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Scotland 7s finish 3rd in Wellington; remain 4th overall

Mark Robertson scores a try
Scotland's Mark Robertson scores against Fiji at the HSBC Wellington Sevens on 29 January, 2017, round three of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2016-17. Photo credit: Michael Lee @ KLC fotos/ World Rugby

South Africa claimed the third round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with a 26-5 win over in Fiji in a windy and half-empty Cake Tin Wellington on Sunday, cementing their spot at the top of the series standings.

Scotland Sevens finished in third place after beating Canada 28-22 in an epic bronze final and continues their fine run of form this season.

Having finished fifth in Dubai and fourth in the Cape Town event, third represents a steady progression for Calum MacRae’s men who seem to have put the wild variations in form of previous years to bed. Hopefully we will see them be there or there about in the continuing series events as they take their momentum into the Sydney event next weekend.

It doesn’t get easy at the top though, for that one they have been drawn top of Pool C along with “lesser teams” like New Zealand, Australia and Papa New Guinea.

Day One

Scotland started a bit poorly with a loss to fellow bronze finalists Canada who scored two early tries that the Scots never really recovered from despite some close final minutes.

Scotland’s next opponents were Russia and again Calum MacRae’s side seemed to be struggling to find their best form. It took scores from Gavin Lowe and James Fleming to win 12-5.

Their next win against Celtic cousins Wales was far more comfortable, Scotland beating Wales 31-7 to secure their passage through to the Cup Quarter-Finals with tries coming from Lowe 2, Robertson, Fleming and Glenn Bryce.

Finishing second in their pool set up a tie against England to start day two, who Scotland had lost to in both Dubai and South Africa.

Day Two

Missing on day one, Scott Wight replaced the injured Nick McLennan in the Scotland squad for day two and he kicked two conversions as tries from Jamie Farndale and Lowe gave the Scots a 14-7 lead at half time. The English came back strongly in the second half and a dramatic last ditch tackle from James Fleming prevented a near certain try as England raced away.

England finally scored just as it looked as the second half was going to end scoreless but it was too late to alter the result and Scotland progressed to the Semi-Finals winning 14-12.

Scotland started quickly against Olympic Champions Fiji with two first half tries through Horne and Robertson meaning they lead 12-7 at the break. As in the previous match Scotland defended their line gallantly for the second period as they were besieged. A try for the Pacific Islanders deep into injury time levelled the scores. With scoring threats who can create tries from almost nothing right throughout the team, Fiji always pose an extreme danger in sudden death and so it proved as they crossed with 21 minutes on the clock.

The result meant Scotland would face Canada in the bronze medal game looking to reverse the result from Day One to ensure a podium finish.

Again it was the Canadians who took an early lead but first half tries from Fleming and Horne meant Scotland had a 14-12 lead at half time.

Fleming got his second early in the second before Canada fought back with two tries to lead 21-22 going into the closing stages.

However, as the final whistle approached again it was Fleming who was Scotland’s hero, capping a fine tournament and completing his hat trick to hand his side the victory and a third placed finish.

41 Responses

  1. There are too many so-called Scottish rugby fans whose interest extends only as far as the 6-Nations and who have little interest in, or knowledge of, the achievements of the Warriors or Edinburgh. The same applies to our Sevens, who are accomplishing great things in the World Series. Having watched many videos of them in action, I believe they play a particularly attractive brand of the game, using very accurate passing to create space. Their coach, Calum MacRae, deserves great credit.

    1. Absolutely agree Alexander.

      Also, I wonder what percentage of the 67 thousand Murrayfield spectators will show up to just see the Haka, rather than passionately support our international side take on the world’s best when we play the All Blacks.

      The SRU have a mammoth challenge in funding these professional outfits with scarce rugby fanaticism in Scotland.

      1. I think the two of you need to clamber down from your high-horses. Your remarks are unfair to the many thousands of occasional, but nonetheless passionate, supporters of the Scotland team who pay top dollar for Murrayfield seats in the Autumn Internationals and the 6 Nations. They may not know as much as others about the game generally, Warriors, Gunners and Sevens – but they turn up and are as entitled to cheer for their team as anyone else.

