England Women have qualified on behalf of Team GB for the Olympics in Rio 2016, following a nail-biting 15-14 victory over USA at the Amsterdam Sevens.
England had lost to Australia 26-0 in the semi-final and when USA lost to Canada, the pair ended up in a winner takes all bronze medal match to determine who would secure the final guaranteed qualification spot for the Olympics.
The narrowest of wins was secured through tries by Marlie Packer, Emily Scarratt and the decisive score by Jo Watmore. The USA had answered through Megan Bonny but England held on despite a score by Alev Kelter on the final whistle.
That victory put England level on points with the USA in the overall standings but England’s superior points’ difference over the season handed them the crucial fourth place finish and qualification for Team GB.
Head Coach Simon Middleton said: “I am obviously absolutely thrilled we have qualified Great Britain for the Olympics.
"It has been a tough season but round after round, apart from a blip in Atlanta, we have gradually improved and in the end we got the result we needed.
"Of course, we didn’t do it the easy way, leaving it to the dying moments of the last game and then making it go down to the wire with points difference.
"Looking ahead, we know we have to improve our consistency but it is certainly going to be an exciting period.”
Earlier in the day, England had beaten World Sevens Series Champions New Zealand 17-14 in the quarter-final to keep their Olympic dreams alive.
Middleton's side started day one with two comprehensive victories over China and Russia, but faced the Black Ferns in their first knockout assignment after going down 24-7 to Australia in the pool-stage decider.
England had not beaten New Zealand over the course of the entire World Sevens Series campaign. Unperturbed though, they went into a 5-0 lead when Amy Wilson-Hardy dotted down in the early stages.
Crowned Series champions following their first win yesterday, the Black Ferns hit back to equalise as Kayla McAlister stepped through the defence and sprinted home from 50 metres.
The conversion from Selica Winiata made it 7-5, but Natasha Hunt put England ahead 10-5 win another try on the stroke of half-time.
That did not stop the topsy-turvy scoring pattern though, and Sarah Goss gave New Zealand the lead once more.
However, England retained their composure and kept possession for Emily Scarratt to secure the win with three minutes on the clock.
England Women Sevens squad
Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
Abigail Chamberlain (Richmond, captain)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Marlie Packer (Wasps)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
Joanne Watmore (Richmond)
Amy Wilson-Hardy (Bristol)
Kay Wilson (Thurrock)
Sarah McKenna (Saracens)
Claire Allan (Richmond)
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images