemed to regress

    The way it was executed in Wellington invariable cost us momentum and territory due to effective hinge defences against us. I am sure this will be looked at in the review

    RC, while last year the season finished well it didn’t start that way. It was pretty ordinary but built as the season went on. I hope this year is the same but I am sure it is disappointing for the coaching staff that they have not been able to start this season where they left the last one off

    Bottom line, we finished last year where? 7th?

    We went into Wellington 10th and came out 10th

    Bring on Sydney !!!!!

    Upside is we have Kenya and our new traditional 7s rivals Russia so 2 wins are very much on the cards

    Iffy side – a very unhappy South Africa. They have come off Wellington seeking meetings with the referees to question why they have been penalised so much. How that comes out will definitely determine how they go in Sydney

    Alba gu brath if that’s ok with you moretha80 ;)

  4. Robbie on

    I think if the SRU are serious about it being a development squad going forward they should introduce an under 27 rule – All players bar one (the captain) must be 27 or younger. Other countries are introducing the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Quade Cooper etc. Our journeymen just cannot compete.

    I understand the argument that our stalwarts offer shape, but what’s the point in having shape if we don’t even touch the ball – in the South Africa match we didn’t offer anything until we got the likes of Grigg and Bulumakau on the pitch. Seeing a group of talented young guys keen to impress, who might just do something individually brilliant, is far more useful to Scottish rugby than having 4 guys in their 30s travelling all round the world. Also giving more young guys a taste of what international rugby could be like, some skills training and an incentive to drive them forward would be far better bang for Scottish Rugby’s buck.

    There are plenty of academy players and even club guys who could benefit from the 7s experience.

    • Angus on

      While I kind of get where you are coming from I am afraid you are way off the mark. There is no such thing as the “7s experience” It is not something you do to see how you go in the hope it may or may not be of benefit to your 15s career

      7s is an end in itself, it is a sport in its own right, it is played at the Olympics. You are up against full time 7s players, squads who do nothing else other than train for and play 7s

      Go into that competition with some young lads who show a bit of promise in the academies and you may as well just give up

      Scotland 7s has to be run as a 7s programme with the objective of maintaining and improving on our world ranking year on year and not as a stepping stone to anything else. If someone goes on to 15s after then that’s a bonus

      Any other approach will be half arsed and cause us to mark time at best and more than likely slide down the rankings

      • Robbie on

        I’d love to see it run as a proper 7s program, a full roster of promising 7s players who commit for the year, as I believe that’s what it should be, but my point is at the moment it’s not being run as that. Scottish Rugby is half way housing between 7s and development, which is benefitting neither. We’re sliding backwards in the rankings AND not getting the most out of it from a development perspective. My point is it’s got to be one way or the other.

      • FF on

        The SRU made it clear that the 7s programme would be used as a development tool because our pool of professional players was too small to develop a group of 12 or so specialist sevens players. This might not be ideal but our financial and playing resources pretty much mandate it. I think we’ve struck a decent balance of a core group of sevens specialists combined with young players who need competitive exposure. Let’s face it – if Farndale or Blake spend their entire careers on the seven circuit the SRU will have lost two potential talents from the rugby code that supports our entire community.

      • Kev on

        Agree with Angus (for the first time ever) if we are going to have a 7’s programme it should be for 7’s and a player stepping up and playing rugby is a boost

      • Angus on

        Robbie I agree, FF the “balance” you speak of may be a numerical one but it does not appear to be the one that provides us with the best performances / results. It also does a disservice to Callum McCrae if he is being told who has to be in his squad and is then told to go and make them into 7s players so they can become better 15s players??????

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