    2. I used to be one of those types of fans, I grew up mainly a football fan and became fed up of all the nonsense it entails…massive wages, prima donas, disrespect, etc., generally I would only ever tune in for the 6nations, knew little of the sport and the rules. Around the time Edinburgh had the run to semis and Glasgow were starting to flow under Lineen, and also that the games were more accessible through BBC alba I switched allegence. Every year since I have become more and more engrossed in all things rugby. Have been thrilled with the start to this years sevens, and absolutely chomping at the bit for Saturday.

      Yet to be able to attend a match though so no comment regarding any other types of fans.

  2. Scotland are building a very strong sevens setup with a good group of specialists and a great coach. I would be interested to see how many of the young players spending time with the squad will develop into the 15s pro/intl game. Bennett was very complimentary of the effect the Commonwealth Sevens had on his game, and it could be another development pathway (especially with only 2 pro teams). Horne, Farndale and Lowe all spring to mind when thinking of players with 15s potential.

    However, even with the potential of the Sevens Series as a development pathway, it is also important not to undermine the achievements of the team and turn it purely into a development squad.

    1. I agree, especially with your last point. The psychology of competing with, and beating, the best teams can’t be underestimated, and sends confidence through other forms of the Scottish game, as well as increasing respect/fear in other nations. The Kiwi commentators I heard were enthusing about Scotland’s ability, commitment and style of play. We need to keep the squad together as much as possible with gradual introduction of new players to avoid disruption.

      I was interested in my own reaction to the selection of Scotland as top seeds in their pool for the next tournament, with NZ and Aus placed lower in the same group. It was basically “gulp”. As soon as I reacted that way, I thought, that’s what needs to change. We are currently better than these sides. We’re seeded higher for a reason. Let’s expect to beat them. The way we’re playing, there’s no reason we shouldn’t.

      1. Proponents of 7s continually bang on about how specialised the game has become and how difficult it is to transition to the shortened form of the game. One of the surprising aspects of Scotland’s sevens success is how pros who are on the margins of Glasgow and Edinburgh have added huge value to the specialists in the squad – guys like Dougie Fife, Nick McLennan, Glenn Bryce, Fraser Lyle, Hugh Blake. It is great that they are getting a taste of glory and I hope there is more movement back and forward between the sevens and pro-team squads…and I still want to see Farndale playing XVs to see if he’ll reach his potential in the senior game.

  3. Confess that for a long time I questioned the funding going to the 7s. Not completely on side yet but the last 12 months have seen such a dramatic improvement – a said above, credit to Calum McRae.

    Always nice to beat England. What a cover tackle by Fleming – if I’m in the same pub as him he’ll never have to put his hand in his pocket. He seemed to be speeded up on screen in comparison to the England player. Injuries took their toll – the game against Fiji was so physical, so the guts shown right at the end against Canada deserves the highest praise ( unlike some of the attempts to tackle the big Canada 12 ! ).

    1. Only saw the highlights, but am delighted with the showings so far. Pity we have run into a bit of an injury crisis for the next round. McRae has done a great job so far in marrying up the ‘specialists’ with the ‘XV’s’.

      Looks like this squad is full of belief, time to lay the NZ bogey to rest.

  4. JohnMc, neither Nicholas nor I is on his “high horse”. The Warriors, Edinburgh and our sevens team are all intrinsic to the development of our international XV (+ the bench). The current relative strength-in-depth we have is largely due to the progress our professional sides, particularly Glasgow, have made. A considerable contributory factor to that success has been the growing, and ever-more enthusiastic fan-base of both teams. Players often tweet post-match that the crowd contributes enormously to their on-field performance. Six-Nations -only-ers may see themselves as devoted fans…..but the true aficionado follows and supports the development process.

    1. You shouldn’t be describing as ‘so-called fans’ those who are not ‘true aficionados’. Their voices count, and I doubt very much whether players can distinguish or, if they could, would even care to distinguish, between the cheers of true aficionados and those of others who have simply paid to support their national team and who do not have extensive knowledge of the game’s structure and dynamic in Scotland.
      Anyway, getting back to the theme of this thread, I share your admiration for how the Sevens team has developed. Credit to players, coaches and SRU for this. It’s hard to believe we are fourth in the tournament rankings and being seeded above sides that were routinely cuffing us only a few years ago.

