HSBC World Sevens Series: Twickenham Review
Scotland missed out on a Cup quarter-final in the penultimate leg of this season’s HSBC World Sevens Series in London, largely after losing two pool matches by the narrowest of margins.
Two-point defeats to England and Samoa, having led in both, put paid to Scottish involvement in the latter stages of the Cup competition, although rallying wins over Japan and then Wales provided a level of solace at Twickenham.
Scotland blistered into a lead against the hosts with three tries in almost as many first half minutes. Jordan Edmunds, prolific in his first campaign, barged over for his 15th try of the season, before both Lee Jones and Ross McCann finished from decent distance to open up a 17-0 lead in the Pool D opener.
England have performed too well recently to throw in the towel, especially at a home event, their determination paying off with tries from Freddie Roddick and Tom Bowen adding to a penalty try that was ultimately the difference in a 19-17 final scoreline.
Scotland’s second fixture saw them face Samoa for the first time on this season’s circuit, with the game following a similar pattern to the one previous, as Edmunds and then Jamie Farndale powered home to create a 12-0 half-time advantage, when adding in Kaleem Barreto’s conversion.
Undeterred by that predicament, Samoa, who finished fourth at the past two events in Vancouver and Toulouse, showed their undoubted class in fighting back through Neueli Leitufia and Steve Rimoni, with Melani Matavao’s sublime touchline conversion stealing the three points.
Scotland then faced Japan at the tail end of day one and duly delivered in a must-win encounter thanks to tries from Ross McCann, who ran the length, Jamie Farndale, Robbie Fergusson and the indefatigable Lee Jones.
Having reached the 9th-place final last weekend in Toulouse, Scotland were slated to face Wales at the start of that same path on day two.
A predictably tight and tense affair was punctuated by a couple of moments of Scottish class, namely Kaleem Barreto’s relentless desire to chase back and gather a kick through having himself tried the same seconds earlier.
As Scotland regathered possession, Jamie Farndale went over between the posts and although Wales his back, a wonderful piece of foot trickery on the touchline from Femi Sofolarin helped make it 14-5 and essentially secure the spoils for Scotland.
In what turned out to be Scotland’s final game of the competition and to display how incredibly tight this circuit is, they faced an Argentina side in the 9th-place semi-final, the South Americans having come to Twickenham atop the HSBC World Series standings.
It proved a game too far for Ciaran Beattie’s troops, who rallied after losing four first half tries to redress the balance somewhat through first Farndale and then Alec Coombes, but ultimately Argentina got over the line in relative comfort.
11th place in London, then, for a young Scotland team who are improving each week and who could, on another day, have won each of their pool games to reach the latter stages.
Head Coach Beattie reflected on his side’s efforts at Twickenham: “The margins are so fine in this series and we came close to winning all three pool games, so the lesson is that we need to finish teams off. There’s plenty of development to come from this young group.”
Slight respite comes before many of these players steel themselves for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, before the final HSBC World Sevens Series event in Los Angeles at the end of August and then the small matter of a Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa in September.