We're not done yet, insists England after loss to Samoa
England suffer a big loss against Samoa but coach vows to return stronger, while South Africa also take a beating at the hands of Argentina
England and South Africa will have their backs to the wall today as they fight to get into the Cup quarter-finals after losing their opening games yesterday.
England will meet old enemy Scotland with the pressure on their shoulders after Samoa knocked the stuffing out of them in a powerful and consummate performance which stunned most of the packed stadium on the opening night of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
The 38,530 fans, most of them rooting for England, were shell-shocked after the Pacific Islanders stormed to a 28-7 victory, made even more emphatic by the fact that England never put a foot into their opponent's half before the break.
If this didn't fall into the category of a 'shock result' - England have fared dismally for most of the season barring their Wellington Cup title - then South Africa's demise at the hands of Argentina certainly was.
Argentina, with their trademark ironclad defence holding firm, kept the more-fancied South Africans to a scoreless first half before running in three tries after the break to rush to a 21-0 win. The other top seed in the remaining two pools, New Zealand and Fiji, emerged unscathed.
But England coach Ben Ryan, seeking his first Cup title in seven visits, refused to be downbeat.
"We haven't been knocked out or won anything based on winning or losing the Friday night game," he said. "I've stood in this same spot five years ago after defeating Samoa on the opening night and they came back and beat us two days later in the Cup quarter-finals.
"We win our next two games, we go into the quarter-finals. It is as simple as that. I'm a glass half-full guy, and I know we will use our possession - which we didn't get enough today - a lot better tomorrow," Ryan said.
First-up will be Scotland who will be fired up after losing to Portugal. Ryan is aware of it. "Another loss and they will be in the relegation zone so they will have a lot to play for," he said.
If Ryan has waited seven years for the chance to feel what it is like for England to lift the title again, his South African counterpart, Paul Treu, and the Blitzbokke have never won in the 20 years they have been turning up in Hong Kong. And Treu admitted last night's setback was severe, especially when you are in a pool with Wales and Australia.
"No doubt about it, this is a disappointing start for us," Treu said. "There are now no second chances for us."
The New Zealand team celebrated their reunion with coach Gordon Tietjens - who only arrived yesterday morning having delayed his flight due to an ear infection - by handing him a 33-12 victory over France.
"The French came to play and they put us under a lot of pressure. Is always hard to play your first game of the tournament after a five- or six-week break and to put 30 points on them is very pleasing," said Tietjens.
Fiji, meanwhile, had the easiest of outings from among the top seeds, coming up against Hong Kong. It was a cakewalk.