Captaining first Scotland team to beat Kiwis ‘still hasn’t sunk in’

Scott Riddell with the Sevens trophy
Scott Riddell with the Sevens trophy
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Stewart’s Melville product Scott Riddell is still coming to terms with the fact that he has gone down in the history books as the first man to captain a Scotland rugby team to victory over New Zealand for the first time in history at any level of the game.

That landmark triumph over the All Blacks came in Sunday’s quarter-final of the HSBC World Sevens Series finale at Twickenham en route to the Scots retaining their London crown in thrilling style with a 12-5 win over hosts England in the final. “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said the 31-year-old prop. “You see the stats on the TV that we have played them [New Zealand] so many times and it was always a zero for Scotland in both the men’s and women’s category. It shouldn’t be that way, it was just something that we needed to do.

“To be the first Scottish side to beat New Zealand at any level is incredible. I was in the medical room [after taking a knock] and I was cheering and people were wondering why I was getting so excited, but it is something special – the first time it has ever happened.

“Last year was the first time we ever got to a final, and the first time we won. We have done that again this year and the bigger point was that we went back-to-back finals.”

Just two years ago Scotland Sevens coach Calum MacRae was facing the real threat that the nation where the abbreviated game was invented, in his own hometown of Melrose, could abandon the game at the elite international level.

When Scotland lost its hosting place on the world circuit a review process was launched by the SRU to determine whether to maintain a side in the global HSBC series, sparking a period of uncertainty for MacRae and the core group of players who relied on the programme for their livelihoods.

A reprieve came and the coach could reflect with satisfaction yesterday as he and his squad were piped into BT Murrayfield after retaining their London Sevens trophy following victory over hosts England in the final at Twickenham. MacRae, who was in charge of his final tournament before moving on to become Edinburgh defence coach next season, also entered the history books as the first coach to guide a Scottish team to victory over a New Zealand side.

MacRae’s men tasted Cup success at the same venue last year, when they beat South Africa in the final, but never before had any Scottish team vanquished a side from the land of the long white cloud since the first international meeting between the nations at Inverleith since 1905.

“I am hugely proud of the work the boys have put in and I think the blocks of work they have done in training consistently through the year has paved the way to the performances we are seeing,” said MacRae yesterday as his players showed off the trophy. on the Murrayfield pitch.