England finished fourth in the Tokyo Sevens after their 24-17 play-off defeat against HSBC Sevens World Series leaders New Zealand.
They had opened they day with an outstanding 21-17 win over South Africa only to go down 33-12 in the semi finals against eventual Tokyo champions Australia, who went on beat Samoa 28-26 in the final.
The result leaves England fourth in the overall series standings with 104 points, behind New Zealand (128), Fiji (122) and South Africa (105) in the rankings. The series now moves to Glasgow (May 5-6) before its finale at the Marriott London Sevens (May 12-13)..
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England led New Zealand 17-0 at one stage – with tries from Tom Mitchell, Greg Barden and Dan Norton, who touched down his 33rd of the season – but head coach Ben Ryan reflected on a positive weekend that saw England come out in credit against the leading teams.
“There are tons of positives in as much as we played the top three teams in the world, beat two of them and were 17-0 up against the number one team and should have shut them down,” said Ryan.
“We started really poorly against Australia and paid the price for three minutes when we didn’t touch the ball.
“Our last minute win against South Africa and a clinical win against Fiji last night mean there’s much we can be positive about but we’ve got high standards.
“We’re not a good enough side to stare down at others and dominate every game but we’ve dominated large periods and we’ve got to make that count. We’ve just got to keep plugging away, working hard. Our time will come.”
After beating Japan, France and Fiji on day one, England pulled off a dramatic 21-17 victory against South Africa in the Tokyo quarter final.
Time was up and they trailed 17-14 – Kyle Brown, Stephan Dippenaar and William Small-Smith touching down for the Blitzbokke – but somehow fashioned an opening to put Turner away from 70 metres to add to tries from Tom Powell and Norton. Mitchell converted all three.
England couldn’t get their hands on the ball at all against Australia and were 21-0 down to strikes from Allan Fa’alava’au, Shannon Walker and Sean McMahon in the space of five minutes.
Norton replied after Chris Brightwell and Mitchell broke up the middle, Mitchell converting, but tries early in the second half from Ed Jenkins and Damon Anderson settled it, although Rodwell got over in the final minute for England's second try.
Ryan made changes for the play-off – newcomer Sam Edgerley, skipper Barden, Christian Lewis-Pratt and Rodwell all starting their first games of the weekend.
Mitchell scorched past the cover to gather Lewis-Pratt’s kick for the first try, Norton carved his way up the middle for the second and when Barden ploughed over from close range England were in charge.
Tim Mikkelson pulled one back before the interval, though, and England were on the wrong end of some penalties at the breakdown with two tries from Mark Jackman and one from Waisake Naholo seeing the champions home.
For Rob Vickerman, who led England on the field in five of the weekend’s six games, the focus is now on finishing the series on a high in Glasgow and London
He said: “The guys really stood up to the pressures and we rode a lot of the momentum from yesterday but it’s about those clinical moments and that’s how sport it is - it can be a brutal game.
“That was the opportunity to overtake South Africa [in the series] and that was disappointing but we’re coming into the home nations tournaments now and we want to make sure there’s lots of people behind us and that we make everyone proud.”