Dudai 7s: Fiji knocked out, as BlitzBoks sneak in
DAY ONE WRAP: With qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games resting on this season’s standings, the Sevens World Series has taken on an extra edge.
It was immediately apparent on a fiercely competitive opening day of the Dubai leg on Friday.
With Fiji, New Zealand and Argentina all grouped together, Pool B was set for some epic encounters.
So it proved – with the race for the quarterfinal spots going right down to the wire.
All three teams finished on seven points apiece having each achieved two wins and a loss, but it was Fiji who missed out on points difference.
Pool A was hardly any less competitive, with South Africa and Australia going through at Great Britain’s expense after a titanic tussle.
This was the teams’ second hit-out of the season, having kicked off in Hong Kong a month ago.
Two of the first eight matches were draws – with Ireland and Spain sharing the spoils in the first match of the tournament, before Kenya did brilliantly to tie with current World Series champions, Australia, who claimed the first gold medal on offer this season in Hong Kong a month ago.
Four of the other matches were settled by single-digit winning margins with a first win in Dubai for Argentina over New Zealand and Great Britain’s victory over South Africa being two of the standout results.
By the end of a day of twists and turns and some sensational action, all of the men’s big guns remain in contention for medals except for Fiji.
Argentina play Ireland in the first of the quarterfinals on Day Two, before United States take on Australia.
France is up against New Zealand and South Africa play Samoa in the other ties.
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BLITZBOKS EDGE DRAWN-OUT BATTLE
South Africa, the dominant force in Dubai in recent years, booked their passage through the quarters with a nail-biting 19-12 victory in the final match of the day over previously unbeaten Australia. That win saw the BlitzBoks top Pool A by a point from Australia, who finished level in on six points along with Great Britain but with a two-point differential going in their favour.
It was an impressive turnaround from South Africa who had slipped to a 5-14 loss to Great Britain in their opening game before beating regional rivals Kenya, 27-12.
Australia had scored 40 points or more in each of their past two Series matches so to be held 19-19 went completely against the formbook.
However, the reigning World Series champions showed some of the quality that took them to last season’s title in seeing off battling Great Britain, 28-19.
Even so, Great Britain were right in contention for a place in the quarterfinals, but a 14-14 draw with Kenya in their final game left the door ajar for their pool rivals to take advantage.
South Africa 5-14 Great Britain
Australia 19-19 Kenya
South Africa 27-12 Kenya
Australia 28-19 Great Britain
Great Britain 14-14 Kenya
Australia 12-19 South Africa
Winning in style 😤@Blitzboks seal the win 🔥@DHLRugby | #Dubai7s | #HSBC7s | #ImpactMoment pic.twitter.com/UNUHWRRf7H
— World Rugby 7s (@WorldRugby7s) December 2, 2022
FIJI FELL JUST SHORT
Joseva Talacolo starred for Fiji on day one but his match-winning try against Argentina in a thrilling Pool B finale was still not enough to save Ben Gollings’ side from another early elimination in the desert.
Having beaten Uruguay 52-0 but then suffered a 24-7 defeat to New Zealand in their second match, Fiji needed to beat Los Pumas Sevens by 10 points to progress, but they fell five points short of their target, winning 17-12. Fiji have now failed to qualify for the quarterfinals in three of the last four Dubai tournaments.
Instead, it is Argentina and New Zealand who go through by the narrowest of margins. They, too, easily swept aside Uruguay, and it was the All Black Sevens’ result against Fiji in a re-run of the final of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 that ultimately proved crucial.
The biggest match of the day brought together two teams normally accustomed to facing each other in Cup finals, and All Blacks Sevens captain Sam Dickson described the match-up as “do-or-die”.
Argentina 31-28 New Zealand
Fiji 52-0 Uruguay
Argentina 49-0 Uruguay
Fiji 7-24 New Zealand
New Zealand 35-5 Uruguay
Fiji 17-12 Argentina
IRISH RELIEF AFTER FRANCE SETBACK
France, bronze medallists in Hong Kong in November, impressed on day one with a clean sweep of wins. First, they edged past Uganda, 10-7, before enjoying a more comfortable 24-10 win against Spain. That left Ireland standing in their way, with the Irish also unbeaten after following up their draw with Spain with a 35-13 win over a Ugandan side playing in Dubai for the first time since Rugby World Cup sevens 2009.
The decisive game between France and Ireland always promised to be tight and there was nothing in it at half-time after Bryan Mollen cancelled out an earlier score from Aaron Grandidier. But Rayan Rebbadj’s 10th-minute try won the game for France and ensured they finished on top of the table.
Ireland made it through as well due to the plus-four points differential between themselves and third-place Spain.
Reflecting on what was a very finish, Ireland’s Hugo Lennox said: “They are the times you want to be on the pitch rather than watching from the sidelines. Yeah, we didn’t get the win but it is great to be through to the quarters tomorrow with everything to play for. There is lots to work on.”
Ireland 21-21 Spain
France 10-7 Uganda
Ireland 33-15 Uganda
France 24-10 Spain
Spain 26-5 Uganda
France 14-7 Ireland
JC Pretorius is having a day out there today 🙌@Blitzboks | #Dubai7s | #HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/lciDd9hjzZ
— World Rugby 7s (@WorldRugby7s) December 2, 2022
EAGLES SOAR IN POOL D
United States produced a masterclass in game management in their final Pool D game against fellow unbeaten side Samoa. The Men’s Eagles had taken an early lead through Lucas Lacamp but Samoa responded through Owen Niue and Vaovasa Afa Sua to lead at half-time.
The second half belonged to Mike Friday’s men, however, with Samoa conceding six straight penalties as they struggled to get their hands on the ball. In the end, Kevon Williams’ 10th-minute try and Steve Tomasin’s conversion were enough to see the United States to a 14-12 victory.
Earlier on, the United States had beaten Canada 19-14 and Japan 43-7, thanks to tries from seven different players.
Samoa had looked equally impressive in defeating Japan 38-17 and Canada 33-5, Vaa Apelu Maliko capping a fine opening day for him personally with a brace of tries in the latter match.
United States 19-14 Canada
Samoa 38-17 Japan
United States 43-7 Japan
Samoa 33-5 Canada
Samoa 12-14 United States
Canada 28-14 Japan