England Sevens will face hosts New Zealand in the Cup quarter-final at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Hamilton after finishing second in Pool B on day one.
In the week after the Sydney leg of the series England opened up by running in seven tries in a 47-0 win over Russia.
They were in impressive form again with a 27-0 victory over Papua New Guinea but went down 7-28 in the pool decider against series leaders South Africa.
Both England and South Africa won their opening two pool games in clinical fashion and the final match in Pool B would decide who would top the group.
England, who sat in first position going into the match with the better points difference, had the better of the early exchanges in attack, but two quick fire tries from Seabelo Senatla and one from Tim Agaba put the Blitzboks 21-0 up after seven minutes.
A chip and gather over the top got South Africa’s fourth as the game looked over, but despite a yellow card for Ryan Olowofela, England scored the final try of the game in a 7-28 defeat.
Head of England Sevens Simon Amor had challenged England to improve their attacking game following their joint-seventh place finish in Sydney last weekend, and his team responded right from the off.
Ruaridh McConnochie got England’s day off and running as he crossed for the first of two tries against Russia inside the first minute.
This quick fire starting continued against Papua New Guinea as Tom Bowen raced away to dot down within the first 60 seconds, in the first of what turned into a hat-trick against the Pacific Islanders.
A word too for 19-year-old Ryan Olowofela who scored his first two tries on the World Series as he crossed twice in the win over Russia.
Simon Amor said: “We had two very good first games but we were then outplayed by a very strong South African team in our last game who were far more clinical both in their defence and attack and the speed that they play that.
“We started the game well against South Africa but we just couldn’t quite break through. A big one for us to learn from but I’m pleased with the fight to keep on going until the very end to score that last try but it’s set us up with a lot to work on for tomorrow.”
Ahead of England’s Cup quarter-final against New Zealand at 11.58pm GMT on Saturday 3 February, Amor added: “The game is about momentum and on day two it’s about being in the Cup competition and that’s the level we’ve got to on every leg so far this season.
“We want to push on – we were disappointed only to make it to the quarter-final in the last two legs so we’re going to give it our best shot right the way through to the end of this tournament.”
England Sevens squad for HSBC New Zealand Sevens:
Richard de Carpentier
Mike Ellery (Saracens)
Tom Mitchell ©
13th man: Will Edwards
England’s Hamilton Sevens fixtures:
Pool B – England 47-0 Russia
Tries: Ruaridh McConnochie (2), Ethan Waddleton, Dan Norton, Ryan Olowofela (2), Tom Bowen
Pool B – England 27-0 Papua New Guinea
Tries: Tom Bowen (3), Phil Burgess, Dan Norton
Pool B – England 7-28 South Africa
Tries: Dan Norton
Quarter-final – England v New Zealand
11.58pm GMT on Saturday 3 February, live on Sky Sports Arena