Scotland win gold at Commonwealth Youth Games

Ross Birnie try in extra time of final versus Fiji secures historic win

Team Scotland struck men's sevens gold at Trinbago 2023. Image: Team Scotland
Team Scotland struck men's sevens gold at Trinbago 2023. Image: Team Scotland

SOME of the best up-and-coming male rugby talents in the country have created history by winning a gold medal in the sevens event at the Trinbago 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games.

By beating Fiji 25-20 in extra-time in the final with a golden try through Ross Birnie on Tuesday, the 13-strong squad of 17 and 18-year-olds became the first Scottish team ever to win a team medal of any colour at the Commonwealth Games or Youth Games.

And given the negativity there has been of late around the youth rugby structures in Scotland, this is some much-needed positive news.

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Head coach Craig Dods said:  “I couldn’t be prouder of this group of boys, to be the first Scottish team ever to win a medal at a Commonwealths or Commonwealth Youth Games is special and for it to be gold, well that is just amazing.

“To beat Fiji in the final and South Africa on the way – two brilliant rugby nations – makes it special too and the boys just did everything that was asked of them throughout the competition.

“It is an achievement that these boys will never forget for the rest of their lives. They have been a credit to their country, they have been a credit to their families and they have been a credit to their local clubs that have brought them through and helped them get to this point.

“Hopefully the group have made Scotland proud.”

The seventh Commonwealth Youth Games has been taking place on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago since late last week and the young Scots were on top form in the men’s sevens on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

On Sunday they defeated Canada 22-14 at the Shaw Park Field in Scarborough, Tobago. The try scorers were Fergus Watson (2) and Ritchie Mitchell (2) while Jack Hocking kicked a conversion.

They then backed it up with a 52-0 triumph over Jamaica with skipper Johnny Ventisei leading the way with a hat-trick of tries. Ben Morriss scored two with Benjamin Roger, Hugo Alderson and Birnie crossing and Hocking converting four and Matthew Urwin two.

Day two was on Monday and although they started with a 32-5 loss to Fiji – Jack Craig with a try – they bounced back with a hard fought and impressive 19-17 win over South Africa. Watson, Mitchell and Hocking scored tries with Hocking and Urwin adding one conversion apiece.

They began day three on Tuesday with seven tries to get the better of Trinidad & Tobago 43-5. The try scorers were Alderson (2), Birnie (2), Craig, Robbie Baird and Morriss. Morris converted one while Urwin converted three.

It meant that, after group play, they were through to the gold medal match, facing Fiji once again. The Pacific Islanders went 5-0 up, but a try from Mitchell levelled it up and then, when Fiji had captain Josaia Ralulu yellow carded, Morriss scored to make it 10-5. A Fijian try made it 10-10 at the break.

At the start of the second half Ralulu was given a second yellow card and was sent off. A try put six-man Fiji 15-10 up before a five pointer from Craig made it 15-15. Then Watson scored another five pointer to make it 20-15 before a late, late Fiji score, with Urwin in the sin-bin, made it 20-20.

The Scots could have been deflated by the way the regular match ended, but they rallied and in extra-time scored a well worked try through Birnie to sensationally win 25-20 and spark celebrations.

When they get back Ventisei, Urwin and Watson will be joining up with the Glasgow Warriors pro academy while Hocking will be doing the same with Edinburgh Rugby.

The players who were in this squad have origins from across Scotland and beyond. The schools and clubs that have helped shape this group include: Ventisei (St Aloysius’ College and GHA), Watson (Biggar), Morriss (Deeside and Gordonians), Joe Townshend (Dunbar and Strathallan School), Craig (Ayr), Fergus Wood (George Heriot’s School), Baird (Hutchesons’ Grammar School and GHA), Urwin (St Aloysius’ College and West of Scotland), Hocking (Ipswich Grammar School in Australia), Alderson (Royal High School/Stewart’s Melville College), Roger (Stewart’s Melville College), Birnie (Gordonians) and Mitchell (Gala).

Team Scotland men’s gold winning sevens squad: Johnny Ventisei©, Fergus Watson, Ben Morriss, Joe Townshend, Jack Craig, Fergus Wood, Robbie Baird, Matthew Urwin, Jack Hocking, Hugo Alderson, Benjamin Roger, Ross Birnie, Ritchie Mitchell.

Watch the final here:

Watch from 2:20 for final action


About Gary Heatly 463 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.


    • Commentators and scoreboard gave a conversion because they thought it was over…. It wasn’t!

  1. Well done those young lads, congratulations to them all including the coaches, schools and parents 👍🏉😀

  2. Huge credit to the boys, their families, the coaches and their clubs and schools. To be the first to do something is very special and some of these boys will go on to have good careers in rugby, as a number of the 2011 commonwealth games youth squad did.

    The standard in the competition was hugely variable, but to rise to the challenge of beating south Africa after losing heavily to fiji, and then to overturn that result in the gold medal match against Fiji speaks volumes for their resilience and belief.

  3. Didn’t even know this was on but having just watched the video – a great performance with a well organised looking side and so well done to the lads. And Its certainly great to get some good news from youth rugby.

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