Scotland win historic gold at Commonwealth Youth Games
Team Scotland produced an outstanding performance to win gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Tobago, defeating Fiji in extra time in a pulsating sevens encounter.
Scotland, who had never medalled before at the event, reached the final as one of the two top-ranked countries, their win over South Africa laying the platform to go for gold.
In their way, however, stood a Fiji team who not only won their group match 32-5, but had won all five of their own games with a points difference of over 200.
It mattered not, though, as a Scottish squad full of determination and no less ability took the match the distance and went on to win an historic first rugby medal of any kind at either a Commonwealth Games or its younger athlete iteration.
After an early Mariko Ravuiwasa try, Scotland hit back through Robbie Mitchell, who hit the afterburners to run around the Fijian defence and dot down in the corner. A yellow for Fiji’s Josaia Ralulu – which would come back to haunt him – afforded the young Scots a player advantage from which they added another through Ben Morriss. Fiji hit back ahead of half-time as Nasoni Tuigaloa tied the scores at 10-10.
The game threatened to turn just after the break when Ralulu was shown a second yellow, only for Fiji to edge ahead with Marika Rabonu’s score, but yet again Team Scotland hauled themselves level with Jack Craig’s well-worked overlap try.
When Fergus Watson hared home, the Scots led 20-15 with time almost up, only for Fiji to score a fourth themselves with the final play of normal time – a missed conversion would prove costly.
Both sides knew the opening score in extra time would seal glory and so it was, when Ross Birnie summoned energy reserves from deep within to race home up the right touchline to score and seal gold for Team Scotland. They become the first team in Scottish history to win a medal at a Commonwealth or Youth Commonwealth Games.
Robbie Baird, part of the victorious squad, said: “I actually can’t sum up how this feels. To win gold and be the first team to win for Scotland is surreal. The boys worked so hard for this and it’s one of the best feelings I’ve had in my life! I hope you’re all proud.”
Head coach Craig Dods was equally ecstatic, adding: “I couldn’t be more proud of the way we stuck in. We talked about pack mentality all week and everyone in that circle believed in what we could do.
“To beat South Africa in the group stage with the last play and then in extra time against Fiji in the final – what a way to win and what memories these guys are going to have for the rest of their lives.”