England left it to the final play of the bronze final to avenge their day one loss to Australia, this time by the slenderest of margins of 15-14, and claim the medal for the third year in a row.
In their Pool D decider Australia ran out 22-19 victors and it looked like they would prevail again with the electric play of Maurice Longbottom and tries by Lachie Anderson and John Porch helping them into a 14-10 lead going into the final moments.
However, England’s prolific captain Tom Mitchell had other ideas and ran hard to the line, taking a heavy tackle for his troubles before offloading to Harry Glover who touched down to send the English fans wild in the crowd.
England had earlier faced New Zealand in one of two incredible Cup semi-finals. Ng Shiu gave New Zealand a first-half lead only for Tom Bowen to cut the deficit to two points early in the second half. The scored remained at 7-5 despite England spending two-and-a half minutes probing for the match-winner after the buzzer had sounded, but an incredible defensive effort – later recognised as the UL Mark of Excellence for the tournament – kept them out. The All Blacks Sevens put in 42 tackles in total and Scott Gregory’s final turnover was greeted by roars of delight.
Australia also went through the mill in their semi-final and felt heartbreak at the death. The 39-point thriller against the USA also went as deep into added time. It took Folau Niua’s quick-tap penalty and the might of Danny Barrett to finally catch Australia off-guard and break the 17-17 deadlock. The Australians had led 17-12 until Tomasin and then Barrett found their way over the line.
Earlier in the Cup quarter-finals, England kicked day two off with a head-turning 22-5 defeat of the defending Dubai and series champions South Africa. From the opening exchanges England dominated proceedings with captain Tom Mitchell powering over from close range for the first try. A try-saving tackle from Mike Ellery prevented the Blitzboks answering back before Mitchell’s second and a Tom Bowen try increased England’s lead to 17-0 at half-time. Phil Burgess wrapped up the win after intercepting a Rosko Specman pass, before South Africa scored a consolation try through Selvyn Davids.
The second-quarter final saw New Zealand and Scotland embroiled in a first-half arm-wrestle before the All Blacks Sevens opened up. It took five minutes before Ngarohi McGarvey-Black’s massive fend and pace broke the deadlock. Amanaki Nicole added a second and they accelerated into a 21-0 lead until Scotland’s Harvey Elms crossed late on.
Australia picked up where they left off on day one in their quarter-final with Argentina, dominating from the outset as they continued their bid for a first Cup success in Dubai. They had a firm hold on every element of the game and players opened their boxes of tricks at will. Maurice Longbottom’s weaving run set up Jesse Parahi for the first try and it set the tone for what was the come. Ben O’Donnell scored their second after a lovely show and go, before a great step from Nick Malouf stepped back inside for the third. Australia never let up and ran in five tries, O’Donnell grabbing a brace in the 38-0 win.
The remaining match saw another unpredictable outcome as the Olympic champions and 2018 series runners-up Fiji were outdone by USA. The newly-crowned World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year 2018 Perry Baker was again influential and his smooth run on the outside set the tone. Fiji hit back through Apenisa Cakaubalavu, but then couldn’t contain Baker just before half-time when he shrugged off two players on the outside. Two quick tries by Martin Iosefo and Folau Niua increased the lead to 24-7 with Cakaubalavu’s second try little consolation for Fiji.