Team England Men Sevens won the bronze medal match at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games after beating South Africa 21-14.
The experienced squad trailed 14-0 at half-time but an outstanding second half comeback helped them to secure bronze – their first Commonwealth Games medal since winning silver in 2006.
Branco du Preez’s opened the scoring for South Africa before Ruhan Nel’s well-worked line doubled their lead.
In a stop-start game, England struggled for fluency in attack and despite four extra minutes in the first half the Blitzboks led 14-0 at half-time.
Straight from the restart Simon Amor’s side were back in the game when Phil Burgess latched onto Mike Ellery’s knock down to run in.
Burgess’ second came as he benefitted from a loose South African lineout and stretched out to level the game at 14-14 with two minutes left.
Captain Tom Mitchell, who also slotted all three conversions, then spotted some space around the outside and he showed his pace to score in the corner for the game-clinching score.
“These games are always going to be tight – especially in the medal matches so our mental skills, our resilience that we’ve cultivated as a squad to stick in those games is what’s special, and that’s credit to the whole group and the work that we’ve done,” said Tom Mitchell.
“It’s difficult to explain just how hard it’s been today, the conditions are really tough out here, it’s incredibly hot and incredibly fatiguing and we’ve had tough games so we had to stick at it, trust each other and keep going.
“We’ve come out on the wrong side of a lot of results this season, so to get on the right side of one of those close ones against an amazing South African side was very special.”
In the semi-final Dan Bibby’s excellent line within the opening exchanges got England ahead following some consistent pressure on New Zealand’s line.
The men in black responded though as Regan Ware went over, before Etene Nanai-Seturo’s score gave them a narrow 12-7 lead at the break.
In the Australian heat, both teams were throwing the ball around as the game opened up but it was Ware’s second score that widened the gap for New Zealand.
Alex Davis went over for England to bring the game to within five points in the final minute, but New Zealand held out to progress to the final.
In the pool stages England started the games in impressive fashion and scored inside the opening two minutes against Jamaica as captain Tom Mitchell and Dan Bibby combined for Mitchell to go over.
Two from Dan Norton, Mitchell’s second as well as tries from Harry Glover and Ollie Lindsay-Hague saw a 38-5 opening win.
Skipper Mitchell was again among the try scorers with two from Dan Bibby, and Glover and Lindsay-Hague again also crossing in a comfortable 33-0 victory over Samoa.
In front of a pumped up crowd on the Gold Coast for the pool decider, Norton’s clever footwork got England’s first score, before two from Alex Davis and Ruaridh McConnochie’s try gave England the victory as they topped the group following their final pool game against Australia.
Team England Sevens squad for 2018 Commonwealth Games:
Richard de Carpentier
Tom Mitchell ©
Team England Men Sevens Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games results:
Bronze medal match: England 21-14 South Africa
Tries: Phil Burgess (2), Tom Mitchell
Semi-final: England 12-17 New Zealand
Tries: Dan Bibby, Alex Davis
Pool B: England 38-5 Jamaica
Tries: Tom Mitchell (2), Dan Norton (2), Harry Glover, Ollie Lindsay-Hague
Pool B: England 33-0 Samoa
Tries: Dan Bibby (2), Tom Mitchell, Harry Glover, Ollie Lindsay-Hague
Pool B: England 26-17 Australia
Tries: Dan Norton, Alex Davis (2), Ruaridh McConnochie