Scotland defeated England in an scintillating HSBC London Sevens final on Sunday as South Africa were officially crowned series champions.
Captain Scott Riddell scored the winner as they beat the auld enemy 12-5 to raise the trophy in London for the second year in a row. Callum McCrea’s men earlier made history by becoming the first Scottish team to beat a New Zealand team in their history.
Speaking afterwards, the head coach said: “I’m very, very pleased with the effort from the boys. We’ve learned from a poor final against South Africa last week (in Paris). This week we dusted ourselves off and came back. It was a different mindset as holders.”
Canada claimed bronze after beating USA 22-19, and the Challenge Trophy was won by Fiji, who beat Wales, 26-14. England finished second in the series standings with the Olympic Games Champions Fiji finishing third overall this season.
With one of the most sensational tries scored in a rugby sevens final this season, Dan Norton opened the scoring a physical, start to the match that saw Ollie Lyndsey Hague taken off early. His replacement, Richard De Carpentier was denied a follow up effort as the two sides went at each other in an energy-sapping encounter, that saw the hosts lead 7-0 at half-time.
Hugh Blake evened it up after the break, capitalising on a loose ball but the winner came after a Joe Nayacavou offload went to HSBC Player of the final Mark Robertson whose pass put Scott Riddell over in the corner. England pressed in the closing minutes but the Scottish defence held firm.
The winning captain said afterwards: “I’m absolutely elated. This sport is something that just grips you. It’s so special and I’m so proud of the boys. I’m lost for words. We were under the pump and we just keep fighting and we took our chances. You couldn’t write a script like that.”
The Bagpipes were in full cry as Scotland ran out to play in their second semi-final in as many weeks. This time the opposition was Perry Baker and his USA colleagues and an entertaining spectacle was in store. A tense first half saw a try-saving tackle from Mark Robertson on Ben Pinkleman release the ball for last year’s final hero, Dougie Fife, to break clear and score under the posts. But wonder winger Baker responded as he broke away, side-stepped a defender and went under the posts to leave it 7-7 at half time.
USA thought they had hit back in the second half as Folau Niua crossed the line in the corner, but the TMO replay showed that he knocked on. Scotland seized on the momentum and Glenn Bryce, who was at the forefront of the Scottish attack all weekend, touched down in the corner. The Scots lead lasted less than two minutes until Baker made it look so easy as he jogged in under the posts.
At 14-14, the game was most certainly on. The Scots, well used to winning at the death, had to do it again and Nayacavou stepped up to crash in underneath the posts and send the crowd into raptures.
England and Canada followed that and the hosts were clearly up for the challenge, with dream-teamer Ollie Lyndsey-Hague executing a beautiful goose-step to score under the sticks early on. But the men in red were up for the challenge and hard work from Justin Douglas paid off as Adam Zaruba equalised. But back came England with Lyndsey-Hague again scoring after nice play by Norton, making it 14-5 at the break. The second half was close until Norton, sensational all weekend, evaded a Douglas challenge to dot down in the corner and Lyndsey-Hague’s hat-trick in the same corner guaranteed the win, 24-5; the auld enemy set to clash in the final.
He makes it look so easy. The first quarter-final of the day was barely two minutes old when the tournament and series top try scorer Perry Baker got the ball in his hands, and with a few yards of space, he executed brilliantly as he’s done so many times in a USA jersey. Minutes later, Maka Unufe got the ball in space and scored out wide before he made a classy break to dot down under the posts. Australia’s Alex Gibbon touched down before the break to leave it 19-7 at half time.
After the pause, Baker added to his tally before completing his hat-trick in style. A try from Simon Kennewell was merely a consolation and USA marched on to the semis in style, 31-14.
Scotland took on a New Zealand side that were unbeaten on day one and were chasing shadows for Sam Dickson’s opening try, as they struggled in the London summer sun. Fa’asiu Fuatai made their task more difficult before Andrew Knewstubb crashed over to make it 21-0 to the All Black Sevens at the break.
A different Scotland side ran out for the second half, with Dougie Fife scoring two tries to start the fightback. With 40 seconds to go, a try from Jamie Farndale put the Scots within four before an issue over player numbers on the pitch gave Scotland a penalty. Roared on by the London crowd, the Scots kept their composure and went through the phases to put Farndale over for his second and celebrations ensued on the side-line, as Scotland beat New Zealand for the first time in rugby history.
After such an exciting match, England Rugby HQs was buzzing as the home side took the field against South Africa, and fans were soon on their feet again as Dan Norton broke away for yet another try in Twickenham. A tight encounter saw the Blitzboks’ Chris Dry cross to make it one try a piece at the break. Werner Kok silenced the Twickenham faithful after the resumption of play with a well worked try, but went from hero to villan minutes later as he was sin-binned for a neck roll and James Rodwell levelled after good phase-play from the resulting penalty.
It came down to the last play – just to add to the excitement of the day – and who else but Norton? The TMO was asked to verify but there was no doubt that Norton added to his total and England were through at the expense of the series champions.
The last quarter-final was more straight forward as an impressive Canadian side took on Argentina. The Singapore champions took the game to the South Americans and two tries from Nathan Hiryama and one from Mike Fuailefau and Justin Douglas put the game beyond reach. A try from Julian Dominguez was not enough and Canada went through to a semi-final with the hosts.