Tired legs run out of steam at Twickenham
RUGBY sevens is effectively 14 minutes of sprinting, with the odd break for some tackling and passing thrown in.
The conditioning required differs ever more greatly from the 15-a-side code.
That's why the world's top sevens nations boast full-time specialist squads, whose players hardly ever grace rugby union's full format.
Marathon runners talk about hitting the wall – in sevens the wall picks you up, dumps you on your backside and leaves you dumbstruck.
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When the wall takes matters into its own hands, legs turn to jelly and fresher opponents take full advantage.
Shattered Gloucester found themselves in exactly such a state in their final outing of a brutal weekend at the inaugural World Club Sevens championship yesterday.
Rob Thirlby and Olly Morgan's men battled hard in day one, topping Pool A and qualifying for the top-tier knockout cup contest.
When action resumed on Sunday the Cherry and Whites were unable to overhaul Harlequins in the cup quarter-finals, though, losing out 19-7.
Dropping into the second-tier plate semi-finals, the Kingsholm men redeemed themselves with a handsome 26-14 victory over San Francisco – world's fastest sevens star Carlin Isles and all.
By the time it came to the plate final, though, that dreaded fatigue had set in and the Cherry and Whites found themselves out on their feet.
Gloucester had overturned a 24-12 deficit to see off New York City Sevens 26-24 in Saturday's Pool A action.
But when the two teams met again with silverware on the line, the men from the Big Apple quashed any chance of a last-gasp Gloucester turnaround.
The Yankees won out five tries to two, racking up four before Gloucester even found the scoresheet.
A full-time sevens side that has spent three months preparing used all their specialist nous to exploit Gloucester's tired legs.
Hailing Gloucester's three-week sevens run that included lifting the JP Morgan Premiership Sevens title, Thirlby revealed his great pride in his gritty squad.
He explained: "That's the difference between being sevens specialists and training together for three months, and trying to condense all your preparations into three weeks of a pre-season for 15s.
"We threw our hat into the ring to complement our 15s preparations.
"And it's been nothing but a privilege to coach these players.
"If we spent three months preparing then I'm sure we'd be a lot more competitive on the world stage.
"But if we did that then the players wouldn't be in the right kind of condition for the 15-a-side demands.
"Clearly 15s is the club's clear priority, but it's good to represent the club with pride in these competitions, and the boys have showed up fantastically in the last three weeks.
"We can't fault the boys at all.
"But now we've got to get our heads switched totally on for Sale in three weeks' time."
Alosio Yamo Yamo, Derek Lipscomb and Gareth Stoppani ensured New York held a commanding 19-0 half-time lead in the plate final.
Jon Kokinda added a fourth after the turnaround, before Steph Reynolds claimed a score for Gloucester.
Nate Augsperger raced in for New York's fifth score, though, putting the result beyond any doubt.
High-stepping Gareth Evans romped in for a match-closing consolation, but Gloucester just ran out of gas after an extremely taxing weekend.
Showmen Andy Bulumakau and Drew Cheshire have secured senior academy deals off the back of their three-week sevens work.
Thirlby backed the pre-season short-format competitions as another ideal route into senior 15s rugby for aspiring professionals.
He added: "It's important that we use the sevens as another pathway into potentially representing the club's first team.
"Andy's done a great job, and so have the likes of Drew Cheshire.
"If we've unearthed something from a local club like Drybrook through the sevens, then that's absolutely ideal.
"If people get chances and take them from competitions like this, that's only to everyone's benefit."