Toulouse Review: HSBC World Sevens Series
Scotland were represented by a Men’s and Women’s side at the HSBC World Sevens Series in Toulouse over the weekend, with some notable results for both.
Scott Forrest’s Women, who were competing at only a second leg on the circuit and had few training sessions in preparation, lost their pool matches to New Zealand, Canada and Spain but excelled thereafter, enjoying a famous win over England and then easing past South Africa to finish ninth.
Saturday morning’s contest against England saw the Scots beginning to hit their stride, with Shona Campbell cruising over the line in the fifth minute to open the scoring for the side.
Despite trailing by seven points at the break, Campbell was soon able to rein the score back in with another try and was shortly joined on the scoresheet by Rhona Lloyd who accelerated down the pitch to help secure the 21-19 victory.
Lloyd’s impressive try scoring form continued the following day against South Africa, as the Springboks struggled to contain her rapid attacks on the pitch.
Following a hat-trick from Lloyd, Scotland were needing to defend hard as South Africa launched into action, but some fantastic defensive work from the side soon saw them claim possession of the ball, with captain Lisa Thomson powering her way over the line to bring the game to a conclusion and seal comprehensive 10-24 victory.
In a year that sees a first Commonwealth Games appearance for Forrest’s charges, registering two wins in Toulouse was a healthy return for a squad brimming with talent, exemplified by Rhona Lloyd, who scorched home for five tries.
Having only ever experienced series demands once, in Biarritz in 2019, there were some eye-catching displays from a youthful Scotland, with the likes of Emma Orr showing just why she is so highly thought just months after playing in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations as a 19-year-old.
Forrest said: “Overall, we are delighted with the weekend. Having only come together as a squad on Monday, the priority has been to reconnect as a group and start to build our culture.
“A big part of our culture will be about the journey we are on together and how this can inspire the next generation of girls in Scotland to pick up a rugby ball.
“To be coming away with back-to-back wins at the HSBC World Series, and a first ever win over England in 7s, has hopefully shown our potential and inspired others.”
Scotland Men treaded a similar route after their own tough group stage. Drawn into a group containing the sides ranked third (Australia) and fourth (USA) on the 2021/22 circuit, as well as the perennially strong New Zealand, they couldn’t make it out of Pool C and into the latter stages of the Cup competition.
However, Ciaran Beattie’s squad refused to give up when trailing Kenya in their 9th-place quarter-final, with tries from Femi Sofolarin and a beauty from Kaleem Barreto galvanising their team to a 26-14 win.
If the HSBC World Sevens Series is seen as the most competitive fixture card in rugby, evidence was presented by way of Scotland’s semi-final opponents South Africa, who surprisingly failed to escape their own group.
The Blitzbokke, winners of no fewer than four events on this season’s circuit, were blown away by an exceptional few minutes from a rampant Scottish outfit, who squeaked ahead at the break thanks to converted tries through prolific pair Jamie Farndale and Jordan Edmunds; 25 tries between them and counting this season.
Sensing an opportunity for a famous win, Scotland came out all guns ablaze after the interval, with first Ross McCann darting through to score after a quick tap penalty, before the returning Robbie Fergusson gathered his own quick grubber restart to sail over.
South Africa rallied to withing three points but Scotland held out, with the reward another fiendishly tricky tie with New Zealand in the 9th-place final. In the end it was a game too far for Beattie’s squad, who earned a 10th-place finish in the scramble for HSBC World Sevens Series classification points.
Head Coach Beattie reflected: “Really proud of the way we stuck at it after such a tough pool, beating Kenya and then that super win over South Africa. We’re looking forward to Twickenham next week.”
Scotland Men now move on to Twickenham for the penultimate leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series, this coming weekend (May 28 and 29), with the Women’s side next in action in the Rugby Europe 7s Series Championship at the tail end of June.