The Exiles DHL Sevens squad took part in the Sunshine 7s recently and were up against some seasoned Sevens campaigners.
This was the 50th anniversary of the Sunshine 7s tournament, held at the East Grinstead club in West Sussex on Sunday, and the invitation event had 36 first class Sevens outfits, including the Army, Suzie’s Saloon (a Sevens side who successfully compete all over the world), the Apaches, Scorpions, Wooden Spoon International Seven, London Welsh, Rosslyn Park, and Voyagers.
An early indication of the standard of competition was when last year’s winners – Rosslyn Park – were knocked out in the first round.
The Exiles DHL Seven squad had already been deprived of John-Paul Filler (London Wasps), John Swords (London Welsh), and Jon Feely (Rotherham) through injuries during the week, and arrived at the Sunshine 7s with a reduced squad. Matt O’Regan (Ireland Under-19s) was lost to tonsillitis that morning, and Matt Williams (former Ireland Under-21) was also lost that morning with his plane still stuck in Pakistan!
Coaches Peter Halsall and Kevan Bell recognised that the physical demands of the hot day, rock-hard ground, and class opposition would take its toll on the reduced squad of eight players and so it proved to be.
The DHL Exiles squad performed well in the early games, particularly as this was their first time together. Gareth McComb, an experienced Sevens player, slotted in well, while Michael Kirkwood, playing in his first Sevens tournament, put in a huge effort.
Experienced Sevens players Mark Bruce, Mark Cannon and Robbie Shaw helped and prompted youngsters Daniel Wagner and Frank Jones throughout the day. Unfortunately, for the first time in any tournament, the Exiles DHL Sevens did not reach the quarter-finals.
With scores tied at full-time, the Exiles lost a sudden death play-off to Evolve Cagonians when former Wasps and Northampton wing Rob Laird crossed the Exiles’ line. Disappointed and tired, the players now need to regroup for the upcoming Carrick Sevens.
DHL Exiles Sevens Squad: Gareth McComb, Michael Kirkwood (Rotherham Earth Titans), Nick Sharpe (Rugby Lions), Matt Cannon, Robbie Shaw (London Welsh), Mark Bruce (Buccaneers), Frank Jones (unattached), Daniel Wagner (Leeds Metropolitan University).
Scorers: Tries: Michael Kirkwood 3, Robbie Shaw 3, Gareth McComb, Nick Sharpe, Mark Bruce, Matt Cannon, Daniel Wagner, Frank Jones 1 each. Cons: Mark Bruce 5, Robbie Shaw 3, Michael Kirkwood 2.