Rugby Union / World Cup Sevens: England survive Samoa setback

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The Independent Online
THE anticipation at Murrayfield is of a finals day that will at last raise the temperature of an inaugural World Cup Sevens that for the most part has been characterised in the two preliminary days by one-sided ties. That pattern, however, began to break towards the end of yesterday's eight hours of play watched by a less than capacity audience in the partly rebuilt Murrayfield Stadium.

The first suggestion of a surprise came when Korea defeated France 14-0 but this was perhaps not entirely unexpected as the French had struggled to beat the Netherlands in an earlier tie. But the major shock from the second day at the World Cup was the defeat of Fiji by South Africa. In the match South Africa always had the initiative but Fiji brought the scores level at 19-19 only for the powerful South African forward, Dieter Kriese, to cross for the winning try.

For the fans yesterday, chilled by the Edinburgh cold after a marathon stint of viewing, there were mixed emotions. The English sector of the crowd took justifable satisfaction from watching the England squad - an untried unit - progress safely through their pool matches before finishing second behind the winners Western Samoa.

England's confidence after a good first day increased yesterday with victories over Namibia and Canada - 24-5 and 33-0 respectively - before putting on a good show against the Samoans but losing 28-10.

There is also optimism among the Irish who like England have qualified for today's quarter-finals of the Melrose Cup. Ireland, who showed their worth in Hong Kong last month against Australia, easily disposed of the United States 38-0, two of their six tries coming from Vince Cunningham. The Irish made sure of finishing in second place by beating the Netherlands and will be in a pool alongside Western Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

But while Ireland prospered at Murrayfield it was a decidedly disappointing day for the hosts, Scotland, who finished fourth in Pool C and as a result will contest the third tier competition, the Bowl, in today's finals. Afterwards the Scotland manager, Duncan Paterson, made the kind of admission that the Scottish fans will find depressing: 'We simply are not good enough and do not have the players of the right physique to play at the top level,' he said.

Scotland finished behind Argentina although they ended with the same number of match points as the South Americans. But as they lost to Argentina the rules of the tournament relegated them to fourth position. It seems an iniquitous ruling given the statistics which show that Scotland had a positive points differential of 32 to Argentina's negative one of 14 and that Scotland scored 16 tries to Argentina's 11.

However, the Scotland forward trio was far too slow for modern sevens and the decision to play a specialist hooker backfired. The Scots struggled against Italy before winning 21-12 but against Australia they allowed the Wallaby seven to build up a lead of 26-0 before managing to score.

In Pool A Wales, whose ambitions suffered a setback against South Africa on Friday, distinguished themselves against Fiji, coming back from 21-0 down to lose narrowly 21-17. The Welsh seven will contest the Plate competition and with their pace look favourites to win the competition.

The main cup competition remains a largely South Pacific contest with Western Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in the first pool and New Zealand in the second. England are also in the second pool along with South Africa and Australia.

On the evidence of the two days' play Fiji look vulnerable but nothing it seems has dented the confidence of Western Samoa.

(Photograph omitted)