The 42nd St Andrews Rugby Sevens, powered by Rampant Sporting, took place last Saturday and was a great success from an organisational and spectator point of view, and none more so than for the tournament champions and winners of the Drummond Cup, Shark Kings.
The day started early and was missing spectators (most still being in bed) and three of the expected 28 teams (who had pulled out only the day before). Nevertheless, Tournament Referee Tom Eyles had done a marvellous logistical job on getting the competition running as efficiently as possible, indeed as well organised as it has been in some time. His priority was “the rugby not the lash,” though how many of the attending teams shared his attitude it is hard to say.
The 25 teams who had made it began their campaigns with pool matches, having been drawn in seven groups and scheduled onto four pitches. The first match featured Glasgow Titans, last year’s Cup winners, and it was clear from the outset that they were in St Andrews with thoughts only of retaining their title: Rat Pack, who can count Prince William as a former player, were blown away 52-0.
Another team in contention for the main prize was Luvians, winners of the Cup in 2009 and the Plate last April. Like Glasgow Titans, they eased through their pool matches to sit top of their group.
The winner of Pool C, meanwhile, was Shark Kings – a team of St Andrews alumni, three times Cup finalists but never champions – whose captain Johnny Brock was optimistic that this could be their year. Their early form, notably a 68-0 win over Uzbekistanis, suggested they certainly had a chance.
The round of sixteen saw wins for the above three teams, as well as the teams of current St Andrews students (mainly fourth years), Slipperies 1sts and 2nds and GLBM (‘Good Lads Bad Men’), the latter doing just enough to see off Spartans 35-22. By this point in the day, the sun was out and so too were spectators: every year the Rugby Sevens attracts current and former students, parents and people of the St Andrews town community, with this year being no exception.
As more people came to watch and bask in the sun and the relaxed atmosphere, the standard of rugby seemed to go up a notch, as the heavyweights in the competition went head to head in the quarter-finals. Luvians were not quite on form in their match, but Glasgow Titans put in the performance to punish them and the first big name was sent crashing out. Then it was the turn of the two Slipperies teams; the 1sts succumbing to Shark Kings and the 2nds to GLBM.
The first semi-final saw GLBM claim their shot at glory as they defeated Flint Tropics 26-24. Flint Tropics were behind for almost the entire match and, though they never gave it up, they could not quite deny GLBM a deserved spot in the final. The second semi was a repeat of last year’s final: Glasgow Titans versus Shark Kings, a match the Titans won in extra time. This year, though, Shark Kings got their revenge, their sustained pressure and pace on the flanks crucial as they struck just before and after the half-way point to help them to a 26-17 victory.
Before the Cup final was played, the Plate was decided. The second tier competition saw Rat Pack and Fighting Cocks reach the semi-finals, only to lose out to Edinburgh Medics and Coolidge College respectively. The final itself was a topsy-turvy affair, with Coolidge moving 17-10 ahead just after half-time but ultimately the Medics’ pace and control won them the day, running out 25-17 winners to claim the first piece of silverware of the day.
That only left one match remaining: the Cup final, between the current students of GLBM and alumni of Shark Kings. It was the latter who were on top early on, but University 1st XV star Matt Hannay’s break allowed GLBM to cut the deficit to two. However, with a couple of mistakes in the midfield being ruthlessly punished, Shark Kings moved to a 19-5 half-time lead. The second half saw both sides defend resolutely and make killer runs when in possession, but Shark Kings stayed clear and, with their 31-19 triumph, won their first ever Drummond Cup.
The event had been enjoyable to attend and the high standards of organisation and inter-team camaraderie were matched by the quality of sevens rugby on display. With a delighted Brock promising Shark Kings would be back in 2012 to defend their crown, it should be another one to savour. And if that infamous post-tournament lash was as bubbly as the champagne rugby shown during the day, it must have been one heck of a party.