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England edged into fourth place at South Africa Sevens

10 December 2011

  • England fourth in HSBC Sevens World Series standings after first three legs  
  • Impressive win over Fiji but edged out by both New Zealand and Samoa 
Dan Norton scored a long-range cracker against Fiji

Photo: Getty Images

England were edged into fourth place at the South Africa Sevens after being beaten 17-14 by Samoa in the play-off game in Port Elizabeth.

James Rodwell’s two tries had put England in charge only for them to be overhauled by second half scores from Uale Mai and Alatasi Tupou.

Dubai champions England added 15 points to their account in the HSBC Sevens World Series standings and after three of nine tournaments are well-placed just four points behind joint leaders New Zealand and Fiji.

Earlier in the day England produced one of their best performances of the season to dispose of Gold Coast champions Fiji 21-14 at the quarter final stage.

But Tim Mikkelson’s last minute try for New Zealand edged them out of the semi final 19-14 and into the third-place play-off.

England had worked hard to qualify for the quarter finals on the opening day, beating the USA 26-7 and Argentina 19-0 either side of a 24-14 setback against Samoa in Pool A.

They then began Day Two by overwhelming the Fijians, pressing them into errors and pinning them deep in their own half.

Isoa Damudamu and Mat Turner put Rodwell in from close range early on before Osea Kolinisau levelled. England struck back immediately, though, with Dan Norton attacking from deep and beating defenders on an 80m burst for the line.

A patient build-up involving Chris Cracknell and Rodwell gave Turner the time to find his way to the line immediately after the break and put them 14 points clear before Aminiasi Nava Kuruinovo’s consolation effort.

England trailed New Zealand 14-0 at one point in the semi final – to tries from Solomon King and Joe Webber – before launching a superb comeback.

Rodwell and Turner fashioned the opening for Cracknell to smash his way over in the right-hand corner with Saracens’ Marcus Watson converting immediately before the interval.

And they were on a roll in the second half, forcing New Zealand into conceding penalties before Cracknell, Isoa Damudamu attacked down the right with Dan Norton’s offload putting Rodwell over.

Watson converted to tie up the scores but Tomasi Cama’s cross-kick put Mikkelson away in the last minute and England couldn’t get out of their own territory from the final play.

In the play-off they twice created opportunities for Rodwell to gallop in down the right, Damudamu and Tom Powell providing the assists and Christian Lewis-Pratt adding the conversions.

Mai and Tupou recaptured the lead before Mai was sin-binned for striking but England couldn’t fashion an opening when they were a man up in the frantic final play.