England enjoy best ever Sevens series start

England will head to the next two legs of the Sevens World Series as number one seeds after backing up their win in the opening stage with second place in this weekend’s South Africa Sevens.


They built on their victory in Dubai by reaching the final in George, only to lose out to the final kick of the game and go down 22-19 to New Zealand.


The two results represent England’s best ever start in the 11-year history of the series and the seeding will be to their advantage in the pool stages early next year in Wellington (February 4-5) and Las Vegas (February 12-13).


England levelled the George final at 19-19 with a Mathew Turner try and had a numerical advantage when Bryce Heem was yellow carded in the closing moments, only for New Zealand to battle their way down field and win the penalty that Tomasi Cama converted.


Earlier captain Ben Gollings and James Rodwell had scored tries with Gollings supplying two conversions.


Head coach Ben Ryan said: “It was really tight. We could have kicked the ball out but decided to play and unfortunately they came back and slotted a penalty to win the game


“But overall it’s as good a start as England have had in 11 years. We set out to win back-to-back tournaments and we’ve had a great two weeks and the results make us number one seeds going into the next two tournaments.


“Today we played really well and came within a whisker of doubling up. We’ve knocked over all last year’s top six sides in the last two weekends and we got up and running straight away after Dubai to back up what we’d done there.


“We’ll have two weeks off now and then we’ll work them pretty hard and come back in better shape to go to Wellington as number one seeds and looking forward to taking on New Zealand again.”


The run to the final in George, where England beat hosts South Africa 19-10 and series champions Samoa 22-12, was achieved without their leading Dubai try-scorer Ollie Lindsay-Hague (Harlequins), who was injured on the first day.


His replacement, former Northampton Saints scrum half John Brake, scored important tries against Samoa, South Africa and group stage opponents Kenya.


Ryan added: “It’s a shame Ollie took a knock but to lose only one guy in the two weeks is a credit to our medical staff and our conditioning. We’re a pretty fit and robust bunch and the boys are in good shape to build on this for the rest of the series.


“John Brake had a really good day today and the way he stepped up shows the strength of the whole squad. We’ve got 12 players, all of whom are good enough to start. It’s been a real squad effort.”


Earlier in the day England had beaten South Africa in the quarter finals with two Brake tries, one by Isoa Damudamu and two Gollings conversions securing their place in the semis.


England trailed early on against Samoa – their opponents in the Dubai final – after Fautua Otto’s early try and conversion.


A Dan Caprice try got them on the board, Damudamu struck early in the second half and Gollings added a conversion and a drop-goal penalty to make sure the islanders were held at arm’s length. Brake’s converted try put them out of sight.


On the opening day of the tournament, England had beaten Kenya 21-5 and Russia 19-5 before a 20-7 defeat against New Zealand saw them finish second in Pool C.

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