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Scots bow out to tune of Mack the knife

You don't usually think of Canadians as a nation of party poopers, but they put the dampeners on festivities at Scotstoun yesterday when they ended Scotland's dream of a first appearance in the final of an HSBC Sevens World Series final event.

Scotland's Colin Gregor fends off an opponent during yesterday's semi-final with Canada.  Picture: SNS
Scotland's Colin Gregor fends off an opponent during yesterday's semi-final with Canada. Picture: SNS

The Canadians beat the Scots 10-7 at the semi-final stage, with all their points - a try, a conversion and a penalty - scored by Phil Mack. Their reward, if it could be called that, was to face New Zealand in the final.

It was the first time Canada had reached that stage of an event- and it showed. So, too, did the gulf in class between them and their opponents. New Zealand crushed Canada 54-7, a result that put them within touching distance of their 12th world title in 15 years. Barring a miracle, that formality will be wrapped up in London next weekend.

Scotland had the consolation of an appearance in the third/fourth-place play-off against Fiji. For that, the big names dropped out, but the more regular sevens performers still put in a decent show, only falling away towards the end to go down 10-17.

Earlier, Scotland's challenge for the big prize had looked to be ending on the low note of being whitewashed 7-0 by Canada in the cup semi-final, but they finished with an uplifting moment of defiance as Colin Gregor broke away to put Scott Riddell over for a try. The full-time hooter had gone by that point, so there was only pride at stake, but it clearly mattered to captain Gregor and his men - just as it had on their unbeaten charge through day one of the tournament, and in their 12-7 Cup quarter-final win over South Africa.

The South Africans had come to Scotstoun still with a chance of securing the overall series title, but Scotland showed more energy and wit, and eased their way home with tries by Richie Vernon and Riddell.

With the Scotland squad for the Commonwealth Games sevens due to be named in the near future, Scotland's relative success has given coach Stevie Gemmell a dilemma. No doubt he would like to repay the loyalty of the players on whom he has called for IRB series events around the world for the past six months, but the Scots were unquestionably boosted by the drafting-in of such nonspecialists as Vernon, James Eddie, Lee Jones and Nick De Luca.

Those players will not be around for the London event. For those who do come in, some of them returning from injury, Twickenham will be the last-chance saloon for their Games aspirations.

"Fundamentally we need to be a squad that can do the job that needs to be done," said Gemmell. "The formula is the one we've had this weekend. If there are players who can add value then I will be looking to do that.

"My thinking has always been that we need a balance of players who can add value to the squad. Those guys brought physicality and power, and that frees our sevens players to play as they can. There is no second chance [after London]. I will be ruthless. I will select a squad that I believe is capable of (winning a medal) at the Commonwealth Games."

Scotland's efforts roused the crowds, and the mood throughout was boisterous and upbeat. However, with the international sevens map due to be redrawn at the end of next season, Scotland's case for retaining a tournament will not have been helped by low crowd figures.

Even allowing for the dismal weather - although it did brighten up later in the day - the stands around Scotstoun were barely half-full at any point.

Series organisers will undoubtedly keep England's hugely successful Twickenham event on the schedule, but the logistics of the series mean that only one other European tournament can sit alongside it. Wales and France are understood to be keen to host tournaments. Whatever the atmosphere around Scotstoun, the pictures being beamed from the little Glasgow ground will have done more to strengthen their cases for inclusion than Scotland's.

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