Scotland 7s continued their upward curve with an impressive third-place finish in the third leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series in New Zealand after beating Canada 28-22 in an epic bronze medal clash.
Having finished fifth in Dubai and fourth in Cape Town, the third-place finish enabled the Scots to hold on to fourth spot in the overall World Series table heading into next weekend’s Sydney tournament where they have been drawn top of Pool C along with New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea.
South Africa claimed the gold medal with a 26-5 win over Fiji in the final at the Westpac Stadium to cement their spot at the top of the series standings.
Before the final, Scotland and Canada served up a thrilling match, a superb hat-trick by James Fleming inspiring the Scots, despite the efforts of a brave Canadian attack.
Fleming said: “It was an enjoyable game, it was a whole squad effort. We have been building for the last two years [with a] new coach, consistent squad, and [the tournament win last season at]Twickenham gave us belief.
“We’re looking forward to the next one. We are hitting quarters and semis consistently now and it is awesome to have the squad that we do.”
Scotland had earlier started their Wellington campaign with a 28-19 defeat against the Canadians on Saturday. The Scots fell behind to two tries but Mark Robertson, pictured right, on the occasion of his 50th tournament, pulled one back before Canada crossed for a third. After the break tries from Fraser Lyle and George Horne set up an exciting finish but Canada took the spoils with a late try.
Next up were Russia and again Calum MacRae’s side seemed to struggle to find their best form and it took tries by Gavin Lowe and Fleming to sneak the game 12-5.
However, Scotland kicked on with day one drawing to a close, beating Wales 31-7 to secure their place in 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. Scott Wight replaced the injured Nick McLennan in the Scots squad and he kicked two conversions as tries from Jamie Farndale and Lowe gave the Scots a 14-7 half-time lead. Scotland defended bravely after the break as England tried to turn the tide and a last-ditch tackle from Fleming prevented a near certain try.
England scored just as it looked as if the second half was going to end scoreless but Scotland held on to win 14-12 and reach the semi-finals.
The Scots were up against Olympic champions Fiji in the last four and scored tries through Horne and Robertson to lead 12-7 at the break.
Again Scotland defended their line gallantly for the second period but a try for the Pacific Islanders in injury time levelled the scores. Extra-time followed and Fiji snatched the 19-12 win, crossing 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 gave Scotland a 14-12 advantage at half-time. Fleming got his second early in the second half before Canada fought back with two tries to lead 22-21. But as the final whistle approached Fleming completed his hat-trick to hand his side the victory.
Scotland 7s coach MacRae said: “This tournament was a big step forward for us as a team as we tested new combinations and challenged some of the younger guys to step up and take more ownership.
“Gavin Lowe was a real stand-out, showing maturity to lead the team this week along with some world-class tries through the two days of competition.
“We are all immensely proud of Mark Robertson hitting 50 caps. He has always had game-breaking ability and loves playing for his country.
“One downside is the fact that we have picked up a number of injuries which are currently being assessed.”