Best finish for Scots after flourish at Twickenham

Scotland's Lee Jones is tackled by South Africa's Branco du Preez in the Plate semi-final. Picture: SportPix
Scotland's Lee Jones is tackled by South Africa's Branco du Preez in the Plate semi-final. Picture: SportPix
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SCOTLAND’s sevens secured their best finish in the HSBC World Sevens Series after an excellent performance in the season-ending tournament at Twickenham.

The Scots enjoyed a brilliant first day of the London 7s on Saturday, beating hosts England and winning all three of their games to top the pool. They couldn’t improve on that yesterday as they lost the Cup quarter-final 33-19 to Australia and then were toppled 31-7 by South Africa in the Plate semi-finals.

But the performance was enough to finish seventh in the overall standings, with ninth their best previous effort.

The future of a Scottish squad competing on the circuit had been in doubt following the expected decision to drop the Glasgow leg from the series and the lost revenue that would mean. However, the SRU decided last Thursday that a Scotland squad would remain in the competition.

It is anticipated that Glasgow’s axing will be finally confirmed today when the 2015-16 schedule is announced by World Rugby. The SRU is expected to make a robust statement in response.

The Scotland squad couldn’t have made their point any better than Saturday’s clean sweep, with the 22-19 win over England – which included a hat-trick by Damien Hoyland – an obvious highlight.

There were debuts for Glenn Bryce, Hugh Blake and Jamie Farndale, with the latter two scoring a try each against Kenya. Scotland won that match 26-12.

Their third win was against Brazil, which ended 19-14 in the Scots’ favour.

It meant Scotland have qualified for six Cup competitions across the nine World Series tournaments this season – Dubai, Port Elizabeth, Wellington, Tokyo, Glasgow and London – and they have been settled in the top eight for the most part of the year.

Their best result was in Wellington, in March, when they finished fourth after reaching the Cup semi-finals and earned 15 HSBC Sevens World Series points.

Scotland sevens head coach Calum MacRae said: “The team have achieved many of the aims we set out at the start of the year.

“It’s been a pleasure working with these players. The improvement this season has been down to them wholeheartedly buying into the programme put in place.

“Believing in yourself and focusing on the things you do well, and results have followed thereafter.

“The most pleasing thing is seeing the guys playing to their potential and achieving consistency in their performances. It has been a very enjoyable year.”

Australia won yesterday’s Cup quarter-final match with a competent attacking game. Ultimately, a lack of possession stopped Scotland gaining any momentum because when they had the ball they looked dangerous.

It would have been a bittersweet match for Glenn Bryce and Gavin Lowe, who scored their first points for the abbreviated national team. Bryce demonstrated his trademark step, which he has become known for at his club, Glasgow Warriors, with a brace of tries, while Lowe scored a try and conversion.

Nick Malouf, Pama Fou, Cameron Clark, Ed Jenkins and Greg Jeloudev scored Australia’s tries. Tom Lucas added the extras on three occasions.

At half-time against South Africa, everything was still to play for, with only five points between the teams.

In the first half, Werner Kok opened the scoring, and then Joseva Nayacavou replied, with debutant Jamie Farndale showing some impressive running power in the build-up.

Gregor added the extras to Nayacavou’s score, but a try by Seabelo Senatla, converted by Branco du Preez, gave the South Africans the advantage at the break, 12-7.

The overall HSBC Sevens World Series runners-up then ran in three more tries in the second half to establish their lead. The scorers were Senatla, Justin Geduld and Ruhan Nel. Geduld and Nel converted the first and last of these tries respectively.

MacRae continued: “Today has shown that if you are slightly off your game on day two, whether it be down to concentration or fatigue, you will often come up short.

“We scored good tries but weren’t clinical enough in aspects that got us wins yesterday.

“The three new caps performed well and made telling contributions.”

During the weekend, England qualified Team GB for the Rio 2016 Olympics after finishing fourth in the circuit standings. England bounced back from their shock day one loss to Scotland to beat New Zealand in the quarters but were then stunned 43-12 by the United States in the semis.

MacRae concluded: “Congratulations to Simon Amor and England for securing Olympic qualification.

“There are some genuine candidates in our squad who should be aiming for a spot in the Team GB squad.”

Two tries by Savenaca Rawaca and one by captain Osea Kolinisau were enough for Fiji to defeat South Africa 19-7 in the

Marriott London Sevens Cup quarter finals and secure the overall title.

The Fijians had won the Glasgow 7s title last Sunday but they were beaten 33-7 by

Australia in the semi-finals.

The USA recorded a 45-22 victory over Australia to win the Cup final in emphatic style, their first in the history of the HSBC Sevens World Series.

Two tries by Danny Barrett and Maka Unufe helped Mike Friday’s side to the win at Twickenham, where a record 116,219 fans turned out over the two days, leaving them sixth overall in the standings, having finished 13th last year.

“It is amazing, credit to those boys, the 12 of them have been absolutely fantastic and there are about another ten back in the USA that have worked their socks off all year,” said Friday.