Tokyo Sevens: England stun Blitzbokke to win cup final
Simon Amor's men run out 21-14 winners against world series leaders South Africa to boost Team GB's Rio 2016 qualification chances
England moved into the top four of the HSBC Sevens World Series with a gritty 21-14 win over South Africa to win the Tokyo Sevens.
Tries from Charlie Hayter, Tom Mitchell and Phil Burgess were enough to hand England their first title since February 2013 when they defeated Kenya at the Wellington Sevens – a first for head coach Simon Amor and captain Tom Mitchell.
With automatic qualification for the inaugural Rugby Sevens event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on the line with two rounds remaining, England’s surprise win takes them to 100 points, nine ahead of Australia who endured a tough weekend after falling to shock defeats to Scotland and Portugal on day one.
Should Amor’s side hold off the Aussies in the last two rounds in Glasgow and London next month, they will secure a place for Team GB at Rio 2016.
“The way the guys fought for that win was brilliant,” Amor said.
“It’s fantastic for us, and a great climax for us to go back to the UK now.
“I am so proud for the players; they’ve worked so hard for this.”
Defending Tokyo champions Fiji could only finish third after they lost a tense semi-final 7-5 to South Africa, with Cecil Afrika’s conversion of Kwagga Smith’s try making the difference after Vatemo Ravouvou failed to convert Jasa Veremalua’s score.
And Ben Ryan’s men had to produce a stunning comeback in the last two minutes of the play-off to earn a 21-19 win over Canada, who reached the cup semi-finals with a first-ever win over New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
On a weekend that produced several shock results, Liam Middleton’s Canada side defeated the defending world series champions 19-14 to dent the All Blacks’ hopes of retaining their title before going down 14-5 to England in their semi-final.
But despite taking a 19-7 lead over the Pacific Islanders in the play-off with two second-half tries from evergreen captain John Moonlight, they couldn’t hold on as Fiji clawed their way to victory with late tries from Osea Kolinisau and Jerry Tuwai, both converted by Amenoni Nasilasila.
Ravaged by injuries, the All Blacks bounced back from their quarter-final defeat to reach the plate final with a 19-12 win over France through a double from Sherwin Stowers and a third try from Beaudine Waaka.
Scotland also bounced back from a 22-0 defeat to South Africa in the cup quarter-finals to reach the final with a 14-5 win over Japan with tries from Colin Gregor and James Fleming, but couldn’t pull off another famous win in the final against the world champions.
Stowers grabbed a first-half brace in the final against Scotland, but Callum MacRae’s men, who had lost 38-0 to New Zealand in the pool stages on Saturday, hit back through Lee Jones and Colin Gregor, with the latter overtaking sevens legend Waisale Serevi in the all-time leading points table.
The Scots looked on course to take the game into extra time, but were denied the chance of a famous win as Dylan Collier scored the winning try in referee’s time at the end to give Sir Gordon Tietjens’ men some consolation silverware.
Australia’s miserable weekend ended with a 17-12 sudden-death extra-time defeat to the USA in the bowl final, as speedster Perry Baker scored the decisive try in the corner.
Geraint John’s men, who lost to Portugal and Scotland in the pool stages on day one in Tokyo, led the Eagles 12-5 at the interval with tries from Pama Fou and Ed Jenkins either side of a score from Carlin Isles, but a breakaway try from Danny Barrett after the restart, converted by England-born Madison Hughes, brought the scores level to eventually send the game into extra-time.
“I can’t ask anymore of this team,” Hughes said.
“They battled and fought right to end, and eventually we outlasted the Aussies.
“From one to 12 we showed great heart. I am so proud to be part of this team.”
Earlier, Australia needed a last-gasp try from Cameron Clark to secure a 17-12 win over Wales to reach, while Mike Friday’s Eagles cruised to a 22-5 win over Samoa, with speedster Carlin Isles grabbing a brace on a stellar weekend for the self-styled “fastest man in world rugby”.
Portugal, who are in a battle with Japan to retain their status as a core nation for 2015/16, lifted the shield with a second-half comeback to defeat Argentina 12-7.
German Schulz had given Los Pumas a 7-0 lead, but Pedro Leal went over and failed to convert his score a minute after the restart, before a late solo effort from Jose Vareta, converted by Leal gave the Portuguese a much-needed three points in the world series standings.
A Segundo Tuculet hat-trick was enough for a 17-12 win as Argentina overcame Kenya to reach the shield final, while Portugal produced a gritty effort to defeat Hong Kong 19-17.
Emirates Airline Glasgow 7s Draw:
POOL A: England, France, Australia, Russia
POOL B: South Africa, New Zealand, Samoa, Kenya
POOL C: Fiji, Scotland, Wales, Portugal
POOL D: Canada, Japan, USA, Argentina
Matches to be played on Saturday 9 May with finals day on Sunday 10 May. For more information and tickets, visit the Scottish Rugby website.