      1. John,
        You’re right in that Murrayfield’s paying spectators play an important part – certainly for the financial demands of the SRU.

        However, you’re absolutely mistaken by claiming they cheer for their team. Murrayfield has gained a reputation as one of, if not THE deadest atmospheres on the 6 Nations circuit. Having been to Flaminio, SDF, Principality, Croke Park and Twickenham my personal experience supports this reputation. Even when the SRU have hit spectators with fireworks, light displays, musicians, etc. The bulk of Murrayfield’s 6 Nations spectators aren’t passionate fans and I would agree with Alexander’s labelling of them as ‘so-called fans’.

        Within 15 minutes of Kick Off the audience are generally dull and disengaged. Muted by a lack of knowledge, passion and scarred by decades of dissapointing performances/results. It’s better to not get worked up as the Scots will find a way to end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard any way. Probably best to sit there and mutter uneducated notices, usually discontent without any credible intellect on the professional game. Even the Calcutta Cup is like a funeral by comparison to other 6 Nations fixtures.

        Scottish rugby has been on an upward curve lately, and hopefully the SRU will find a way of inspiring the general public to take an active interest and passion for rugby union.

        Btw, my negative descriptions of Murrayfield’s somber atmosphere isn’t a criticism on the character of those ‘so-called fans’, rather the inadequate short comings of the SRU and their naive approach to the professional rugby era. This has been the main cause of our consistent position in the lower half of the 6 Nations table and a dismissive public perception toward rugby union.

      2. I can understand both standpoints here.

        However, I believe ‘Six Nation-ers’ should also be seen as a development pathway for fans (excuse me overusing this thought in this thread). The Six Nations is a great way to grab attention from the public and start people attending Scotland games, which will trickle down to the Pro and even Club teams.

        I am happy to admit, I could have been described as a ‘Six Nation-er’ when I was younger. However, after developing interests in specific players (Dan Park for my sins), I became interested in Pro and more recently Sevens Scottish Rugby. Now here I am commenting on a Scottish Rugby Blog.

        I feel it is necessary to highlight the importance ‘Six Nation-ers’ in developing a strong and growing rugby fan-base in Scotland.

      3. Nicholas – I think that us a pretty poor comment tbh. Rugby is an inclusive sport and anyone should feel welcome to come and support. Looking down your nose at fans you think are less important than yourself is pretty sad and hardly likely to help promote the pro-teams. People cheer when there is something to cheer about. Atmosphere at Murrayfield died because until pretty recently Scotland were atrocious. But feel free to keep giving yourself a pat on the back.

      4. I will do just that FF, especially if it rattles your cage as is the case ;)

        Seriously though, I don’t actually look down my nose at Murrayfield spectators. I’ve merely highlighted certain behavioural tendencies of them. I even went as far as to say that it’s not a criticism of their character rather the inadequecies of the SRU in the professional era that has led to this dross atmosphere.

        Sorry if you misunderstood and you felt the need to start throwing mud.

    2. Not everyone can / want’s to be a die hard fan. I don’t think a fan forum is the best place to have a balanced argument on the merits of die hard vs casual punter though! I have to confess other than the off Edinburgh game years ago when I lived in Edinburgh I have been pretty much a six-nationsist. It’s only due to the quality of rugby and accompanying success at Glasgow recently that I have started watching more league games again.

      Rugby for your casual Scottish fan is not the easiest sport to follow, if you are not based in the central belt it is very difficult / costly to go to a league game. Until fairly recently the only commentary option was in a language only spoken by a small percentage of the population which was a big put off. Do people even know its on the TV?

      Agree that Murrayfield can be pretty devoid of atmosphere, it has always been pretty good any game I have been to that we have won though. There have been very few of them though which I think is the root issue. Lack of a communal song doesn’t help, FOS is the worst national anthem in the world, its a dreary folk song that does nothing to instil passion. I’ll stop ranting now.

      1. The old national anthem debate is subjective of course, but I like FOS. I just wish Murrayfield wouldn’t try to make it mawkish with the terrible a cappella ending. Some of us appreciate the pipers squall to drown out our tuneless singing.

