England left shell-shocked as Fiji continue impressive run
Ben Ryan's men will play in the Bowl competition after making a surprising exit from the coveted Cup
They saved Private Ryan, but there was no salvation for England's sevens general with the same name. Ben Ryan's odyssey with England for a first Cup title under his watch continues after the crowd favourites were knocked out of the Cup competition at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens last night.
It left Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa on course for a second title this season, although one of the latter two will be out early today as they clash in the quarter-finals after the Pacific Islanders failed to top their pool (Portugal finished top) after being held to a 12-12 draw by brave Scotland.
Defending champions Fiji looked the most impressive of the big guns, although happy coach Alivereti Dere called for a better defensive effort if they are to make it two on the trot. "We need to work harder on our D if we are to keep progressing," Dere said.
Fiji will meet an impressive Australian outfit in the quarter-finals with the winner coming up against New Zealand or Samoa.
"It is a tough one coming up against Samoa early, but to win this tournament you will have to beat everyone," said New Zealand mastermind Gordon Tietjens.
Like Fiji, the men in black also finished the preliminary round unbeaten, leaving Tietjens a happy man considering only three of his squad have played here before. "We have three good wins and that is pleasing, but tomorrow decides who wins this tournament. And how we perform then is what matters," he said.
The bottom half of the draw has been gatecrashed. Canada take on Wales and Portugal face Kenya. If one of the bottom four teams, or Australia emerge champions, the world series will have a sixth and new winner tonight.
England and South Africa, the fifth team to have won one of the preceding legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series this season, were unceremoniously shown the door by an increasingly feisty packs. The days the big guns could roll out, have a stretch and then run away with the silverware are long over.
Portugal is an example of the give-them-an-inch-and-they-will-take-a-mile brigade. The cellar-dwellers among the 15 core teams in the world series shocked Samoa 14-10 to underline the competitive nature of sevens.
Coupled with their win over Scotland on opening night, that result contrived to knock England out with a game to play after the favourites lost to Scotland 14-5 in a shoddy display which left Ryan wondering if his players had the "appetite for a fight". "It was as if someone had put something in our water, we just looked flat. We are very angry about putting in a performance like that when we should be winning it in default [mode]."
England began the day needing to win both their remaining pool games against the Scots and Portugal to stay in contention for a Cup quarter-final berth after Samoa trounced them 28-7 on Friday night. Instead, it went from bad (losing to Scotland) to worse (Portugal's shock win over Samoa sealing their fate).
It didn't matter that England defeated Portugal 22-7 for the pool had already been decided.
General Ryan's seventh campaign to win the Cup had ended in another ignominious early exit. It was the fifth time this season England had failed to reach the last eight in the main event.
"We are now in the Bowl and will be playing for some silverware we don't want to be playing for. But we have to win these remaining three games, get some momentum and go to Japan and win that title," said a disappointed Ryan.
England will come up against France in the Bowl quarter-final.