England Womens Sevens finished eighth in Dubai in the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens series.
England started the day with defeat to eventual tournament winners Australia 12-29 and then in a hard fought encounter with France went down 12-21 despite scoring the first two tries, and ended the two-day event with a 14-21 loss to Spain.
On the first day England had faced Australia and lost 7-22 but were quickly into the game against the Wallabies where despite conceding the first try, a deep break by Heather Fisher eventually saw Amy Wilson Hardy score to level the game at 5-5.
However, the Green and Gold scored two more tries before the break and Dominique Du Toit went over for a commanding lead before Lydia Thompson scored one of the tries of the game.
Given the ball in space, Thompson showed her raw pace on the outside as she beat two defenders to race in under the posts, but the Australians managed to add a fifth try before the end.
In the fifth place semi-final against France, England again were bright in the opening stages when some lovely interplay between Megan Jones and Alex Matthews sent Matthews over after a couple of minutes, and Jones was again the provider shortly after.
After Heather Fisher’s initial break, she fed Holly Aitchinson and as the ball was recycled quickly, Jones spun the ball to the right wing where Thompson crossed for her fourth try of the competition.
A France score on the stroke of the break got them back into the game as it was 12-7 at half time.
Les Blues converted two more tries in the second half to turn the game around despite some battling defensive work from England in the humid conditions.
To decide who would finish seventh and eighth, England faced Spain and Deborah Fleming dotted down early on.
Barbara Pla's hat-trick though, including one score when Megan Jones was in the sin bin, secured a win for the Spanish with Fleming getting another consolation try with the last play of the game.
With this being the first tournament for England's new group of players looking ahead to the Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018, this will be valuable experience looking ahead to next year.
“There are lots of positives to take away from this tournament," said England Womens Sevens head coach James Bailey.
"We started every game well, we were in most games until half time, that shows two things, firstly we have the raw materials to be a great side and secondly, we know we have got a way to go.
"We have a long-term reconditioning plan for the players who have transitioned back from 15s to getting the team to the level you need to be at, to play in tournaments on the world series.
“Dubai been a really good indicator of where we are at as a team and has given us plenty of learnings and work-ons as we continue build and come together.”
Alongside the England Women Sevens team, an England invitational side playing as the Royals has also been out competing in Dubai.
They beat Wales 17-14 in the cup quarter-final but after beating Randwick Magic in the pool stages lost 14-26 in the last four game.
The the bronze final the side lost 17-21 Delta Drone Tuks Ladies 7 for a second time at the tournament as they finished in fourth place.
England Women Sevens squad:
Claire Allan (c), Alex Matthews, Lydia Thompson, Katie Mason, Emily Scarratt, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher. Emily Scott, Chantelle Miell, Megan Jones, Holly Aitchison, Amy Wilson Hardy.
Dubai day one results:
Pool B - England 15-17 Russia
Pool B - England 5-22 Australia
Pool B - England 26-14 Japan
Dubai day two results:
Cup quarter-final - England 12-29 Australia
Fifth place semi-final - England 12-21 France
Seventh place play-off - England 14-21 Spain