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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Record tries for Dan Norton but England face daunting quarter-final against South Africa at Dubai Rugby Sevens

England cruised through matches against Canada and Japan to seal place in men's last eight, but lost 22-19 to Australia in final match on Pitch 1 on Friday

England's Dan Norton has scored a record 300 tries in the World Series. Getty Images
England's Dan Norton has scored a record 300 tries in the World Series. Getty Images

Dan Norton made sevens history, but suffered a bittersweet end to the day as England were beaten to top spot in their pool at the Dubai Rugby Sevens after losing to Australia.

In England’s first match, Norton became the first player in World Series history to score 300 career tries. Typically, it was a thrilling solo run from deep in his own half, against Canada.

England cruised through matches against Canada and Japan to seal their place in the last eight, but lost 22-19 to Australia in the final match on Pitch 1 on Friday.

It means they now face a daunting quarter-final against defending Dubai and World Series champions South Africa on Saturday.

The Blitzboks also tasted a rare Dubai defeat themselves, in the form of shock loss in their last match of the day to Argentina, but it mattered little.

They finished level on six points with both Argentina and Samoa, but advanced in first place by dint of a superior points difference.

“There is a lot we can do better, we have to come back tomorrow with a new mindset and make sure we are better,” South Africa forward Werner Kok said.

“There were too many penalties and high tackles that we gave away.”

Fiji coach Gareth Baber said his side have wiped the slate clean after an emotional time last season, when they went on a remarkable winning streak, yet finished the season with nothing to show for it.

The Fijians won four tournaments in a row, and five in all across the series. Yet they were pipped to the overall title by South Africa.

They were also knocked out in the semi-finals of the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, and were silver medalists at the Commonwealth Games, behind New Zealand.

They started the new season with three wins on the opening day in Dubai, to set up a clash with the United States in the last eight on Saturday.

“You do make reference to the fact we won five tournaments, why didn’t win six or seven, and couldn’t one of them have been the World Cup,” Baber said.

“Obviously we do talk about that, but it is not something you want to constantly remind the players of. We want them to be in a position where they have a freedom to go out and play.

“Especially for Fijian boys, they need to be in a position to play a high-risk, high-tempo game. I see that as the way ahead for us.”

The Fijians ran the risk of defeat in their second game, against Scotland, but were spared. Baber said he was moderately satisfied with the opening day, which also included impressive wins over Kenya and France.

“The first and last games give you a sense of satisfaction, but we came up against a very good Scotland side and made a few errors in that game which gave them possession,” Baber said.

“They have developed their game, they are coached well, and they created some pressure on us, but we still managed to win it.

“We did enough in the game to get ourselves in that position. To win games and tournaments, you have to be in that position. We did fight to get it.”

Points difference was required to decide who advanced alongside Fiji. Scotland advanced after drawing with France in their last match. They will play New Zealand, who won all their pool matches.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done,” Scotland’s Jamie Farndale said. “We played some beautiful rugby over the first couple of games, we got the job done, and it is knock-out rugby tomorrow, so that is the next job.”

Australia’s reward for beating England is a quarter final against Argentina.

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Whether you’re there for the scrummaging or the socialising, Dubai’s annual rugby fiesta is one of the highlights of the UAE sporting calendar. This is the remarkable story of an event that showcases sport at its joyous best
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