Rugby's little fish turn into Sevens' sharks

FIVE nation strengths Ireland and Scotland fell victim to a round of upsets in the Plate quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens Tournament at the Government Stadium yesterday.

The Northern Hemisphere teams were two of the favourites to contest the Cup competition, but they were relegated to the plate division after losing a game apiece in the round-robin pool games on Saturday.

Both sides were knocked out of contention in their opening games of day two, as the US Eagles beat Ireland 14-12 and a fleet-footed Japanese side accounted for Scotland 26-12.

In the closer game of the two, Ireland were pushed over the edge by a stronger, faster American unit, who later lost to Korea 26-21 in the Plate final.

The Eagles, and in particular powerful forward Richard Tardits (who scored two tries) proved that not all big men are slow and static.

Irish captain Denis McBride put the loss down to differing playing seasons, not connecting early enough and the Eagles size and speed.

''Some sides have quick guys and some sides have big guys - but they had big, quick guys,'' McBride said.

''I was very disappointed that it just didn't happen for us this year, but we just couldn't get it together quick enough. It's the wrong time of the season for us and we only had a week to prepare - but that is really no excuse, we just didn't play well enough.'' Ireland opened the scoring when youngster Innes Grey beat three defenders to the line three minutes into the game.

The Irish held a narrow 5-0 lead at half-time, but the US side was more aggressive after the break.

They took control when Tardits scored two tries within a minute shortly after returning to the field.

Scotland found the going tough against the agile Japanese, who ran amok out wide, creating plenty of headaches for the Scots' defence.

Scottish star Gregor Townsend was disappointed with the loss, saying Japan's speed proved the difference and that his side did not do themselves justice.

''We weren't pacy enough and the opposition exploited that,'' Townsend said.

''Japan were definitely better than we expected - they used the ball well and were throwing it wide and we just could not cover it quick enough.''