The Exiles DHL Sevens' squad rejoined the Sevens' circuit in England on Sunday 30 July past for the Bob Knight Memorial Sevens at Worthing RFC. The highlight for the Exiles Seven was their victory over the Chinese National Seven who had won the Bowl competition at the Hong Kong Sevens. The Chinese squad have been in the UK for this past three weeks, staying at Hartpury College, in preparation for competing in the Henley International Sevens (and playing in other Sevens competitions during their stay). In contrast, the Exiles DHL Sevens' squad had only three players available from their victories at Carrick, and travelled to Worthing with a Sevens' squad with an average age of 20.
After two closely fought games in their pool that saw the Exiles DHL Seven just edge out Quant Je Puis (subsequent semi-finalists) 21-19, and Bath 19-15, the coach - Kevan Bell - reconfigured his Sevens' formation. Former Ireland U21 scrum-half Robbie Shaw moved from hooker to scrum-half and Ireland International Sevens' player Mark Bruce moved from scrum-half to fly-half, allowing Ireland U21 wing Matt Williams to move out wide. This change brought an immediate improvement to the Exiles DHL Sevens game against the highly rated Ronin 7, who fielded a group of South Sea Island players including 3 Sevens Internationals. The Exiles opened the scoring with Shaw running in two tries in quick succession, and further tries by Betty, Brown, Olima and Filler gave the Exiles a 36-7 victory.
Last up in the pool were China. This game started in top gear when, from a scrum 5 metres from our own line, wing Stewart Turton was released and the 200 metre runner put his head back and outflanked the cover defence. The Chinese responded with a fine try from the kick-off but the Exiles came back again with a well-worked try touched down by Williams. The Chinese came back again with another try and for the next few minutes it was all China; three times they put their fast men seemingly in the clear, with the try-line beckoning, but three times they were cut down by the covering tackles of Shaw. This seemed to change the mood of the game and, just on half-time, Bruce stepped through the Chinese defence to score. In the second half, David Fenlon (Ireland U19A), Williams, and Robert Boles (former Ireland U19 wing) added further tries and the DHL Exiles ended the game 36 to 17 ahead.
Although the Exiles had won their group, it was at a price. The squad of twelve was down to nine through injuries (the loss of forwards Brown and Filler was critical) and the quarter-final against Royal Bank of Scotland Royals awaited. This proved to be a game too far for the depleted squad and the Exiles lost a game against a side they would probably have beaten in the group stage. Even in defeat there were the highlights of Williams' two tries, running the length of the pitch as he avoided would-be tacklers.
Coach Kevan Bell was not disappointed; he felt that his experienced players Bruce and Shaw again demonstrated their abilities as playmakers and defenders of the highest quality, and that Williams' six tries demonstrated his ability as a serious attacking threat. Younger players such as Betty, Rowland, and Fenlon all benefited from the experience, and the depth of quality in the squad is growing. A quality squad will be required because as the Exiles reputation in Sevens grows so do the invites to tournaments.
The Exiles Sevens' initiative has been made possible by their main sponsor DHL GLOBAL Forwarding and their kit sponsor OB Sport. To ensure that the Exiles succeed in developing their players through Sevens such continuing support will be essential.
Exiles DHL Sevens Squad: Harry Rowland, David Fenlon, John-Paul Filler, Mark Bruce, Robbie Shaw (Capt.), Stewart Turton, Matthew Betty, Matt Williams, Steve Hill, Martin Olima, Robert Boles, and Liam Brown; Coach: Kevan Bell; Manager: Ces Shaw