A 28-22 victory over Canada claimed a bronze medal finish for Scotland in the Wellington leg of the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series this [Sunday] morning, and provided some consolation to Calum MacRae’s men after an agonising 19-12 loss to Olympic champions Fiji at the semi-final stage.
The Scots trailed the Canadians with two minutes to go, but a late try from James Fleming and a nerveless conversion from Gavin Lowe sealed the victory. That was Fleming’s third try of the match, with George Horne claiming the other score.
That result leaves Scotland fourth in the world rankings after three rounds – behind South Africa, Fiji and England, but five points ahead of New Zealand.
In the last four, Calum MacRae’s men had led Fiji 12-7 at the break thanks to tries from George Horne and Mark Robertson, but seemed to lose their momentum after Dougie Fife and James Johnstone both suffered shoulder injuries during the same passage of play at the start of the second half.
Scotland’s defence had been outstanding during the opening seven minutes with no missed tackles compared to six by Fiji, but they could not maintain that level during a punishing second period, and a few uncharacteristic errors cost them dearly.
Squad captain Scott Wight (who had travelled to New Zealand as 13th man due to a hand injury picked up in the Cape Town leg of the series at the start of December but was pressed into action in place Nick McLennan) showed all his class when he opened Fiji up with an exquisite dummy and break but was then forced to kick ahead when there was no support on his shoulder, and the ball bobbled over the dead-ball line before Fleming could get to it.
Things started to unravel when Fraser Lyle threw a forward pass just outside his own 22 which gifted Fiji possession in a dangerous field position. A few seconds later, Alivereti Veitokani brushed past a flat-footed Jamie Farndale for a try under the posts, which set up an easy conversion for skipper Osea Kolinisau to give the Fijians the lead.
Kolinisau’s restart was then bang on the money for Jasa Veremalua to pluck out of the air and charge straight back up-field, and it took another heroic last-gasp tackle from Fleming, this time on Samisoni Viriviri, to prevent the killer blow.
Having survived that raid on their line, the Scots then lost the resulting scrum and although Fleming initially seemed to snaffle possession back after Fiji had switched play to the opposite side of the park, a ferocious counter-ruck from the Pacific Islanders earned a penalty when Glenn Bryce dived on the ball from an offside position. Joeli Lutumailagi took the quick tap and muscled over from close range to kill off the contest.
Earlier in the day, Scotland had knocked England out of the Cup competition at the quarter-final stage with a 14-12 victory, thanks to tries from Jamie Farndale and Gavin Lowe, plus a sensational last ditch cover tackle in the corner from Fleming on Phil Burgess.
Scotland’s previous success in the HSBC Series was in London back in May.
Image courtesy: World Rugby