BlitzBoks keep a clean sheet; as Uruguay stun Fiji
DAY ONE WRAP: Five men’s teams remain unbeaten after a superb opening day at the Canada leg of the Sevens World Series in Vancouver.
BC Place rocked as supporters lapped up the skills on show in a landmark 200th tournament for the men’s Sevens World Series.
New Zealand, Argentina, Great Britain and Ireland top their respective pools after the 16 teams played two matches apiece, while South Africa also avoided defeat.
However, the day belonged to Uruguay and home favourites, Canada.
Uruguay had never won at BC Place before, losing five previous encounters by an average margin of 32 points.
But they gave their chances of avoiding relegation from the Sevens World Series a huge boost with a stunning 17-14 win against double Olympic champions Fiji.
“It’s so special, I am feeling so grateful for the team, they left everything out on the field,” said captain Diego Ardao.
Hosts Canada then signed off an enthralling day of sevens with a brilliant 29-12 win over Australia in the final match to send the crowd home happy.
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Pool A: No stopping New Zealand despite Spain’s heroics
New Zealand stretched their winning run in the Sevens World Series 2023 to 14 matches with a pair of contrasting victories on day one of the Canada Sevens at BC Place in Vancouver.
The All Blacks Sevens haven’t been beaten since they lost in the final to Argentina on home soil in Hamilton back in January and that record never looked under threat against an out-of-sorts United States side that shipped eight tries in a 52-0 defeat.
Leroy Carter continued his fine form from Los Angeles last week with a brace and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black also crossed twice.
While the United States were unable to test New Zealand, Spain certainly did.
Los Leones deprived the All Blacks Sevens of the ball and actually led 5-0 at half-time, thanks to a try from Miguel Reina following a three-minute build-up.
However, New Zealand raised their game after the break and eventually eased to a 17-7 victory.
To their immense credit, the United States rallied magnificently to beat Samoa 14-12 in their next game and ensure captain Steve Tomasin’s 50th Series tournament appearance wasn’t all bad.
Samoa 31-19 Spain
New Zealand 52-0 United States
Samoa 12-14 United States
New Zealand 17-7 Spain
Pool B: Los Pumas and BlitzBoks hold upper hand
Argentina ended a 13-year Cup title drought the last time they played in Vancouver, winning their first event since San Diego in 2009.
Since then, they have reached a further two Cup finals, winning in Hamilton and runner-up last weekend in Los Angeles, and their prospects of another medal on North American soil look good after two solid wins.
The powerfully-built Luciano Gonzalez was one of seven players to return to BC Place from last year’s triumph and was at the heart of Los Pumas’ opening-day efforts as they recorded a 31-12 win over Japan and a 21-12 win against France to finish at the top of Pool B.
As the only team to have played in all previous 199 tournaments, South Africa is a team that goes the distance.
And that showed in their opening match against France, which ended in a dramatic 19-19 draw.
The injury-hit BlitzBoks looked down and out when they trailed Les Bleus, but the second of Siviwe Soyizwapi’s two tries, brilliantly converted from the touchline by Ricardo Duarttee, earnt them a share of the spoils.
A 40-12 win over Japan followed to set up a mouth-watering encounter with Argentina on Saturday.
South Africa 19-19 France
Argentina 31-12 Japan
South Africa 40-12 Japan
Argentina 21-12 France
Pool C: GB double up but Los Teros make history
When Great Britain defeated Uruguay 45-5 in the opening fixture, no one inside BC Place would have predicted what was to follow.
Uruguay faced Fiji in their second game, opponents they had never beaten before. In fact, they hadn’t scored a single point against Ben Gollings’ side in any of the previous meetings in the current Series.
Fiji opened the scoring through Pilipo Bukayaro after just two minutes and it looked as though the form book would be followed.
However, Los Teros hit a real purple patch and their brilliant restart work allied to Fijian ill-discipline saw them take a 17-17 lead with tries from Baltazar Amaya, Felipe Arcos Perez and Tomas Etcheverry.
As expected, Fiji threw everything at them and Josese Batirerega’s try two minutes from time set up a grandstand finish but Uruguay held on.
Great Britain ensured they go into day two with the upper hand when they defeated Kenya 26-12 in their second game. Max McFarland was unable to add to his hat-trick against Uruguay but Tom Emery bagged a brace.
Great Britain 45-5 Uruguay
Fiji 31-12 Kenya
Great Britain 26-12 Kenya
Fiji 14-17 Uruguay
Pool D: Crowd-pleasing result for Canada
Canada ended an eight-game Series losing streak against Australia in the final match of the day in a boost to their survival hopes.
Having lost 35-5 to table-topping Ireland, Canada fed off the energy from the home crowd to deliver a brilliant performance against the reigning Series champions.
Matthew Percillier scored twice and Alex Russell scored an absolute screamer, with a play going from one end of the pitch to the other, in a 29-12 victory that belied Canada’s lowly 14th-place standing on the Series.
Ireland is pushing hard for Olympic qualification at the other end of the table and they made short work of Chile in their second game to finish on top of Pool D,
Mark Roche, Dylan O’Grady and Jordan Conroy all scored doubles in a 50-7 win against Los Condores Sevens.
With one remaining fixture against bottom-of-the-table Chile to come and the top two teams, Ireland and Australia, facing off against each other on Saturday, it is all to play for in Pool D for a Canadian side that need as many points as possible in their battle to avoid relegation.
Ireland 35-5 Canada
Australia 36-12 Chile
Ireland 50-7 Chile
Australia 12-29 Canada