        The worst national anthems in the 6Ns are GSTQ. Droning monarchist tripe. Also, Ireland’s call which is a horribly anodyne plastic anthem (for very good reasons). That’s why Irish fans love signing Fields of Athenry instead.

  5. If you watch the Fiji match (on YouTube), Al, you will see that overtime was not involved. Fiji took the lead for the first time with 2 minutes on the clock making it 14-12, then scored at the death for 19-12. A loose pass by Scotland near their line gave Fiji the opportunity to take the lead with that try.

  6. I love and follow all forms of rugby – especially Scottish rugby.
    I watched all our games in Wellington. I was very impressed with the quality and style of our game (kudos to McCrae) – and chuffed to see a well deserved third place.
    I have great hopes that Farndale, Love (a No 10 in the making) and Horne can make the step up to the full 15’s game next year – like so many before them.
    Flemings cover tackle was THE moment of the tournament for me.

  7. Nicholas, fair points. In particular how in recent years the Murrayfield crowd can go very quiet when Scotland aren’t doing so well. Not unique to Murrayfield, because Twickenham if anything can be worse. But there have been recent signs of change for the better. St James’s Park v Samoa, even when we were making a pig’s ear of the first half, was a cauldron; and the atmosphere at Murrayfield when we played the Wallabies in November was the best I’ve experienced for years.
    Also some signs that the SRU are at last getting to grips with the challenges of the professional era – after only 22 years in the era.
    Anyway, let’s hope the team gives Scotland fans of every kind plenty to cheer about this Saturday.

  8. I see that Dunbar has signed a new deal with Glasgow which is great news and the speculation is that the Jones deal with Glasgow is also pretty much agreed, with the expectation that Bennett is moving on. If this is the case surely having Bennett at Edinburgh where there is a need for some creativity & speed in the backline to move the team on another step would make sense?

    1. Hodge should be prepared to kill to get Bennett’s signature, as they are lacking true class in the centre at the moment (there is undoubted potential there).

      1. I’m not sure I agree on the shifting of players back and forth between Glasgow and Edinburgh. We need a deeper pool of players who are getting games at the top level. Bennett and others moving out of Scotland to a top team elsewhere frees up pathways for youngsters and let’s them grow as players by challenging themselves (Matt Scott, John Barclay, Sean Maitland etc). I know it means Glasgow and Edinburgh will be constantly feeding in new blood but if they can both strike the right balance between youth and experience then we get the best of both worlds. This is, of course, conditional on having coaches who can get the best out of the resources they have.

      2. I agree. I would rather sign Bennett to Edinburgh rather than the journeyman centres from the SH & Michael Allen etc. I agree we need to continue to develop new players but an Edinburgh centre partnership of Deans & Bennett will surely benefit the Scotland game and if they do continue to mature there will be ample opportunity for the younger generation when these guys are on International duty or rested/injured.

  9. No doubt Bennett would be a great signing for Edinburgh. I can’t think of a single good reason Bennett would choose Edinburgh though.

    Best thing is for as many international players to be playing in competitive environments that challenge them to be better players. I can’t honestly say Edinburgh is the right club for Bennett. It’s just a shame Duncan Taylor is already at Saracens.

    1. Well said. Why go from a top 4 Pro 12 team to a bottom 4 Pro 12 one. Until the SRU get the management structure and coaching at Edinburgh sorted why would anyone other than a jouneyman be interested in doing the M8 jump? Duncan Weir is an honest pro but has reached his level. Bennett is a higher quality of player with an international future. If Glasgow aren’t willing/able to give him a new contract then he should be looking south of the border or in France.

      1. Is it not common knowledge that he is going to Newcastle Falcons to join Mermoz (currently on a short term stint at the Tigers) in the centres? I might be wrong but I thought it was pretty much a done deal

    2. Edinburgh is not the right location for Bennett. I think he will want a game every week (not be constrained by SRU rotation policy) so a big squad like like Saracens is not be the right place either. I think if you play him week on week, he will benefit and inspire his colleagues. I will say no more ….

