England Sevens finished fifth at HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Vancouver after beating Australia in the fifth place final.
After finishing top of their pool on the opening day, England faced Kenya under the roof at BC Palace but were trailing at the break. They could not make a breakthrough in the second-half as they lost 0-12 and exited the cup quarter-final.
Three converted tries was enough to beat New Zealand as England went ahead through 19-year-old Ryan Olowofela and never let go of the lead in a 21-17 win.
The day ended with success for England as they beat Australia 31-14 to secure fifth place in Canada.
After a frantic start to the game, England made the breakthrough when the ball fell to captain Tom Mitchell and he raced away for an easy score.
Some fine defensive work by Dan Norton then saw England work it upfield where Dan Bibby crossed, before Jesse Parahi got Australia up and running just before half-time.
Harry Glover’s direct running restored the two-score advantage with his first try of the weekend, before Mitchell’s weighted grubber allowed Dan Norton to gather and dot down.
James Rodwell’s neat offload saw Charlie Hayter race down the wing for England’s fifth, before John Porch crossed for a consolation Australian try with the last play.
“It was great to get a win against New Zealand and convert one of those one score games which we just haven’t been able to do over the past four tournaments,” said head of England Sevens Simon Amor.
“This now gives us great confidence going into the Commonwealth Games having beaten two outstanding teams like New Zealand and Australia.
“This tournament has highlighted that if we’re not on our game and we get some of the detail in our contact area wrong then we’re going to lose matches, and that’s what happened against Kenya and Samoa. Those are massive areas that we need to keep on working on to improve.”
A number of players came into the starting seven for the fifth place semi-final, including Ryan Olowofela who got the opening score, as he was able to stroll in under the posts following Ollie Lindsay-Hague’s step and break through the line.
Scott Curry’s try got New Zealand on the board despite some superb defensive cover work by Will Edwards, in for the injured Ethan Waddleton.
Edwards then showed his skills in attack as with time dead in the first half, he jinked off his right foot to run in from just over the halfway line for a 14-5 lead.
New Zealand captain Curry got his side’s second, but England responded immediately as Ruaridh McConnochie rounded off a slick move from deep inside their own half.
Joe Ravouvou’s try with 90 seconds remaining meant it sat 21-17 in the closing stages, however England held on to end a seven-game losing streak against the men in black.
Amor added: “It’s really important not only for this season but also going forward to have people like Ryan Olowofela, Harry Glover and Will Edwards who were outstanding against New Zealand. They’re exciting, young and talented players who are performing at the highest level of sevens to crowds of 40,000 people.”
Against Kenya it was an even contest throughout the opening seven minutes with neither side seriously testing the try line, until Oscar Ouma latched onto the ball in space and broke England’s defensive line for a 0-7 half-time lead.
After initially letting Kenya break the line, Phil Burgess produced a stunning try saving tackle to deny the Africans a second score but shortly after Billy Odhiambo was able to dot down.
England pressed late on but struggled the wear down a well-marshalled defence which resulted in a 0-14 victory for Kenya.
England Sevens captain Tom Mitchell commented: “It’s always great to play Australia and hopefully that was entertaining for this awesome crowd here at BC Place. The crowd here under the roof is unbelievable so it’s a pleasure every time we get the chance to come out and play for England in front of these guys.
“It was important that we backed up our loss in the quarter-final against Kenya with a couple of good results and we’ve done that against two very strong sides – first against New Zealand and now against Australia. The heart that the boys have shown is something that I’m incredibly proud of and it’s an amazing group to be a part of.”
England Sevens squad for Vancouver:
Richard de Carpentier
Charlie Hayter Ollie
Tom Mitchell ©
13th man: Will Edwards
Pool B – England 36-5 Wales
Tries: Dan Norton (3), Ollie Lindsay-Hague (2), James Rodwell
Pool B – England 5-21 Samoa
Tries: Phil Burgess
Pool B – England 7-21 Argentina
Tries: Phil Burgess, Ruaridh McConnochie (2)
Cup quarter final – England 0-14 Kenya
Fifth place semi-final – England 21-17 New Zealand
Tries: Ryan Olowofela, Will Edwards, Ruaridh McConnochie
Fifth place final – England 31-14 Australia
Tries: Tom Mitchell, Dan Bibby, Harry Glover, Dan Norton, Charlie Hayter