Hong Kong Sevens: England live by their wits to beat Wales in Sevens opener

England made a winning start to their campaign

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The Independent Online

England made a winning start to their campaign in the Hong Kong Sevens yesterday by defeating opening pool stage opponents Wales.

Tries by captain Tom Mitchell, Dan Bibby, Phil Burgess and James Rodwell saw England home 26-19, but they were made to work hard by a Wales team that responded with a Luke Morgan double, plus one touchdown from full Wales international Rhodri Williams.

“The atmosphere in Hong Kong is incredible and the first game can often be difficult, adjusting to everything that is going on,” Mitchell said.

“We didn’t stick to our game-plan the way we intended and as a result let Wales take advantage. There were some strong individual performances in attack. A few lads are playing in Hong Kong for the first time and it was good to see them stepping up.”

Elsewhere, Scotland were beaten 26-7 by New Zealand, while Fiji crushed Samoa  38-12. Australia saw off Portugal 33-5, South Africa defeated Argentina 24-0, France beat Japan 24-7 and Canada brushed aside Belgium 28-12.

Fiji, a record 14-time winner of the Hong Kong Sevens, expected a tough match against its South Pacific neighbour, who had beaten them two out of the four times they had met in previous finals. Samoa won in 1993 and 2007, and Fiji in 1998. Their last match in Hong Kong, six years ago, was a draw.

Samoa, criticised by their prime minister for slumping after making the Gold Coast final in the series opener, scored first through Tofatuimoana Solia, but by half time Fiji led 21-7.

Savenaca Rawaca crossed while Samoa’s Lafaele Va’a was in the sin-bin, Semi Kunatani went in after Samoa dropped the ball and Pio Tuwai scored from a sweeping, 80-metre attack.

Samoa scored again in the second half, but Fiji finished in style, with replacement Josaia Wini scoring twice on debut.

Defending champion New Zealand, and world series leader South Africa, also started well.

When Scotland, who have never beaten New Zealand, levelled at 7-7, the kick-off was immediately returned 80 metres by Sherwin Stowers, and the Kiwis rolled on to win.

Their biggest pool opposition will be Australia, for which Shannon Walker returned from a 14-month injury lay-off and scored the last of their five tries in beating Portugal.

South Africa latest bid to win a first Hong Kong title began by rubbing out Argentina. The best of the five tries was the second, when Werner Kok blasted up the middle, kicked ahead, and two South Africans could have grabbed the ball. Seabelo Senatla did.

France’s win over Japan relied on a great piece of defence in the second half. At 19-7 up, Japan captain Katsuyuki Sakai was haring into the left corner when he was caught by Jonathan Laugel, who turned Sakai over  on his back over the tryline and knocked the ball out of his grasp.