SCOTLAND will play South Africa in the quarter-finals of the RWC 7s tonight after an astonishing comeback against Kenya in their opening tie. John Dalziel’s squad were losing 26-0 to the Kenyans with just a few minutes to go, but fought back superbly to win 31-26, with Jamie Farndale scoring the crucial try after the hooter had gone.
“I’m hugely relieved,” head coach Dalziel said after the tie at AT&T Park, played on Friday evening San Francisco time – just after 3am Saturday back home. “We were staring down the barrel for a while there, but I feel in times like that you find out what you’ve got as a group.
“We’ve got a young team who have really come together on and off the field, and we’ve said all week that there is something brewing with this team. They’ve learned a lot of harsh lessons and have been on the wrong side of things all series and it was their moment today. We’re very honest, and we know how close we came to a disappointing start and to being knocked out of the main competition.”
While unwavering self-belief and a couple of crucial changes off the bench helped the eighth seeds to a famous victory, Kenya contributed to their own downfall with an increasingly ill-disciplined performance in the second half. They had gone in at the break 14-0 ahead, then scored two more tries soon after the restart to apparently have the tie in the bag.
But Harvey Elms’ opener for the Scots was quickly followed by a try from Scott Riddell, and 26-0 had quickly become 26-12. When Elms was tackled off the ball as he chased his own kick, a penalty try was awarded and the offender Samuel Oliech was yellow-carded.
Worse was to come for Kenya when Samuel Ngethe was also sinbinned, and in the last minute Scotland made full use of their advantage when Farndale crossed for their fourth try. Robbie Fergusson’s conversion made it all square, and in the final play Farndale scored again to take his team through to their first RWC 7s quarter-final since 2005.
“I thought the impact off the bench was outstanding,” Dalziel added. “We knew that Jack Cuthbert and Max McFarland would have a say in the game coming on at half-time, but probably not as much as that. In the second half, Jack and Jamie Farndale’s work at the restart and the kicking of Robbie Fergusson earned us some key possession and we were able to play the game plan we had practised all week in training.”
Scotland’s last-eight match against the South Africans kicks off at 11.32pm BST. Kenya, who had beaten Tonga 19-7 in their qualifying tie to reach the last 16, now face Ireland in the Challenge quarter-finals.
RWC 7s (all times BST)
Scotland v South Africa 11.32pm
Argentina v Fiji 11.54pm
France v New Zealand 00.16am Sun
USA v England 00.38am
Australia v France 7.42pm
New Zealand v USA 8.04pm