- Improving England finish on high against South Africa at Gold Coast Sevens
- Four tries on day two from Mike Ellery to start HSBC Sevens World Series
Photo: Getty Images
England finished third at the Gold Coast Sevens after a record 47-0 play-off win against South Africa.
They impressed from the start of the tournament’s second day in beating Fiji 26-12 before being edged out in the semi final 14-5 by eventual champions New Zealand.
Then they finished on a high against a tired South Africa team by running in seven tries with two apiece from forwards Phil Burgess and James Rodwell, a brace from fly half Dan Bibby and a fourth of the day from Mike Ellery.
It represented a healthy start to the nine-event HSBC Sevens World Series for England after only a fortnight’s work with new Head Coach Simon Amor.
Amor said: "Playing on the second day there was a real step up and it’s important to see we’re making steps forward. We took a step back on day one so to improve and finish third was a good reward for all the effort the boys put in."
England had reached the knock-out stages with day one wins over Spain (54-7) and France (26-12) before going down against South Africa 22-14 in the final pool match.
Amor had asked for big defensive improvements on day two and got it as the next three opponents were all pressed into errors.
Fiji, with former England coach Ben Ryan in charge this season, scored first through Samisoni Viriviri in the quarter final but lost Ilai Tinai to the sin bin with Mat Turner and Ellery taking advantage to secure a 14-5 half-time lead.
Ellery struck again midway through the half, then England added a fourth try in quick succession through substitute Rob Vickerman to put them out of sight before Vuniani Vucago Bainitabua’s late consolation.
That shift of defensive focus was clear against New Zealand, who were pushed back in the first half before a penalty award set up Ellery to twist over.
The World Champions were down to six men when Tim Mikkelson was sin binned for tackling Dan Norton off the ball but Scott Curry gave them a 7-5 lead on the stroke of half time.
Photo: Getty Images
And despite having chances – notably when Dan Norton couldn’t hold John Brake’s long inside pass on the counter – Mikkelson grabbed the decisive try with just over a minute to go.
South Africa were undoubtedly up against it following an epic semi final defeat against Australia that went deep into extra time.
And England didn’t give them any respite from the off with Amor shifting former Moseley No.8 Ellery into midfield to add extra physicality.
Rodwell got over on the left, former Cornish Pirates man Burgess went through the middle for a first England Sevens try and Bibby’s alertness saw him evade tacklers for a 21-0 half-time lead.
After the break Tom Mitchell’s thumping tackle freed the ball for Rodwell to get over for his second, then Bibby’s outside break carried him away for another try and Burgess struck again after a powerful carry from Chris Cracknell took out defenders.
Fittingly Ellery finished things off wide on the right from Dan Norton’s assist as England banked 17 valuable points ahead of legs two and three in Dubai and Port Elizabeth at the end of the year.