France Sevens: Ireland shock BlitzBoks
DAY ONE WRAP: The three contenders for the World Rugby Sevens Series title faced setbacks on a thrilling opening day at the France Sevens as South Africa, Argentina and Australia suffered shock defeats.
The battle for the Series title is tight at the top, with 11 points separating the top three teams ahead of the France event: South Africa (111 points), Argentina (105) and Australia (100).
But all three were beaten on Friday, as South Africa suffered their first-ever Series defeat to an impressive Ireland side before the USA took down Australia and Canada snatched a late win over second-ranked Argentina, winners of the previous round in Vancouver.
Those results leave the race for the men’s Series title wide open, with England, France, New Zealand and Samoa topping the four Pools ahead of Saturday’s action.
Blitzboks stumble as Samoa fly
South Africa’s bid for a fifth Cup victory of the season, after missing out on the title in Singapore and Vancouver, got off to a disastrous start against Ireland.
The Blitzboks started brightly when Mfundo Ndhlovu crossed the try line after two minutes, but Terry Kennedy drew Ireland level before a stunning try starting on the Irish try line and ending with Jack Kelly sprinting under the posts from halfway turned the game on its head.
South Africa captain Siviwe Soyizwapi showed superb footwork to cross and get his side back into it, but a second try from the Series’ leading scorer Kennedy, his 34th in 36 matches this season, sealed a historic Irish win.
Spain’s Tiago Romero ran in a spectacular 80-metre try while wearing just one boot, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 12-42 defeat to Samoa, and the Spaniards then went down 7-27 to South Africa despite running the Blitzboks close in the first half.
Samoa blew the Pool wide open with an astonishing comeback win against Ireland, fighting back from 15-14 down at half time to blow away the Irish in the second half and earn a 14-27 win that sparked passionate celebrations from the players.
Steve Rimoni and Paul Scanlan scored two tries apiece to underline Samoa’s credentials as serious contenders after their run to the semi-finals in Vancouver.
Canada leave Pumas stunned
Vancouver champions Argentina picked up where they left off with a 43-5 win over Japan, with World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Marcos Moneta notching a hat-trick from the bench.
But the Pumas were soon brought crashing back to earth in their second match. Canada, who sit 12th in the Series standings and lost their opening game to England 5-24, produced the shock of the day with a superb 19-12 win over Argentina.
The Canadians went in at the break 12-7 up but were pegged back to 12-12 after Tobias Wade’s late try.
However, David Richard danced through the Pumas defence in the final minute to claim a memorable victory and put England, who defeated Japan 21-10 in their second game, in the driving seat to top Pool A.
France and Fiji battle for top spot
France channelled all the energy of noisy home support in their opening game in a 56-5 win over Wales, the biggest victory of any team in the men’s or women’s event on the opening day in Toulouse.
Les Bleus followed that up with another try fest, running in six scores in a 38-14 victory over a spirited Kenya side, as Joachim Trouabal played a starring role by scoring a hat-trick.
Fiji stand in the hosts’ way in the battle for top spot, after the Olympic champions earned a 26-5 win over Kenya before beating Wales 19-0 in the final game of the day.
All Blacks impress, USA stun Aussies
USA speedster Perry Baker made an outstanding return from injury by running in a hat-trick in an impressive 24-19 win for the Eagles over third-ranked Australia.
The Aussies responded well to the setback though, as a strong second half performance inspired a 28-7 win over Scotland to keep them in quarter-final contention.
New Zealand hit the ground running with an opening 19-0 win over the Scots, but they faced a stern challenge against the USA later in the day.
Joe Webber crossed the try line twice in the opening three minutes, but the Americans wouldn’t give up the fight and reduced the deficit to two points thanks to Lucas Lacamp and Kevon Williams tries either side of the break.
Akulia Rokolisoa’s score extended the All Blacks’ advantage again, but Dmontae Noble cut the gap to two points once more late on, and New Zealand required a turnover with the clock in the red to see out a narrow 19-17 victory.
England 24-5 Canada
Argentina 43-5 Japan
England 27-10 Japan
Argentina 12-19 Canada
France 56-5 Wales
Fiji 29-5 Kenya
France 38-14 Kenya
Fiji 19-0 Wales
New Zealand 19-0 Scotland
Australia 19-24 USA
New Zealand 19-17 USA
Australia 28-7 Scotland
South Africa 12-21 Ireland
Samoa 42-12 Spain
South Africa 27-7 Spain
Samoa 27-14 Ireland