SCOTLAND achieved their goal at the weekend of securing one of the three core places on offer for next season’s IRB World Sevens Series with powerful and skilful performances in the second day’s play of the qualifying tournament at Twickenham yesterday.
“It’s a feeling of massive relief mixed with pride” admitted Scotland’s sevens head coach Stephen Gemmell after watching his team win crucial matches against Tonga and then Russia that gave them core status for next season.
He added: “The boys have stood up today against two quality sides. The defence has been magnificent today and when you’re able to do that consistently it makes such a huge difference. They just went out and showed how much it means to be part of the World Series”.
Crucially, booking their place on next season’s world circuit has massive implications for preparations for the rugby sevens competition in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. “There is no better place to prepare for the Commonwealth Games than on the world stage” added Gemmell
The Scots went into yesterday’s second session of the qualifying tournament on the back of a disappointing defeat to Hong Kong on Saturday in the group stage. But rather than acting as a negative, the defeat appeared to give the Scots an extra boost in their performances yesterday.
“We had an open and honest meeting last night [Saturday]. The key thing was about the players fronting up and doing their job” suggested Gemmell, who was pleased that his two teenage players, Alex Glashan and Chris Dean, rose to the occasion.
“These are two young players who haven’t had much exposure this year on the circuit. They were both thrown in today and they fronted up. The other thing was that the senior players Scott Riddell, Colin Shaw, Mike Fedo and of course Colin Gregor delivered when we needed it. Credit must also go to Lee Jones who picked up a knee injury. But he did everything he could overnight to get himself fit,” said Gemmell.
Dean, who like Glashan was still at Edinburgh Academy this time last year, stepped into the centre role after Byron was ruled out because of a calf strain and played with the flair he displayed in the midfield position in his penultimate year at school.
Scotland went into their opening match yesterday against Tonga knowing that defeat would cost them their place on the circuit next season. However, after Glashan dotted the ball down after one minute of play following a break by Dean, the Scots were on their way to victory.
Tries by Dean and Fedo gave Scotland a 19-0 half time advantage before Jones and replacement James Fleming added further scores to give the Scots a 31-0 victory over the pacific islanders.
Then, against a Russia side who had despatched Zimbabwe with a 26-7 defeat, the experienced Fedo gave Scotland a 12-0 lead with a couple of tries that came from game awareness and the former Bell-Baxter High School flanker’s ‘massive engine’.
With Russia being forced into making costly errors from Scotland’s intensity at the contact area and their accurate defence, the Scots were able to add another score, and appropriately it was Gregor, a recognised world class performer in sevens rugby, who touched down for the try that sealed Scotland’s place on the world circuit next season.
In yesterday’s final, New Zealand triumphed 47-12 over England’s semi-final conquerors, Australia. The Kiwi’s Tim Mikkelson was the outstanding player afield, scoring 12 points including two tries and the victory was New Zealand’s 11th World Series title in 14 years and their first London Sevens title since 2007.