The men’s Team GB Sevens team head into day two of the Olympic competition unbeaten, but only just.
They beat Kenya in comfort earlier in the day by 31-7 with Mark Bennett scoring a powerful solo try that made the most of weak tackling. Around the same time Japan upset the much-fancied New Zealand side 14-12, with Sonny Bill Williams also lost to a tournament-ending injury.
This left both sides with a good chance for qualification yesterday going into the second round, and after a strong start led by James Rodwell and GB looking very good for a partly scratch side, it was Japan who dominated the remaining game. With everything routed through captain Tom Mitchell, the distribution of ball was very controlled – except when he fluffed the restart that led to Japan’s final try – and Bennett saw very little ball with which to attack. He did however put in two superbly executed tackles during periods of Japanese dominance that arguably kept them from taking the lead.
In the end it came down to a missed Japanese conversion in extra time sparing Team GB’s blushes from a game where they had an impressive opening 5 minutes but couldn’t claim any possession after that. It’s clear that their gameplan is quite structured, and designed to punch holes with the “forwards” before unleashing the pace of fliers like Marcus Watson. This makes it ideal for Mark Robertson (who has remained an impact sub in the pack) but less so for the likes of Bennett who would suit the more chaotic, contact averse (and more traditional?) approach that the Scotland Sevens play.
Next up today (around 4.30pm our time) Team GB face New Zealand with positions for the knockout rounds at stake. The quarter final matches are also tonight between 9-11pm with the precise timings due to be confirmed around 6pm once all the Pool stages are complete. Further placings and medal matches are tomorrow.