IF THIS, as seems likely, was the last Scottish event on the world sevens calendar for some time, it bowed out from the birthplace of the abbreviated game with the host nation falling just short of a silver lining.
Scotland lost to South Africa 12-10 in the Plate final on a rain-hit second day of the Emirates Airline Glasgow 7s yesterday as Fiji won the Cup to go top of the standings with one event to go.
The national Sevens squad are reported to be learning their fate on Thursday ahead of the final event at Twickenham next weekend. With Scotland expected to be losing its leg on the HSBC World Series next year, there are grave doubts about the continuation of a fully professional national sevens squad.
Scotland certainly made a point yesterday with creditable displays against two of the sport’s powerhouses – New Zealand and South Africa.
Coach Calum MacRae, who has the side on the verge of a best-ever seventh place in the final standings ahead of next weekend’s final tournament of the season in London, said: “There has been a lot of rumours. The players are obviously aware of them but we have very much focused on the rugby. The passion, professionalism and ability they showed today was an absolute credit to their friends and family who were here to watch them today.
“If you look at the progress the players have made this year, they have exceeded a lot of people’s expectations.
There has been a lot of rumours but we have been focused on rugbyCalum MacRae
“The decision hasn’t been made [on the team’s future]. There is a process ongoing at the moment.
“We are planning for pre-season for next year as normal until anything is said to the contrary. It’s a dynamic the boys are aware of but we’ll approach next weekend [at Twickenham] as just another tournament.”
The squad went into yesterday’s Cup quarter-final looking to avenge their contentious 17-14 pool defeat to the same opponents at the Commonwealth Games in the same city last summer. Scotland have never beaten New Zealand at any level in the sport and that wait continues, though MacRae’s men made a decent fist of things after a slightly underwhelming first day when narrow wins over Portugal and Wales were followed by a 45-5 thumping by the Fijians.
Drizzly conditions earlier in the day had made it greasy underfoot and the ball was like a bar of soap but the Scots started impressively with some good handling, controlled defence and took the fight to the Kiwis.
To the delight of the crowd they took the lead when Colin Gregor danced through to score at the posts and convert.
New Zealand hit back through Reiko Ioane but the wide conversion was missed, leaving the Scots 7-5 ahead at the interval hooter. Joe Webber slipped the Scottish defence early in the second period to put the HSBC world champions ahead for the first time but, again, the extras were missed leaving it a three-point game going into the last four minutes.
Scotland put some phases together but couldn’t penetrate the black wall. They engineered a turnover in the final minute but the opportunity was squandered and a quick lineout saw the All Blacks put the game to bed with the final play and relegate the Scots to the Plate, where they faced Canada in the semi-finals.
The Canadians had denied Scotland a first Cup final place at the same event last year and had showed they would be a force to be reckoned with again when they ran England close in the last eight, only going down 14-7.
But Scotland got on the front foot early and Russell Weir squeezed over under the posts for the first score and Gregor converted. Canada hit back after the break as Sean Duke crashed over for an unconverted score in the corner and then Pat Kay strolled between the sticks to put the men in red 12-7 ahead. The Scots were not to be denied, however, and Joseva Nayacavou broke through on the hooter and Gregor knocked over the conversion to seal a place in the final.
The rain had returned with a vengeance by the time of the Plate final against the Blitzboks, who had been knocked off 15-0 by Fiji in the Cup quarters.
South Africa got off to a flier as Ruhan Nel strode in at the right corner for an unconverted opener and they looked to have doubled that lead in the same spot but were denied by a foot in touch.
They duly did get the second score on the stroke of half-time as Werner Kok sprinted in and Branco du Preez converted to make it 12-0.
Both sides struggled with the slippery conditions in the second half but, to the delight of the crowd, it was the Scots who struck first to breathe some life into the tie as James Johnstone squeezed in at the corner, with Weir failing to convert.
Scotland pressed hard in the final few minutes and then sparked the loudest cheer of the weekend when Johnstone got over. The South Africans covered to prevent him getting under the posts, which proved crucial as Weir duffed the critical conversion off the crossbar and the Scots fell two points short.
In the main event, it was old rivals New Zealand and Fiji who progressed to the final after wins over England and USA in the last four.
Savenaca Rawaca opened the scoring for the Pacific islanders but the conversion attempt fell short.
A fabulous last-ditch tackle in the corner by Osea Kolinisau on New Zealand wing Sam Vaka protected the five-point lead. But the Kiwi momentum continued and Sherwin Stowers levelled the final with an unconverted try. Sam Dickson then crossed just before the turnaround, Gillies Kaka making the kick to open up a 12-7 lead at halfway.
Fiji responded at the start of the second period with some sumptuous skills and Kolinisau finished off a brilliant sweeping move and converted to square things up. A quickfire double from Apisai Domolailai stretched the lead out to 24-12 before Scott Curry chased down his own kick to give the Kiwis hope heading into the last minute. But Fiji held on.
England, meanwhile, took a big step closer to securing Great Britain’s qualification for next summer’s Rio Olympics with a third-place finish, beating the Americans 24-19 in the play-off.
The draw for next weekend’s final leg took place before the Cup final, with Scotland in the same pool as hosts England, Kenya and Brazil.