South Africa 10
In a semi final that was more like a test match, England did everything they could to avenge last week's semi final loss to South Africa in George today, but the victory was once again awarded to the home nation. Mike Friday's young England Sevens squad - down to just nine players by the start of the match - gave their best performance of the past two weeks, but it still wasn't enough to beat the experienced Springboks side.
Friday said after the match, "I am incredibly proud of all 12 players in this squad. I couldn't have asked for anything else from them. I have never seen such pride and passion from such a young squad and I am desperately sorry for them that they didn't get the win."
The atmosphere at the stadium was electric with every England decision and move booed, making it one of the most hostile environments that many of the players will have experienced. NEC Harlequins winger Charlie Amesbury silenced the crowd in the opening minutes with a fantastic run, but was tackled just yards from the try line. Michael Hills (Sale Sharks) was more successful thanks to a real show of team work by England. Ben Gollings successfully converted to take England into the lead.
A great tackle by England captain Simon Amor (London Wasps) stopped the South Africans from scoring for a second time before the break.
In the second half, a chip and run by Gollings failed to extend England's lead and Burger managed to cross the line, breaking through the strong England defence. It was a feisty match from start to finish, and more like a final than a semi final, and the referee finally awarded a yellow card to Mpho Mbiyozo for a late, violent tackle on Amesbury.
But by then time had run out and England had to settle for their second semi final defeat to South Africa in seven days.
Captain Amor said, "It was a huge goal for us to beat the South Africans today, especially after last week. To lose by such a narrow margin is really hard to swallow, and it will be a valuable lesson for the youngsters. We tackled our hearts out today but just didn't quite make it."
Friday added, "I thought we had done enough to win the game, but unfortunately a few decisions didn't go our way. Full credit to our boys who played with blood and guts and hopefully everyone watching back in England is proud of the effort they put in. They honestly couldn't have played any harder or with any more passion. This tournament bodes well for England Rugby. These talented youngsters have now got two international tournaments under their belts and have come on a massive journey. They grew as men on the pitch today. It has been a pleasure to work with them all this past two weeks and I am confident they will all benefit massively from this tough environment and experience."
Referee: James Jones (WAL)
Michael Hills (Sale Sharks), Andy Vilk (Sale Sharks), Simon Amor (London Wasps, Captain), Danny Gray (Bristol), James Haskell (London Wasps), Charlie Amesbury (NEC Harlequins), Ben Gollings
Replacements (none used): Dominic Shabbo (London Irish), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Marcel Garvey (Worcester), David Doherty (London Wasps), Rob Thirlby (Gloucester).
For more information and player interviews please contact Sally Price, England Sevens Media Manager on 07801 802 711.
Earlier in George...
Saturday 9th December 2006
Forwards power England through to semi finals in George
Yesterday was the day for the speedsters to shine for England, but today it was the forwards who helped England in their quest to win the Emirates Airline South Africa Sevens.
England once again took control of the game, and there were fine displays from all three forwards - James Haskell (London Wasps), Michael Hills and Andy Vilk (both Sale Sharks). England's squad are being truly stretched due to a number of knocks to players, who are waiting to be assessed, and unable to play. But the remaining players certainly stepped up to the plate against the very physical Samoan team.
The heavy conditions of yesterday were worsened by more rain, and the pitch was extremely slippery. Haskell's first attempt to score, following an impressive break, was denied due to the slippery surface. It was left to Hills to get England onto the score sheet first.
Charlie Amesbury (NEC Harlequins) played well in what is only his second day of international sevens, and picked up a Samoan ball to prevent them from scoring just metres from their try line. Haskell deservedly scored his first try of the tournament before half time, ensuring England led 12 0 at the break.
Rain gave way to sunshine in the second half and England took even more control of the game. Former England Under 21 Haskell demonstrated his strength and power to cross the line for the second time, despite several Samoan defenders hanging from him at the time.
England's final try came from replacement Dominic Shabbo who showed his speed to score under the posts.
England Sevens Coach Mike Friday was pleased with his squad's performance, especially the forwards. He said, "The big boys up front played very well and are really working hard for each other. Hills is getting to almost every ball and working incredibly hard, whilst Haskell put in a great performance, and even got clapped by the South African crowd when he came off the pitch. Andy Vilk has been with the squad for a couple of years now and always puts in the effort and works hard on and off the pitch."
Phil Greening, Assistant Coach said, "The lads showed great character to pull together and dig in. They are really demonstrating mental toughness and that will hopefully be the same against the favourites South Africa."
England face South Africa in the semi final at 17.03 local (15.03 GMT).
Tries: Hills, Haskell (2), Shabbo
Conversions: Gollings ((2)
Referee: James Jones (WAL)
Michael Hills (Sale Sharks), Andy Vilk (Sale Sharks), Simon Amor (London Wasps, Captain), Rob Thirlby (Gloucester), Danny Gray (Bristol), James Haskell (London Wasps), Charlie Amesbury (NEC Harlequins)
Replacements: Dominic Shabbo (London Irish), Ben Gollings, Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Not used: Marcel Garvey (Worcester), David Doherty (London Wasps).
Keneti Tofilau, Marlon Sione, Lia Palala, Faitio Sione, Lolo Lui, George Akerei, Mikaele Pesamino
Replacements from: Simaika Mikaele, Lisati Fa'anoi, Fatua Otto, Alatasi Tupou, Fanuafou Tofi