Worcester Valkyries winger Lydia Thompson helped England Women Sevens take home the bronze medal in the sport’s first outing at the Commonwealth Games.
Led by Abbie Brown, the England side defeated Canada 24-19 in the bronze medal match at the Robina Stadium on the Gold Coast after losing out to New Zealand in the semi-final on day three of the competition.
Against Canada, England dominated possession in the opening exchanges and were rewarded following a Canada sin-bin as Thompson stepped through the defence to score.
Deborah Fleming’s fourth try of the tournament got England’s second before she offloaded to Claire Allan who secured their third try of the match.
Following a Canada try just before half-time, Jess Breach’s first score in Australia restored the three-try advantage.
Two quick-fire Canada tries then made for a tense finish but England held on to secure the bronze medal.
Captain Brown said: “We gave 100 per cent on the field and we did it for everyone who has supported us – the girls back home, the staff – absolutely everybody – so to come out here and get a medal is an amazing feeling.
“This is the start of something special and I’m so proud of all of the girls. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Head Coach James Bailey added: “I’m over the moon and incredibly proud of what is a very special group. They’ve come together and have put in a brilliant performance across the weekend – I’m a very proud coach.
“The success is down to the culture and the environment that the girls have created. That bronze medal match was all about that culture and the willingness to fight for each other down to the last minute – that’s what it’s all about.”
Against one of the favourites for this competition, England went down early on to the Black Ferns in the semi-final when Sarah Goss broke the line.
Some neat handling work by Emily Scarratt and Megan Jones eventually saw Brown level the game for England, before some stunning defensive work by Thompson kept out Portia Woodman.
However, New Zealand were ahead again when Michaela Blyde crossed and then they had to put in a big defensive effort to keep out wave after wave of England pressure on their line.
Shakira Baker and Woodman did go over in the final few minutes to confirm the win as they progressed to the final.
In the pool stages on days one and two, England scored in the first minute of their first game against Fiji as Fleming went over, with Emily Scarratt and Thompson adding scores in the 17-5 win.
Against Australia, the game was finely poised at 12-12 at half-time as Brown and Fleming went over but the hosts – who would go on to progress to the final – pulled away in the second-half of the game.
Knowing a win against Wales would secure a semi-final spot, England were ahead after 40 seconds through Fleming’s third of the tournament.
Natasha Hunt’s two tries and one each for Scarratt, Emily Scott and Amy Wilson Hardy saw England reach 45 points and set up the last-four game against New Zealand.
Team England Women Sevens team for Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games
Abbie Brown (C)
Amy Wilson Hardy
Travelling reserve: Vicky Fleetwood
Team England Women Sevens Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games results
Bronze medal match: England 24-19 Canada
Tries: Lydia Thompson, Deborah Fleming, Claire Allan, Jess Breach
Semi-final: England 5-26 New Zealand
Tries: Abbie Brown
Pool B: England 17-5 Fiji
Tries: Deborah Fleming, Emily Scarratt, Lydia Thompson
Pool B: England 12-29 Australia
Tries: Abbie Brown, Deborah Fleming
Pool B: England 45-0 Wales
Tries: Deborah Fleming, Natasha Hunt (2), Emily Scarratt (2), Amy Wilson Hardy (2)