  10. I don’t wish to get too controversial on the subject of differing levels of commitment and knowledge amongst supporters of Scottish rugby. However, I would like to comment on the media coverage of the game, especially TV. BBC Scotland has been traditionally very poor in giving coverage to Scottish rugby, with over 90% of the sports desk’s time devoted to football.
    It was the Gaelic-language programme, BBC Alba, which gave real exposure to the matches of both the Warriors and Edinburgh, and though the commentary was in Gaelic, the enthusiasm of the presenter was palpable, and there was an excellent, imaginative “magazine” interlude at halftime in English. Thanks to Alba, I’ve been able to watch some wonderful rugby.

    1. BBC Scotland and to a similar extent STV can’t see beyond a certain two clubs who play wendyball. There is no other sport in Scotland as far as they are concerned. It’s actually quite embarrassing to see how parochial and shabby their “national” sport coverage is. Thank god for BBC Alba and Hugh Dan!

    2. Alexander, I agree – yes, agree – with you that Alba has done Scottish rugby a service. I have also enjoyed watching Alba coverage of the Pro 12 from down here in England. I don’t understand a word of the commentary – apart from learning that ‘peanas’ means ‘penalty’ – but that doesn’t spoil the experience.

      1. I couldn’t agree more with this. I wouldn’t be a Warriors season ticket holder if it wasn’t for watching their games on alba when I lived in England.

        To broaden the fan base better coverage is required. The warriors are after all the ‘best’ sports club in Glasgow in terms of the level they compete at. I’d say interest is increasing and the sru/warriors need to capitalise whilst Glasgow are a good side. Interest of kids is the only way to ultimately broaden our player base.

      2. As an aside on this, I have commented on the excellent coverage by BBC Alba on a separate thread on Rolling Maul, bemoaning the rubbish (and I mean rubbish) coverage by Sky of the Greene King IPA Championship in England.

      3. Alba and Hugh Dan MacLell….an has been great for Glasgow rugby .

        A comentator with a name with its on rythem and as for the patter, fantastic.

        Here’s a test:

        Pennas Glasgu (always brings a smile to my face)
        Liniee (what we get when we kick the Pennas)

        Am just waiting for him to say ‘hedereum hodderum’, as in ‘Heederim hodderim in the rolling maul that follows the pennas, that follows the liniee .

        Aggis (every other word is aggis) now I really dont get what a haggis supper has to do with it.

        Answers on a post please.

  11. Just read that Sexton and O’Mahony are both out. The quality of Sexton is well known but I always think O’Mahony epitomizes Munster and has been huge against Glasgow. However, I dont think their back row will be much weaker without him given they can still go with O’Brien, CJ Stander and Heaslip!!

    1. The game will be won and lost in the back row. Win that area and Murray and Jackson will be limited in what they can do. Personally, I’d pick Wilson, Strauss and Barclay with Du Preez on the bench.

      1. Back row is the only bit that I dont think I can confidently predict. If Brown starts I think we need Strauss to add some weight, but dropping any one of Wilson, Barclay or Watson would be harsh at the moment and id be happy with either of Du Preez or Hardie on the bench, and Harley in his current form could cause Ireland a lot of frustration at the break down.

        Whilst I dont think it will happen and probably wouldnt pick it myself, I think there is an argument for brining an extra back row on the bench. Then i’d have Wilson, Strauss and Watson with Barclay and either Hardie or Du Preez on the bench. Two backs on the bench would be Price and Jones for me. Scott starting. They would give cover for 9, 10 (Laidlaw moving to 10) centre and fullback (Jones).

        If we start Ford over Brown is prefer Barclay over Strauss for a bit extra at the break down.

        That all said, im no rugby coach, Vern will know what to do. Wouldnt be surprised at any of the 7 back rows not making the squad expect for maybe Watson, depending on the type of game BVC wants to play.

    2. Good news all round , mind you Sexton is overdue getting a biff from our backrow. O’MhY was on the form of his life, so that will be a blow for them even with the remaining henchmen. It will be a shot in the arm for our lads mind you. so that evens it up now. GAME ON.

  12. Looking on instgram at the Sco 7s latest that Ben Robbins been brought over? If so thats very interesting…the lad is rapid! Somewhat surprised he’s not been given a chance before now.

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