BlitzBoks simply the best
DAY TWO WRAP: The BlitzBoks won every match and set a new record winning-run on their way to glory in Dubai.
South Africa laid down a daunting marker to their `Sevens World Series rivals as they stormed to an eighth Dubai title in the opening event of the season.
The BlitzBoks defeated 2018 Dubai runners-up United States in Saturday’s Final with a crushing 42-7 victory to clinch a third consecutive Series gold medal, after taking down Australia and Argentina in the knockout stages and winning all their pool matches.
Neil Powell’s side, crowned 2021 Series champions in September after winning in Vancouver and Edmonton, broke their record 16-match Series winning streak from 2008/09 by ending the tournament with an 18th consecutive victory.
They also racked up their biggest points haul in a Cup Final, beating their previous best of 40 points against New Zealand in Las Vegas in 2013.
Argentina pipped Olympic champions Fiji’s new-look squad 19-12 to clinch bronze.
BLITZBOKS ON ANOTHER LEVEL
After last year’s Series was condensed to just two events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things still weren’t quite back to normal, with the event taking place behind closed doors at The Sevens Stadium until fans return for the second Dubai leg next week.
New Zealand, Series winners in 2020, and Samoa were unable to participate due to COVID-19 related travel problems, while Great Britain was competing as a combined side before they revert to Scotland, Wales and England national teams after the second Dubai event.
The BlitzBoks looked on another level over two days under the baking sun in the United Arab Emirates, and finished with a big victory over the United States.
Ronald Brown scored a hat-trick and converted five of South Africa’s six tries to be named Player of the Final.
He dotted down his first after just one minute before Selvyn Davids skipped through the American defence and looped a pass out to JC Pretorius for the BlitzBoks’ second try.
Brown stepped inside a defender to break the United States line and go under the posts before half-time, before completing his hat-trick by gathering from Pretorius to cross early in the second half.
It was an imperious performance from the top seeds and Davids got in on the action by kicking into space behind the defence, gathering the ball on the bounce and going through the sticks.
Lucas Lacamp bagged a late consolation try for Mike Friday’s side, but South Africa still weren’t done as Shaun Williams touched down their sixth try to complete a comfortable victory.
“We kept them out until the end, the very end. We asked the boys for effort and that’s what they gave,” said Brown.
Asked about the assist from his teammate Pretorius, he said: “JC is a machine, when he’s outside of me I give him the ball, let him run it up and I’ll support him on the inside. That’s exactly what happened and that’s why we crossed the chalk.”
PUMAS BEAT FIJI TO BRONZE
Argentina got revenge for their Olympic semifinal defeat to Fiji by beating a new-look Fijian side 19-12 in the bronze final to take third place.
The Flying Fijians brought only two members of their Olympic gold medal-winning squad to Dubai in a squad featuring 11 debutants, but they gave a strong account of themselves and recorded their joint-best finish at this event since finishing as runners-up in 2016.
Los Pumas exploded out of the blocks as Joaquin Lamas dived over the line to give them an early lead, but Josua Vakurunabili gathered a neat offload to cross the whitewash and his 48th international try was converted to give Fiji the lead.
Argentina responded well and showed great hands to send Joaquin De La Vega under the posts with the final play of the first half to go in 12-7 up at the break.
Fiji were their own worst enemies when they tried to pass their way out of trouble on their own try line, as the ball went loose and Lamas pounced to tap down his second try of the game.
Another characteristic offload assist sent Panapasa Qeruqeru in at the corner as Fiji struck back to reduce the gap to seven points, but Argentina saw out the game to win bronze.
In the semifinals, it was South Africa who earned Olympic revenge by beating an Argentina side that defeated them 17-7 in the Tokyo quarterfinals, but it was not a simple task as the BlitzBoks faced their biggest test of the weekend.
Rodrigo Isgro finished a flowing team move to put Argentina in front, but the BlitzBoks drew level with a superb try of their own when Selvyn Davids made a break before showing great composure to pick out Shilton van Wyk with a looping pass to send him in for his first South Africa try.
The top seeds pulled clear after the break when Siviwe Soyizwapi notched his 111th international try to draw level in fourth with Justin Geduld in his country’s all-time try-scoring table, and Pretorius showed electric pace to step past a defender and storm over the line.
There was an upset in the other Cup semi-final when the United States, who had suffered a shock defeat to Spain the day before, knocked out Fiji thanks to a spirited second-half comeback.
Iowane Teba and Filipe Sauturaga tries put the Flying Fijians in total control, and they responded to a try from the speedy Carlin Isles with a Kaminieli Rasaku score early in the second half.
But Eagles coach Mike Friday’s halftime team talk seemed to do the trick as his players turned on the style and flipped the game on its head thanks to tries from Lacamp and Matai Leuta, and a turnover in the final play denied any chance of a late Fijian rally.
The men’s Cup quarterfinals got off to a flyer when Argentina required a try in golden-point extra time from 20-year-old debutant Tomas Lizazu to get past Ireland.
Los Pumas raced into a 12-0 lead in the first half through German Schulz and Felipe Del Mestre scores, but Irish playmaker Terry Kennedy took his Dubai try tally to six by scoring either side of the break to level the scores and take the game into extra time, where Lizazu’s lung-busting sprint to the corner sealed a 17-12 victory.
South Africa made short work of third seeds Australia with a 29-5 victory. Soyizwapi scored two of the BlitzBoks’ five tries to seal a record-equalling 16th straight Series win, and a first international score for debutant Tiaan Pretorius sparked joyful celebrations.
Fourth seeds Great Britain, runners-up in Edmonton in September, fell to a 35-17 against an impressive United States side.
The Americans fell behind early in the second half but responded superbly as Baker and Isles crossed before Kevon Williams capped a fine performance with his second try of the match at the death.
Fiji and Kenya faced off in a Cup quarter-final for the first time since Sydney 2016 and the Fijians responded well after falling behind early, scoring three tries to clinch a 19-5 victory.
The highlight was an outstanding score from Filipe Sauturaga, who scooped up a loose ball in front of his own posts and ran the length of the pitch, skipping past two defenders along the way.
Australia finished on a high with a 35-21 over Great Britain in the fifth-place playoff, while Ireland clinched seventh by beating Kenya 29-7, helped by a hat-trick from the in-form Kennedy that took his Dubai tally to nine tries.
France pipped Spain to ninth in a thrilling game, fighting back from 21-7 down at half time to win 28-26 through a late Nelson Epee try, while Canada rounded off a disappointing tournament with a 22-14 victory over Japan in the 11th place play-off.
Day Two results
Argentina 17-12 Ireland
South Africa 29-5 Australia
United States 35-17 Great Britain
Fiji 19-5 Kenya
Spain 45-14 Canada
France 35-0 Japan
Ireland 14-35 Australia
Great Britain 33-5 Kenya
Argentina 7-17 South Africa
United States 21-19 Fiji
Eleventh-place Final: Canada 22-14 Japan
Ninth-place Final: Spain 26-28 France
Seventh-place final: Ireland 29-7 Kenya
Fifth-place final: Australia 35-21 Great Britain
Bronze-medal final: Argentina 19-12 Fiji
Gold-medal Final: South Africa 42-7 United States