- Try in each half from John Brake in England opening win in Moscow
- Crucial interventions from replacement Tom Mitchell secure victory
Photo: Getty Images
John Brake scored a try in each half as England Sevens opened their Rugby World Cup Sevens campaign with a 21-7 victory over Portugal at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Head Coach Ben Ryan knows his side can play better – England had conceded six penalties by the tenth minute – but will be delighted to kick off the tournament with a win against a team who have beaten them twice on the HSBC Sevens World Series circuit this season.
The ace in Ryan’s pack is Dan Norton and the 52-try man showed his potency with his first touch, scorching past four defenders only to slip as he tried to evade the last man. And with the 25 year old’s next touch, England took the lead.
Another of England penetrative outside backs, Marcus Watson, beat three players and when the ball was recycled, Norton skipped past an isolated defender and passed to the supporting Brake, who trotted in under the posts.
Fly half Christian Lewis-Pratt added the extras but as England’s error count rose, Portugal hit back. Giant Miguel Lucas, only 18, took a quick-tap 10 metres out and powered over the line, giving Pedro Leal the chance to tie the scores at 7-7 as half time approached.
Ryan called for his side to retain the ball better in the second half and invigorated by energy off the bench, Brake added his second soon after the break. A neat interchange between Norton and replacement James Rodwell gave Brake, always a willing support runner, the simple task of scooting in under the posts.
Then two crucial interventions from another replacement, Tom Mitchell, secured the victory for England. The former GB Students fly half was strong over the ball to win a turnover as Portugal looked threatening in attack and after Lewis-Pratt pumped the resulting penalty into touch, the 23 year old scored the game’s final try.
Looping round on a planned line out move he passed to fellow replacement Mat Turner and when the South Africa-born back isolated two defenders with a sharp line, Mitchell was there to collect his offload and score.
Lewis-Pratt kicked his third successive conversion and England ran the clock down to complete the win.
Head Coach Ryan said: “It’s great to get day one out of the way with a win under our belt. Match days with just one game are long hard days when you know you have just got to empty the tank.
“Portugal played well and they were tough in the breakdown. We have certainly got room for improvement and I think if we had done two or three things better today then we would have won by a bigger margin.
“Hong Kong are next up for us and we’ll be focusing all our energies now on that game. It is tough in these humid conditions and the pitch was cutting up a little too, but actually the boys came off the pitch feeling fresh and raring to go again.”
England now play Hong Kong (8:34 BST) and Argentina (14:48 BST) tomorrow, after Los Pumas opened their campaign with a typically abrasive 47-7 victory.