Newport Gwent Dragons’ Lloyd Lewis admitted it was a bitter-sweet experience for him after claiming the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Man of the Round despite his side being edged out at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
The holders went into their final group game against the Cardiff Blues knowing a win would keep them battling for a place in the final at the Ricoh Arena – and in with a chance of defending their title.
But a last-gasp try from Dane Blacker broke Dragons hearts in a 24-22 defeat to the hosts, which coupled with a loss to Ospreys sent them packing.
And for Lewis, who scored against both the Blues and the Scarlets, missing out on the chance to return to the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series’ final intensified the difficulty of losing to their regional rivals.
“It’s mixed emotions for me; we’re on a bit of a downer from not being able to qualify, but all the team put in a real performance,” he said.
“All 11 of the other Dragons deserved this award tonight, it’s a great honour to receive this and to have that recognition from the Singha 7s, but for me this is on behalf of everyone’s hard work.
“The mentality of the boys was fantastic, we’ve been before and we know how great it was to be there, so it’s very disappointing not to be going back.”
Lewis led the Dragons to an impressive 26-12 victory in their opener, but were stunned as the Ospreys – who will join the Cardiff Blues at the Ricoh Arena on August 7 – went into a 21-5 lead in the next match.
But the holders showed their champion spirit, first clawing back to a two-point deficit against the Ospreys, while the Blues needed a last-minute score to seal victory – despite the Dragons going down to five men for part of the match.
And while Lewis remained envious of his rivals’ progression, he insisted that the performances from all teams on the night were encouraging going forward.
“The Blues and Ospreys will have a fantastic time,” he added. “It was a tough way to miss out, but that’s what 7s is all about, it’s unfortunate the bounce of the ball hasn’t gone in our favour.
“But it makes us more determined to come back next year and give it our all again.
“It’s a brilliant level of competition, there’s definitely a huge step up and a few teams surprised us with how they performed.”
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s continues today at Sandy Park with the Finals at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 7 August. For tickets and details visit premiershiprugby.com/singha7stickets
Ospreys 15 (Penalty try, Spratt, Baker)
Cardiff Blues 17 (Thomas, Jenkins, Crocker)
Newport Gwent Dragons 26 (Brew, Frewen, L Lewis, Robson)
Scarlets 12 (Davies, Pearce)
Newport Gwent Dragons 19 (Frewen, J Lewis 2)
Ospreys 21 (Andrews, Scrivens, Spratt)
Cardiff Blues 15 (Jenkins, Blacker, Beale, Roach)
Scarlets 12 (Edwards, Evans)
Ospreys 24 (Baker, Evans, Spratt, Andrews)
Scarlets 5 (Edwards)
Newport Gwent Dragons 22 (J Lewis 2, L Lewis, Levesley)
Cardiff Blues 24 (Blacker 2, Jenkins, Tomlinson)