Scotland fell almost fell foul of the new Rugby World Cup Sevens structure by coming within seconds of losing their first game against Kenya in the straight knockout format.
An admirable late rally to pinch the tie from a 0-26 deficit with 5 minutes left on the clock was powered by a Jamie Farndale score and some refereeing in their favour that saw Kenya down two players at one point. This one finished 31-26 and is worth a watch for the end certainly.
That game was followed up by a similar tale against South Africa’s imposing Blitzbokke in the quarter-final who ran off to an early lead – but without the fairytale comeback as it proved insurmountable to Scotland who then dropped out of the cup competition when it finished 5-36.
After another dispiriting loss 28-0 to the home nation USA during a well-attended tournament in San Francisco, Scotland managed to pick themselves up for an eventual 29-24 win over France and a final placing of 7th.
This actually represents the highest World Cup Sevens finish since 2005 for a squad where only Scott Riddell had played in this tournament before. Still, it can’t be glossed over that it’s been a disappointing season for Scotland after a few seasons of challenging (and winning) trophies on the regular Series circuit.
There is some talent in the ranks with the likes of Harvey Elms and Gavin Lowe good, creative distributors and some pace out wide, but the core of experience in Fife, Robertson and Wight that they have lost from that cup-winning squad will take time to rebuild. This season James Fleming has retired, robbing them of some pace too.
If skipper Scott Riddell has an off-game or is injured then the whole team tends to suffer, as he is the engine that keeps them running. Likewise when he is on form, they can be very hard to beat as well as highly entertaining to watch.
For John Dalziell, it is a tricky thing to inherit a squad that had some success but minus a lot of the key reasons for that success. It should be onwards and upwards to next season but you imagine if he doesn’t get his lads firing quickly now he’s had time to bed in, questions might be asked this time next year…