The Singha Premiership Rugby 7’s returned to Kingsholm on Thursday night, the home of Gloucester Rugby and current holders of the trophy for round two of the tournament. This is the fourth consecutive year that a pool has been hosted in the West Country, with fans consistently turning out in impressive numbers for a Thursday evening pre-season event. It has certainly helped that the home team has managed to progress to the final in each of the previous three seasons, winning the latest two under the guidance of former player Olly Morgan. For Cherry and White fans it has become an eagerly anticipated part of the fixture calendar, and the locals certainly weren’t disappointed.
The same four teams as 2014, Bath Rugby, London Irish and Exeter Chiefs and the hosts competed for two spots in the quarter finals. It had everything the crowd wanted to see, Gloucester speedster and captain for the night Steph Reynolds running in the tries, future stars making a name for themselves, and tries galore.
Premiership Singha 7’s – Group B
After some heavy rain on the Wednesday over the county, ticket holders will have been glad to see a dry day on Thursday and the rain to hold off throughout the evening. It started with a bright affair between the hosts and the Exeter Chiefs, with early tries for the hosts settling any nerves after some Exeter pressure from the kick off. As anticipated the game had a high tempo and Gloucester demonstrated better 7’s skills all round to move into a comfortable half time lead. A textbook score from Reynolds really got the crowd going in the second half; the winger dashed down the touchline from inside his own half. In the end the 31-5 scoreline was as comprehensive as it sounds.
This round robin tournament with its quick turnarounds requires two of the teams to play back-to-back games, and the fixed schedule of the evening has meant that for the second year running Bath and Exeter played consecutive games. This certainly seemed to play a part in the game between those two sides, where Exeter, cheered on by the home crowd against their arch rivals, overturned a half time deficit to win 26-10 as Bath legs tired. It could certainly be noted that the hosts have never faced back to back games over the years which may have contributed to their success in the tournament.
When Gloucester returned against London Irish the floodlights were on and the atmosphere cranked up another notch. The difference in class was clear as the Exiles missed clear scoring opportunities and overlaps, whilst the Cherry and Whites notched up another bonus point win. There was however the rare sight of Reynolds being caught in full flight, but he was still able to offload for a teammate to score.
In the penultimate match the consecutive game issue became evident again as London Irish were brushed aside by the Exeter youth by 41 points to zero. The Exiles lost their organisation and again missed some clear overlaps, perhaps showing it was a case of mental tiredness as well as physical.
The final game, between Gloucester and Bath was a fitting finale for the evening, as the atmosphere rose again and the shed started to reach its usual standards of volume. Befitting of the rivalry between the two teams, this match was the most competitive of the evening, at least for the first three quarters of the game, until the Gloucester quality along through and the home side ran away with it at the end to record a third try bonus point and end the night with a perfect 15 out of 15 to reach the finals at the Twickenham stoop next Friday.
With the Singha 7’s series now in its sixth year it appears to be going from strength to strength and the party atmosphere these evenings have help to get people interested in rugby, even if the players representing the clubs are often academy or fringe players rather than the 15-a-side big names. To maximise this it may be beneficial to rotate the hosting of the rounds to each premiership club, although commercially it is better to come to places like Kingsholm to benefit from the larger crowds who contribute to making the event as successful as it is.