BlitzBoks knocked over; as Kiwis march on
NEW ZEALAND SEVENS DAY ONE WRAP: England is assured of the top spot in Pool B at the Hamilton leg of the World Series.
They beat South Africa in a thrilling pool match on a day that saw New Zealand and Fiji also win two matches, while France and Canada also went unbeaten – both with a win and a draw.
England claimed the top spot in Pool B, following a tense 21-19 victory over Dubai champions South Africa.
Even if England lose in their final pool match on Day Two and the BlitzBoks win – for both to finish on seven points – the head-to-head rule will place the Europeans top.
South Africa’s early exit is the result of a new cut-throat format.
Under the format, introduced for the New Zealand and Australia legs – to cater for women’s tournaments running at the same time, at the same venue – quarterfinals have been scrapped in the men’s sections.
Only pool winners progress to the Cup semifinals and there is no longer a second chance for teams who slip up in pool play.
South Africa, who went into the tournament as co-leaders in the series with New Zealand, did slip up when they missed a conversion with seconds remaining against England and lost.
Hosts New Zealand and defending Hamilton champions Fiji and England are the only teams with a perfect record after Day One.
France and Canada, though, are also unbeaten in Pool C after playing out a 12-all draw in their second match, having already seen off the challenge of Spain and Ireland respectively.
The pool stage concludes on Sunday after which the four teams topping their respective pools will progress straight to the Cup semifinals.
The other teams will go to play-offs to determine the rankings from fifth to 16th.
We look at all the Day One pool action!
The United States ensured that captain Madison Hughes’ 50th series event got off to a winning start with first-half tries by speedster Carlin Isles and Stephen Tomasin either side of a run-in from Scotland’s Max McFarland. There was no let up from the Eagles Sevens after the break with tries by Maka Unufe and Perry Baker wrapping up the 24-7 victory.
New Zealand didn’t take long to get into gear against Wales, Hamilton-born co-captain Tim Mikkelson going coast-to-coast for the opening try before taking the offload from Dylan Collier for their third. Regan Ware and Joe Webber also crossed to put the All Blacks Sevens in total control at half-time, with Scott Curry, Kurt Baker and Vilimoni Koroi wrapping up a dominant 47-0 victory.
Wales are yet to win a pool match on the 2020 series after Dougie Fife’s try saw Scotland battle to a 24-19 victory in this all-Celtic affair. Scotland had raced into a 10-0 lead only to find themselves trailing by four at half-time. Paddy Kelly edged Scotland ahead with his first series try before Jay Jones’ second gave Wales the lead for the first time midway through the second half.
The All Blacks Sevens were determined to finish the day on a winning note, co-captain Scott Curry bursting through the United States defence for the opening try. The two Bakers – Perry and Kurt – traded first-half tries before a powerful run by Mikkelson extended the hosts’ advantage, leaving Sam Dickson to wrap up a 26-5 victory.
Scotland 7-24 United States
New Zealand 47-0 Wales
Scotland 24-19 Wales
New Zealand 26-5- United States
Kenya was on fire in the first half against England, two-time winners of the New Zealand Sevens, with a Willy Ambaka brace and another from captain Andrew Amonde give them a 19-5 lead. Dan Norton cut the deficit on the stroke of half-time and England then denied Kenya any ball in the second half to complete the comeback with two tries by Will Edwards.
Dubai winners South Africa were much more comfortable winners in their first outing, Muller du Plessis and Jacobus Pretorius dotting down in the first half with Cecil Afrika and Angelo Davids (2) scoring after Fisipuna Tuiaki had got Japan on the scoreboard to run out 31-5 winners over the Tokyo 2020 hosts.
Kenya’s cult hero Alvin Otieno put them ahead early on against Japan, but they would only go into half-time with a 7-5 lead after Kippei Ishida late try. Daniel Taabu edged the Shujaa Sevens ahead once more, but they couldn’t shake off the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games hosts with Yoshikazu Fujita’s conversion of Dai Ozawa’s try ensuring the first draw in 24 meetings between the teams.
