England won gold and their second tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series after beating South Africa 19-7 in a convincing performance in Vancouver.
Simon Amor's side beat the Blitzboks for the second time in six tournaments and are the only side on the series to topple Neil Powell's outfit in the 2016-17 series. The victory puts them into second overall in the series table on 103 points, 23 behind South Africa who remain top of the pile with four tournament wins out of six. Back-to-back series champions Fiji drop to third in the standings (100 points) after a close 28-24 win over USA in the Bronze final.
Speedster Dan Norton was one of the stand-out players of the tournament, winning the DHL Impact Player award, HSBC Player of the Final and also went level with Collins Injera for all-time tries on the world series, having notched up 244 in total during his illustrious career.
"We fought hard over the week and it wasn't the prettiest at times but we knew if we scrapped for everything over the two days we could be in with a chance," he said.
"Sevens can be unforgiving. We've played well at times this season and haven't come away with wins so it's nice to get reward for our efforts. We've still got a way to go on the series so we will cherish this moment but know we have to keep pushing for Hong Kong."
England had met South Africa on day one in the pool stages, finishing up all square on 12-12, but the final was a different spectacle. Siviwe Soyizwapi kicked off proceedings for the Blitzboks, scoring his fourth try of the weekend with less than a minute on the clock. Richard de Carpentier got England right back in it though with South Africa exposed on the edge, the big forward taking on the more nimble Rosko Specman to make things level at half-time, 7-7.
England playmaker Dan Bibby, who had been on song all weekend at BC Place, finished a great individual chip and chase to put England ahead, with the conversion from Mitchell making it 14-7. Norton himself finished in the left corner to make it 19-7 and take his individual tally in Vancouver to seven tries.
RSA 14-10 USA
Mike Friday's USA side started the match with a thundering run from Martin Iosefo, who barrelled over to give the North Americans first advantage. A missed conversion from Madison Hughes allowed South Africa a chance at taking the lead going into the break, which captain Philip Snyman accepted when he went over from close range. Cecil Afrika’s conversion made it 7-5 at half-time.
Andrew Durutalo made the most of an overlap on the right and has the pace to get the better of the Snyman to slam it down and make it 7-10, following the missed conversion from Hughes. However, the menacing Specman had something left in the tank after his blistering performances over the weekend, and went through the gears to tear away from Durutalo with a nice stutter-step. Afrika’s conversion added the extras.
ENGLAND 40-7 FIJI
Fiji started with typical Pacific island flair and when Vatemo Ravouvou broke down the right side it looked like they would begin their charge towards the Cup final, but Norton managed to get hold of the ball and sprint from his own half to get the first try for England. It was Norton who was instrumental in England's second score also as he set up Phil Burgess on a switch pass to go under the posts, and then England's highest ever try scorer went in for his second of the match, making it England 19-0 Fiji at half-time.
Bibby picked the ball up in midfield early on in the second half and went over for England's fourth try, before chipping over for Tom Mitchell to score. With under three minutes left England were up 33-0, a huge margin against a team such as Fiji but there was more to come. Will Edwards added another for England before Fiji finally retorted with a score from Osea Kolinisau. A huge 40-7 defeat for Fiji as England marched on into the final.
South Africa 36-7 Canada
With two pool wins on day one Damian McGrath's Canada went into their Cup quarter-final with confidence, but facing a Blitzboks side in imperious form it was always going to be a tough ask.
Within 40 seconds Specman had turned on the afterburners to put the Blitzboks ahead. A long floated pass from Afrika to Soyizwapi extended the lead to 12-0 with just over two minutes gone. A precise set move from Canada opened up the South Africa defence to let Justin Douglas in for a try, making it 12-7 with under a minute to go thanks to the accurate kicking of Nate Hirayama. However the Blitzboks weren't done as Chris Dry added another score making it 17-7 at half-time.
Four minutes left on the clock, the Blitzboks broke down the left win through Branco du Preez, who offloaded to Afrika for the next try of the match and the momentum began to swing heavily in South Africa's favour. A second try from Soyizwapi and a final score for Sandile Ngcobo made the final score 36-7.
USA 14-12 Argentina
An easy run-in try for Bautista Delguy gave Argentina a perfect start in their Cup quarter-final match. A set move from a USA scrum on the Argentina 10 metre line gave Iosefo a chance to break through the gap and set up Perry Baker, who went in under the posts to make it 7-7 with two minutes left in the first half. Matias Osadczuk finished broke through the USA defence late on in the half to make it 12-7 going into the break.
Powerhouse Danny Barrett used his immense strength to put USA in front with one of his trademark fends and it was the kick from Hughes that clinched the match, slotting the drop goal over from in front of the posts to make it 14-12 and secure them a semi-final showdown with South Africa.
New Zealand 12-14 England
In a repeat of their Las Vegas quarter-final, in which England lost 19-0, England started quickly out of the blocks through Bibby's try, the Wigan-born player beating the tackle of DJ Forbes to make it 0-7 after the added extras from Tom Mitchell. Forbes got his own back in the second half, powering down the left side to beat two defenders and bundle in at the corner. At 5-7 to England with just under four minutes left, Ruaridh McConnochie darted and jinked to break through the tackle of Sione Molia and go in from 20 metres out. A late score from Scott Curry wasn't enough as the hooter had sounded, but England exacted their revenge after a disappointing performance the previous weekend in Las Vegas.
Fiji 28-10 Australia
Nick Malouf got the Australians off to a flyer when he rolled over from a breakdown close to the Fiji line. The missed conversion made it 0-5 to Australia, but Jerry Tuwai was about to show his electric feet and ran a try in from his own half down the left side. With the conversion good, it was Samisoni Viriviri who then provided Masivesi Dakuwaqa with the offload for him to go under the posts. 14-5 at the beginning of the second half quickly became 21-5 after a try from Apisao Domolailai and conversion from Ravouvou. Waisea Nacuqu came on for Tuwai and scored immediately for Fiji to make it final score, 28-10.
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