England were left frustrated after being edged out by New Zealand and Samoa in their second day games at the Gold Coast Sevens.
They gave series champions New Zealand their toughest test of the day in the Cup quarter final – with tries from Chris Cracknell and Isoa Damudamu – before going down 24-14. Then they dominated long spells of their Plate semi-final against Samoa, Mathew Turner scoring twice, before Paul Perez and Taulagi Afamasaga snatched an unlikely win for the Islanders.
Ben Ryan’s side picked up 10 points from their weekend’s work in the opening round of the HSBC Sevens World Series. But captain Greg Barden believes there is much more to come – and England have the next two legs in Dubai (December 2-3) and Port Elizabeth (December 9-10) to put things right.
“The margins in this game are so small and a few things did go against us today but you create your own luck and we’ve just got to keep taking small steps forward, which we certainly are doing,” said Barden. “It is hard. We hate losing, we’re here to win and we’re bitterly disappointed. But we’ve got a chance to put it right straight away next week and that’s our aim now.
“We’re going to Dubai which is one of our favourite competitions. There’s huge support there for England and we’re going to get on the plane tomorrow, refocus and evaluate what we’re doing, the things we didn’t get right and also the things we did get right. There were a lot of them and these are early days in the season.”
England pressurised series champions New Zealand for long spells in the quarter final at Skilled Park, Cracknell smashing his way over after a series of direct attacks before Damudamu scored early in the second half with Marcus Watson’s conversions levelling the score at 14-14.
Frank Halai’s breakaway try put New Zealand’s 19-14 up and Lote Raikabula finished things off with the last play of the game.
England led 7-5 at the break against Samoa, then Perez and Afamasaga left them trailing 17-7. Turner grabbed his fifth try of the weekend to finish as England’s leading scorer but they couldn’t get over in the closing moments when well placed.