Effectively the pool decider after Kenya’s draw, the BlitzBoks enjoyed a dream start with tries by captain Stedman Gans and Pretorius inside four minutes for a 14-0 lead. However, England was level just 30 seconds into the second half and ahead when Phil Burgess went over. Justin Geduld scored for South Africa but pulled his conversion wide and England was able to claim the restart and boot the ball into touch.
Kenya 19-24 England
South Africa 31-5 Japan
Kenya 12-12 Japan
South Africa 19-21 England
Phil Berna proved Canada’s match-winner in an entertaining opening match with Ireland, scoring with time up on the clock after Jordan Conroy had tied the scores at 21-21. Key to Canada’s success was their offloading, resulting in tries for Jake Thiel and captain Nathan Hirayama with their other try the result of a good line run by Andrew Coe after Ireland had taken the lead through Terry Kennedy.
France, bronze medallists in Cape Town last month, scored first through Tavite Veredamu but then found themselves trailing 17-7 against Spain after tries by captain Francisco Hernandez, Manuel Sainz-Trapaga and their leading try-scorer Pol Pla. A yellow card to Pla, though, proved costly as Sacha Valleau’s try gave Les Bleus hope and from the restart, they won the ball to send Thibaud Mazzoleni bursting through to secure a 21-17 win.
Spain also led as half-time approached against Ireland after two quick-fire tries, but Conroy’s try with time in the red gave his side a slender 14-12 half-time advantage. Kennedy and Harry McNulty were next over the line to put Ireland in control with Spain only able to manage a late try by Eduardo Lopez.
Paulin Riva gave France the perfect start but Canada hit back when Berna raced down the touchline to give his side a 7-5 lead. Conor Braid’s yellow card saw Jean-Pascal Barraque capitalise to retake the lead but the France captain’s own yellow card for a dangerous tackle was also punished, David Richard’s try ensuring a 12-12 draw.
Ireland 21-26 Canada
France 21-17 Spain
Ireland 28-17 Spain
France 12-12 Canada
Long-range tries were the name of the game in the opening Pool D encounter, Maurice Longbottom racing away to give Australia the lead before Matías Osadczuk showed his footballing skills to hack on then touch down a kick through. Ben O’Donnell and Henry Hutchison combined to go the length of the pitch for Australia’s third and then in the second half Lewis Holland marked his 50th series event with a try that made him his country’s all-time leading try-scorer outright as they ran out comfortable 38-7 winners.
A huge roar went around the Hamilton Stadium as Fiji and Samoa ran out for the closest thing to a home tournament on the series. Samoa captain Tomasi Alasio struck first, but Jerry Tuwai was roared over the line for his 126th series try to become his country’s all-time leading try-scorer outright before Vilimoni Botitu scored with time almost up in the first half. Joe Perez tied the scores at 12-12 but a yellow card for debutant Uaina Sione proved costly with Aminiasi Tuimaba securing a 19-12 win for Fiji.
Argentina had had no answer to Australia in their first match, but they bounced back with a far better performance against Samoa, Luciano Gonzalez and Osadczuk both scoring braces in a dominant 40-12 victory which also saw German Schulz and Franco Sabata cross the whitewash.
Chants of ‘Go, Fiji, Go’ repeatedly rang out as the series champions took on Australia in the battle of the pool’s unbeaten teams, their loyal fans cheering every pass, tackle and break. Asaeli Ratuvuaka scored the only try of the first half, before Fiji went from behind their own line to score through Aminiasi Tuimaba. Dylan Pietsch gave Australia hope, but the Fiji fans went home happy thanks to Apenisa Cakaubalavu’s acrobatic dive between the posts which made it 14 wins in a row in Hamilton.
Argentina 7-38 Australia
Fiji 19-12 Samoa
Argentina 40-0 Samoa
Fiji 19-12 Australia
* Report by @WorldRugby7s