England 7s in quarter-finals in LA
February 12, 2005

Penzane & Newlyn's Rob Thirlby put his name into the hat for World Cup selection today with an impressive performance against Fiji, and helped England to make it three pool wins from three in the USA Sevens.

England had lost their last two matches against Fiji (in George and Wellington) and were determined to change the balance of power this weekend in Los Angeles.

Fiji came back with a last second try but England had secured the win which ensured they avoided New Zealand in the quarter finals. Instead England will face Samoa in tomorrow's quarter final, played at 11.28 (7.28pm UK time).

The Fijian's opened the scoring with a try by Manoa Naevo Lesavua, but 25 year old Thirlby quickly put England in the lead with a try which was successfully converted by IRB Sevens World Record Points holder Ben Gollings. The score at half time was 7-5 to England but England widened the gap soon after the break thanks to another impressive break from Thirlby, which helped London Irish's Geoff Appleford to cross the line.

The sin binning of Fiji's Saiasi Fuli gave England the advantage and England defended well until the last seconds of the match when Epeli Dranivasa scored to make the final score 14-10 to England.

England Sevens Coach Mike Friday was pleased with the improved performance from the whole squad, following the disappointing defeat to Fiji in the quarter finals of the Wellington Sevens last weekend, "I am happy that we are three from three on day one and we have beaten Fiji, and the boys will be able to take some confidence from that. They are playing better with a bit more discipline. But we still have a very tough quarter final against Samoa in the morning."

Friday believed that the squad improved as the day went on, "I am really pleased with how the younger guys are coming on. James Bailey (Gloucester) made a real impact in both the first and second matches and so did Andy Vilk (Northampton Saints). Ben Russell (Saracens) improves every time he goes on the pitch and is a bright young talent for England rugby.

"I was also happy with the senior boys who really led in the right way today. It was a real squad effort from 1 to 12 and they have done themselves justice today. But its all about tomorrow now and we have to get a win in the morning."

England were captained by Wasps' Peter Richchards who enjoyed his first experience as captain of the squad, "Picking up three wins made it much easier for me and it was a great performance by the boys. It's good that the Fijians have to face the All Blacks but the Samoans are a tough opponent and it won't be easy."

A second half hat trick by 21 year old Gloucester winger James Bailey helped England to a comfortable 52-7 win over the West Indies in their second game.

Bailey was joined on the score sheet by Rob Thirlby (Penzance & Newlyn) and Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers) both of whom scored two tries each.

England's other try came from Tony Roques of London Irish. The West Indies only scored once following an impressive piece of play which led to Kurt Johnson crossing the line.

England had earlier scraped a win past Tonga but looked much more impressive and back to form in this second pool round match against the West Indies.

England were given a scare in their opening pool match in with a narrow 19-12 win over Tonga.

The team scored three tries but the Tongan's put up a tough fight.

The Tongan's had the upper hand in the opening minutes, Teuomuli Kaufusi scoring a try to put them into the lead. It wasn't until James Bailey (Gloucester) replaced Ollie Phillips (Newcastle Falcons) that England scored. A great run by Bailey led to James Brooks (London Wasps) eventually crossing the line, after the first half hooter had blown.

Ben Gollings replaced Peter Richards at half time and England's second try of the match was scored by James Bailey. Gollings helped add to his IRB Sevens World Points record by also scoring a try and successful conversions meant England led 19-5.

Tonga came back with another try by Alipate Fatafehi taking the Tongan's to within one score. Tonga looked like they were going to score again in the dying moments of the match but Gollings kicked the ball out of touch just as the hooter blew to ensure England remained winners.

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