England say sorry for spoiling party

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am

A dejected England camp said sorry to their legions of fans after failing to get past Samoa in the Cup quarter-finals. But they promised to come back older and wiser next year.

'We are sorry we couldn't go further. I feel for our fans,' said disappointed England coach Ben Ryan. 'We have to wait another 12 months to have another crack at winning this tournament and it seems a long time to wait.'

Less than 24 hours after beating Samoa 7-5 in pool competition, four-time champions England couldn't repeat. They lost 17-12 in another gripping encounter which was decided a minute from the end when Alafoti Fa'osiliva burst down the left touchline to score the match-winning try.

On Saturday, Samoa had a try disallowed. But yesterday the gods favoured them with the match officials deciding Fa'osiliva hadn't dropped the ball while touching down, and so handing victory to the islanders.

'We pipped it at the post last night, but today it was their turn. We are sorry we couldn't quite give our fans what they wanted - another victory - but we will be back next year, and hopefully I will come back, too,' said Ben Gollings, all-time leading points scorer in the IRB Sevens.

Ryan believes England will return a stronger unit next year - provided he doesn't lose his young squad to club and other commitments with national squads.

'They will leave the squad to prepare for the Under-20 World Cup. This is something England sevens will always face - my task is to bring on the younger players.'

John Brake, Matthew Cox, Noah Cato, Ben Youngs and Jonathan Cato are all under 20. They were part of the Under-20 Six Nations grand slam champion side and could well be part of England's future.

Ryan believes the three days in Hong Kong would have benefited them.

'They have learned a great deal from this experience. We showed that while we are not at the top of the tree, we are somewhere up there in the branches,' Ryan said.

Anthony Elliot gave England the perfect start when he latched on to a clever grubber from Gollings to score by the right corner flag. But Samoa went 7-5 in front through Mikaele Pesamino, last year's three-try hero in their Cup final victory.

The irrepressible Gollings created England's second try with a lovely break before off-loading the try-scoring pass to the only other player who had played here before - captain Andy Vilk. Samoan sub Alatasi Tupou struck to bring his team back on level terms with about three minutes left before Fa'osiliva delivered the killer blow.

'I said on Saturday night that sevens is on a knife edge. I'm proud of the guys. They played with heart and soul,' Ryan added.

Maybe next year

The scoreline that saw England bow out of their campaign for the Cup, with a vow to come back stronger: 17-12