It seems not so long ago that it would be unimaginable to see two teams who have each won a cup in the last eight tournaments squaring off in the consolation semifinal. But the modern level of competition on the HSBC Sevens World Series is like never before. To see perfect illustration, one need look no further than the cup semifinal matchups set for later in the day. In the last tournament, the trophy final was contested between the United States and Argentina. Those two nations are now in the semifinal and could face each other in the cup final. Even more astonishing, is that this is now team USA’s second semifinal on the season despite having started the year with a last-place finish in Dubai.
For both Canada and Scotland, this season has been boom or bust. In Dubai and Hamilton, Scotland made the cup round but failed in all four matches outside of pool play. In Cape Town and Sydney, the Scots not only failed to make the quarterfinals but succeeded in winning only a single game in two trophy-round appearances, finishing last and fourteenth respectively. On the season, Scotland has posted a horrendous 1–8 record outside of pool competition.
Canada has been much more successful outside of pool play, combining for a 5–5 record including a single appearance in the cup semifinal. But, outside of Canada’s lone trip to the cup round, the Canadians had yet to progress past the trophy semifinal.
Early in the seconde minute, Scotland threatened but an ill-placed Scottish leg at the back of an attacking ruck forced a turnover to Canada. For the next minute and a half, Canada worked to march the ball down the field. That endeavor become much easier when Scotland was shown a yellow card for an intentional knock on at its own twenty-two. From there, Canada just needed to work the matchups and exploit the gap in the defense to send Justin Douglas in for the points. Nathan Hirayama’s kick was good for two more points as the first quarter of play came to a close.
Once Scotland was back to a full seven men, it was a different story, as Gavin Lowe dotted down in the right corner. He failed to connect on the conversion, meaning Canada was still ahead. That lead should not have lasted much longer, thanks to a perfect recognition of open space on the restart kick, allowing Scotland to win a penalty at the Canada five-meter line. But a knock on by Scotland allowed Canada
to escape to halftime with the narrow lead.
The opening kick of the second half led to the points Scotland should have had to close the first half, sending Nick McLennan in right away. The conversion put Canada in a five-point hole.
Soon after, sniffing the Scottish try line, Canada twice came within inches of scoring the leveler. But Scotland refused to give and forced a knock on and a five-meter scrum. Wales appeared to win the scrum and score, but it was called back for another Scottish five-meter scrum. This time, Scotland won a short-arm penalty at the scrum and finally managed to get out of the shadow of its own posts.
But no sooner did Scotland cross midfield than a penalty gave the ball back to Canada. As the clock showed just two minutes remaining, Justin Douglas got Canada back inside the Scottish twenty-two. It took twenty-five more seconds, but Douglas ultimately gott the try to tie things up. Hirayama’s conversion was no good, making it 12-12 with under a minute to play.
With just six seconds remaining, Canada won a penalty in the middle of the pitch, thirty-six meters out. Nathan Hirayama opted to kick for the post, and his penalty goal made it a 15–12 win for Canada.
Canada will play France for the Challenge trophy at 3:10 (PT), this afternoon. If Canada wins, it will draw level with France in the standings.