England will face Tonga in the quarter finals of the Hertz Sevens in Wellington after cruising through today’s pool stages.
They beat the USA 29-0 and the Cook Islands 27-12 before resting players in the final game and suffering a 14-10 reverse against South Africa.
The played three, won two record means the Blitzbokke will face HSBC Sevens World Series leaders Fiji while England take on the Tongans at 03:55GMT tomorrow. The winners are likely to meet hosts New Zealand in the semi finals.
Former Gloucester wing Dan Norton took his try tally to 16 for the season with four more scores in his two outings and is third in the overall table behind teammate Mat Turner (17) and New Zealand’s Frank Halai (20). And head coach Ben Ryan’s decision to rest his leading players for the final game means England will be fresh going into tomorrow’s knock-out stages.
“We played okay against the Cook Islands and really well against the USA which put us in the quarter finals knowing that if we lost we’d play Tonga and that if we won we’d play Fiji with a lot of guys rested,” said Ryan. “We just lost to South Africa but it was the right decision to make although Tonga will be tough and we’ll have to play well to beat them.”
England were slick and direct in their opening two outings to make sure they avoided any slip-ups in their bid to close a four-point gap on series leaders Fiji and New Zealand. Two Norton tries, one apiece from Turner and Greg Barden, and a try with his first touch for new cap Tom Mitchell earned them a 27-12 win over the Cooks, with Arthur Mui and Sean Fletcher replying late on.
Then they shut out the USA 29-0 with two more Norton efforts, Turner’s 17th of the season and further tries from Mitchell and Christian Lewis-Pratt, who added two conversions.
Oxford University student Mitchell’s third try of the day gave England an early lead against South Africa but Mark Richards and Branco du Preez got the Blitzbokke in front before captain Barden’s late reply.
Hertz Sevens, quarter finals: New Zealand v France, England v Tonga, Canada v Samoa, South Africa v Fiji.