Captain Scott Riddell’s winning try and youngster George Horne’s brilliant saving tackle lifted Scotland to beat England and retain their Twickenham HSBC World 7s crown on Sunday.
The Scots came from behind in all three knockout games yesterday in the final World 7s Series event of the season to secure the trophy they won in equally thrilling style last year.
But this year’s squad is an extra special vintage as they became the first Scottish team ever to defeat New Zealand in 15s or sevens, coming from 21-0 down at half-time in the quarter-finals, Jamie Farndale’s late try securing a 24-21 triumph.
They then defeated the USA 21-14 in the semi-final with Joe Nayacavou scoring the clinching try with time expiring having again trailed at half-time, and the story was the same in the final.
Down 7-0 at the change of ends due to a brilliant solo try from English flier Dan Norton, first an opportunistic score by Hugh Blake and then a team score finished by Riddell gave them a 12-7 edge.
The win was preserved by the youngest and smallest player on the squad, former Howe of Fife player George Horne, who made a brilliant cover tackle and turnover on Norton to allow the Scots to play out the final seconds.
It’s a remarkable achievement for a squad who were almost wound up two years ago as Scottish Rugby examined ways to save money and were considering no longer competing full-time on the World 7s circuit.
Instead the team won a reprieve after an epic victory in last year’s finale at Twickenham under the coaching of Calum MacRae and with a more settled squad.
“I’m proud of the players and I’m proud of the staff, “ said MacRae. “Going back to back here is a huge achievement.
“A lot of people have put a lot of effort into this programme and it’s nice for everyone to get the rewards for that. I’m proud of these boys here today but also all the players who have contributed to us through the season.”
It’s a season has shown further improvement with a runners-up in last week’s penultimate tournament in Paris, but the highly-rated MacRae is now leaving to take up the post of defensive coach with Edinburgh.
Similarly for two stalwarts of the Scotland team Mark Robertson and Scott Wight this was a triumph in their final tournament. The two former Melrose players are bowing out and both were hugely influential through the weekend, Robertson being named player of the final after being involved in setting up both tries.
MacRae paid tribute to both players after the victory.
“Mark Robertson and Scott Wight are two guys who will now be synonymous with the game of 7s in Scotland,” he said.
“Scott has been an absolute warrior for this team and what an effort he put in today. I’m also so proud of Mark, how he’s managed himself over the course of his career is testament to him.”
“The big challenge now is for this team to maintain this standard that they have set.”
Earlier Scotland had to score four tries in the second half to overhaul New Zealand in a historic performance.
Never before in 39 attempts at 15s and 7s going back 112 years had a Scottish team beaten New Zealand but two scores from Dougie Fife and then two from Farndale – the last after time had expired – brought Scotland a 24-21 victory.
In the semi-final former Perthshire and Dundee HSFP wing James Fleming kept the USA’s Perry Baker in check to just two tries while Robertson and Bryce kept the scores level. Again with time expiring the Scots attacked and Fiji-born Nayacovou scored under the posts to clinch the place in the final on the last play.
The final – refereed by Craig Joubert, the controversial ref of Scotland’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final on the same ground – was interrupted by injuries to England players earlier but Norton’s try from his own half, sidestepping around Horne, put the host team in front just before the break.
However it was another Olympian Robertson who inspired Scotland, caught just short as he tried to get in just after half-time but the alert Blake snapped up the ball and got the try.
With the scores locked at 7-7 Wight’s break and hand-off opened up England, Nayacovou threw a long overhead pass to Robertson, who fed the supporting Riddell for the go-ahead try.
Wight’s missed conversion meant the Scots had to defend desperately, but as Norton looked to break free again there was a brilliant covering tackle from Horne, the younger brother of Scotland international Peter.
The Glasgow Warriors scrum-half got back to his feet to force a turnover and after England knocked on at a lineout, the Scots were able to run the ball into touch through Farndale to secure the win.