Rugby sevens a hit in Glasgow ahead of Rio 2016 debut
Sport to make its Olympic debut in 2 years
The road to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic debut of rugby sevens took a lively detour on the weekend to the home of Scottish football's Rangers.
It even declared a first-time Commonwealth Games champion.
Played before nearly 200,000 spectators over two days, the sevens tournament in a packed Ibrox Stadium featured family-friendly crowds, karaoke-style sing-a-longs and appreciative players who rounded the ground following their final games to thank the crowd for their support.
On the field, it was all action with seven players covering a wide swath of field where 15 is the norm in regular rugby. Speedy backs offloaded or deftly moved their way around opponents to score as many tries and points as they could in two seven-minute halves, or 10 minutes each in the championship match.
Disco rugby maybe, but in Glasgow on the weekend, it was a huge hit
The Commonwealth Games champion was South Africa in a huge upset over New Zealand in the final late Sunday night, winning 17-12. New Zealand had earned the gold medal in the previous four Commonwealth Games tournaments and had won 30 matches in a row.
In the bowels of the packed stands at Ibrox, Rangers season ticket holder Andrew McNeilly said the allure of rugby sevens was a big winner.
"The atmosphere is far better than football," says McNeilly, draped in a Scottish flag, his face painted blue and white and with a beer in his hand. "The crowds are all mixed together, there is a lot more atmosphere.
"Obviously the rugby players take a wee bit of a knocking. The football players get a wee kick and they are down rolling around ... diving. So it is a far better sport, a far better atmosphere."
The first match of the final session — with 50,000 spectators in the stands — featured Canada playing Uganda in one involving those out of the medal round. The crowd immediately took to the underdogs from Africa, shouting out U-GAN-DA on a number of occasions. They also booed when Canada scored, came close to scoring or if any refereeing decisions went against the Ugandan side. All to no avail: Canada won 32-0.
Canada would go on to win the consolation Bowl Final 50-7 over Cook Islands. New Zealand had its Commonwealth sevens undefeated streak snapped when the All Blacks lost to South Africa 17-12 in the gold medal final. Australia won bronze.