Known as the faster paced, somewhat more appealing format of rugby, 7s is a spectacle that exudes flair and finesse in every phase of the game. A diluted version of the regular XV game that focuses on passing precision, ball handling skills and speed to captivate audiences worldwide, it delivers something for everyone.
And the Singha Premiership 7s follows suit perfectly. Round three of the tournament saw clubs in Group C battle it out on Friday night at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, a week before the tensely awaited final at Twickenham Stoop on the 28th. Hosts Wasps fielded a supremely strong side, announcing themselves as hot contenders to qualify, whilst Harlequins, Saracens and Northampton Saints displayed young, quick talent in front of an excited crowd.
Wasps v Harlequins
The first game of the evening saw Wasps and Harlequins take to the turf with Christian Wade drawing first blood by outpacing the Quins defence. Dummy passes a plenty saw Wasps outwit Quins yet again, however two tries behind and a chip downfield saw captain Joe Marchant cross the line for the visitors. Brendan Macken thundered down the pitch seconds before half time to make it 19-14 to the home side, with Alex Lozowski failing to convert for another two points. The second half began with a scrum of which Wasps won, yielding a sequence of neat passing through hands to Wade, who’s try was converted with confidence by Lozowski. Quins attempted to build pressure on a deep Wasps line but it was the leaders who managed to run rings around their opposition, with a few more cross-field kicks to allow more tries and more conversions. Final score Wasps 40 – 14 Harlequins.
Saracens v Northampton Saints
From the kick off it looked as if Saracens were dominant when a first minute try by captain Tom Whitely put them five points in front. Seconds later saw Dom Morris collect an elegant pass to go over and, with an additional conversion, the score-line read 12-0. Then Saints gathered themselves up and began a comeback, of what concluded to be of extreme margins. A try under the posts by Tom Emery was followed by Sam Olver’s converted try just as the half time whistle blew. Rory Hutchinson gave Saints further hope 30 seconds into the half, making the score 12-19. A superb through-the-legs pass led to Hutchinson’s second try in the corner, and Alex Rayment secured the Saints convincing win with another five points. Despite the heavy rumble that shuddered through the ground when the conversion hit the posts, Saints looked delighted with an easy win over Saracens. Final score Saracens 12 – 31 Northampton Saints.
Saracens v Harlequins
A brief rest for Saracens didn’t do too much damage as they came out against Quins ready for revenge. An early try by Whitely put them ahead, and a diagonal Nathan Earle run added valuable points to lead 19-0 by the end of the first seven minutes. However, Quins came back on-field with fire in their bellies and speed in their boots, and a Joe Marchant try was quickly followed by Robbie Nairn’s to make it 19-10. James Tirrell replied on behalf of Saracens, shaking off an enormous tackle by Gabriel Ibitoye for a try, and despite a gazelle-like canter down the wing by Nairn to score, Saracens held onto the win. Final score Saracens 24 – 17 Harlequins.
Wasps v Northampton Saints
Speedster Wade churned out tries in this match, the first in the opening minutes and then again after a brilliant Macken cross to send the score to 21-0 and the crowd wild. The home fans basked in glory, singing and cheering with every move that Wade made, and a Macken try revved them up even more in time for the whistle. 28-0 down at half time, Saints looked desperate for some encouragement, but a further Wasps try by Josh Bassett stunned their local rivals. Lozowski darted under the posts to bring more misery to the Saints, and even a scrappy try by Alex Moon couldn’t relieve them of the degrading score line. Final score Wasps 47 – 5 Northampton Saints.
Northampton Saints v Harlequins
Marchant broke the seal on this match with his initial try, followed by another for Quins in the form of Nairn, who fed off Luke White’s determination to make the line. Hunting for any solitude, Saints began to fight back with Emery’s rampage down the right wing to make it 12-7 by half-time. An eager restart allowed passion to overflow and Alex Mitchell added to Saints woes by being sin-binned. With one man in hand, Quins responded with a dynamic run by Calum Waters, tossing the ball into the hands of Sam Aspland-Robinson who was delighted to score his first try of the evening. A collapsed scrum at the fault of Saints meant Quins gained advantage and Waters’ speed gave him another five points. Fourteen seconds remaining and the restart gave promise to Saints, who’s scramble along the five metre line finally amounted in a try. Final score Northampton Saints 26 – 12 Harlequins.
Wasps v Saracens
Quick out the blocks, Wade added the first points to the scoreboard in this final game. Three minutes in and his toying with the Saracens defence produced holes in their line, allowing Thomas Young to score in front of a hearty home crowd. A knock-on by Saracens after a successful scrum put them on the back-foot yet again, however after driving over and earning the ball, Matt Gallagher bundled over the mark to make it 12-5 at half time. As the cold began to dampen spirits, Dan Robinson got supporters on their feet with another try for Wasps. Morris of Saracens made an outstanding break, one that the likes of Wade could not keep up with, and after dancing out of a possible tap-tackle, hurled over the line. Nevertheless, a defiant Wade took matters into his own hands and shook off a tackle ten metres out to score, lifting supporters to their feet once again. As he came off for the final time, Saracens looked strong and constantly added pressure, but Josh Bassett of Wasps added the last points of the night as he broke through a gap in the visitors’ depth. Final score Wasps 33 – 10 Saracens.
Player of the round Wade, who failed to make the cut in Stuart Lancaster’s England squad, clearly made a statement about his ability to open throttle and create moments of magic. Both Wasps and Harlequins qualified into next Friday’s Final, held at the Twickenham Stoop. Joining them so far are Newport Gwent Dragons, Scarlets, Gloucester and Exeter Chiefs, with the final two spots going to the winners and runners up in Group D, which features Leicester Tigers, Newcastle Falcons, Sale Sharks and newly promoted Worcester Warriors. An exciting night had by all at the Ricoh, paying homage to the reputation that 7s has across the rugby community.