SCOTLAND achieved their goal of reaching the Cup quarter-finals in what is expected to be the last home leg of the HSBC World Sevens series circuit for some time.
Wins in their first two Pool C matches against Portugal and Wales mean the Scots will be involved in the last eight of the main event at Scotstoun today.
The build-up to this weekend’s sold-out Emirates Airline Glasgow 7s has been dominated by doubt over the future of the national sevens squad, with World Rugby expected to confirm that from next season France will replace Scotland on the circuit.
With that in mind, it was hoped that the hosts could put in a strong performance in this, the fourth time Glasgow has hosted the event after taking over from Murrayfield. They did indeed secure their place in today’s quarter-final but it was far from emphatic.
Both the Scotland ties were rather tepid encounters but the results were eventually positive, to the delight of the big Scotstoun crowd as Glasgow enjoyed another fix of high-quality international sevens in the wake of the great success of last summer’s Commonwealth Games event at Ibrox.
A narrow 12-7 win over Wales got the job done following an equally fraught 19-14 victory over Portugal.
Against the Welsh, whom Calum MacRae’s side had hammered 34-0 in their last meeting in Hong Kong, they went long periods without possession but just managed to get over the line.
Veteran Colin Gregor, who was earning a record-equalling 57th sevens cap, engineered the first try for James Johnstone, but was wayward with the conversion. This allowed the Welsh to move ahead at half-time when Dan Fish made an arcing run to score and the extras were added.
The Scots toiled in the second half as Wales enjoyed long periods of possession without really threatening. But, to the relief of the crowd, the Scots pulled it out of the fire when Joseva Nayacavou conjured a line break and fed Russell Weir, who popped the ball to James Fleming for the winning score.
Scotland had almost come a cropper in their first match when they were given an almighty scare by Portugal.
The land of Eusebio, Ronaldo and Mourinho may be more renowned for its prowess with the round ball but the Portuguese seven has earned a reputation for being a stuffy and hard-working unit, with Scotland only just edging them 14-12 in the pool stage of the Hong Kong tournament.
It proved to be another close thing and the hosts needed a late try to get off the mark with a 19-12 victory.
Everything looked rosy when Gregor burst clear to set up skipper Riddell for the opening try, but Portugal quickly responded as winger Aderito Esteves stormed away to level things up at 7-7. Diogo Mateus then went over to give Portugal a 14-7 lead but they were pegged back just before half-time when Johnstone got over in the corner. However, Gregor missed the conversion to leave the Scots with some work to do.
A mixture of some stubborn Portuguese resistance and sloppy Scottish passing made for a nervy second period, but with the clock ticking down the Scots showed some timely composure and Mark Robertson found space to recapture the lead. There was still time for Portugal to cause some flutters in the packed Scotstoun stands, but the Scotland defence held firm and a calamitous start to the tournament was averted.
England came into the tournament off the back of winning the previous round of the series in Tokyo and looking to cement the top-four overall place which would secure Great Britain’s automatic qualification for next summer’s Rio Olympics. They were held to a 17-17 draw by closest challengers Australia but bounced back with a 43-7 thumping of minnows Russia. Simon Amor’s men completed their progress to the quarter-finals with a 26-7 win over France.
In one of the best ties of the opening day, New Zealand – world champions for the past four seasons – struck late to deny Samoa 26-19. The Samoans were then toppled by the popular Kenyans 29-22 in another ding-dong encounter.