Dubai Sevens: Argentina end BlitzBoks' run
DAY ONE: Defending series champions South Africa were given a rude wake-up call in the opening round of the 2018-19 season.
However, the damage was not too serious.
Despite losing 12-17 to Argentina in the final pool match on Friday, the BlitzBoks still managed to top Pool A and will face England in the Cup quarterfinals.
New Zealand, Fiji and Australia won all three pool matches
Argentina, courtesy of their win over South Africa, also advanced to the Cup play-offs.
The United States, Scotland and England – who lost 19-22 to Australia in the last match of the day – sealed second place in their respective groups.
Saturday’s Cup quarterfinals
In the first match of the final session, Spain opened the scoring against Wales. The distinctive running style of Marcos Poggi broke down the left and he cruised in. Spain wiggled around the defence line for a second time and the young Welsh side, they have six debutants on the series this year, were under a spot of pressure – 14-0 at the break.
Luke Treharne broke early in the second half, took the ball six or seven paces forwards and then released Afon Bagshaw flat to the line with a corking pass. But Spain quickly cancelled out the score when Pol Pla pounced on a chip through from Inaki Mateu. Pol Pla finished the game with a huge smile on his face and a double, while there’s a spot of thinking to do for this young Welsh side overnight.
There was an early yellow card for the United States against New Zealand and it went to the recently crowned World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year Perry Baker – for an infringement straight off the restart on Andrew Knewstubb. Sam Dickson capitalised on the extra space. New Zealand turned the screws, pressuring the line phase after phase, before Andrew Knewstubb spotted the gap over the line to make it 14-0 at the break.
New Zealand added to their tally before Andrew Knewstubb was sent to the naughty step for two minutes. The United States eventually managed to exploit New Zealand on the outside with the extra number and it was Carlin Isles who accelerated around on the outside arch. New Zealand had the final word through Luke Masirewa and they go through as Pool C winners.
Jamie Farndale made amends for his earlier blunder – when he ran out of space for what would have been the match-winning score against Fiji – when he opened the scoring against France. France bounced back to level things up, before Gavin Lowe and Robbie Fergusson produce some set-piece magic. Fergusson peeled off the scrum and got the offload out of the first tackle, Lowe was on his shoulder and then he scored –
14-7 at the break.
Early in the second half Gilles Lakafia surged through and was only stopped by a monster of a hit from Max McFarland. The French shrugged it off, kept the ball alive and put Jonathan Laugel away on the far left to tie it up again. Despite losing a man to the sin bin for a cynical foul, Scotland managed to hang on for the 14-all draw and finished second in the pool – to advance to the Cup play-offs.
It was a tidy start from Fiji in their encounter with Kenya, as Sevuloni Mocenacagi crossed with around 30 seconds played. Gareth Baber’s side put their foot to the floor and charged into a 17-0 lead with powerful running, jaw-dropping handling and pace galore. The Kenyans showed their determination and crossed before the interval.
The Little Magician Jerry Tuwai wiggled out of another couple of tackles on his way to the line for Fiji’s next try. Kenya may have had the last say on the board, but without some of their highly experienced players, they didn’t have the answers against the flying Fijians. Gareth Baber’s side finished Day One with three victories and progress through to face the United States in the Cup quarterfinals.
Samoa needed to beat a sturdy Zimbabwe side, but the invitational team powered over for the first five-pointer of the match. Samoa then put a vital double on the board, the second from Elisapeta Alofipo in the far left corner. It left the game delicately poised at 10-5 at the break.
Zimbabwe coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba unleashed Tafadzwa Chitokwindo have and he made his mark. Chitokwindo, on his first real bit of possession, tapped ahead and then defied belief by taking the ricocheting ball in and grounding it. It went down to the wire, with Tafadzwa Chitokwindo proving to be a game-changer for Zimbabwe – brushing defenders off left, right and centre. The 28-year-old surged over, but the conversion was wide – allowing Samoa to hold on for a 17-15 win.
South Africa used their brutal defence against Argentina and it paid dividends – first they force the mistake inside the 22 and score from it before Branco du Preez collided with Conrado Roura. Soon after Werner Kok capitalised on a kick forwards for their second score of the half.
Gastón Revol – in a training ground move – set up Franco Sabato and then Argentina went down the left and en route to the try-line, where Siviwe Soyizwapi went far too high. Los Pumas Sevens recycle anyway and Conrado Roura crossed. But, Roura didn’t get the grounding. The result… Soyizwapi was given a yellow card and Argentina restarted with the possession. Argentina completed the ultimate comeback by working the extra number to create oodles of space on the right. Franco Sabato was the scorer – putting Argentina through to the top eight.
Canada had the perfect start against Japan – going ahead early with a Nathan Hirayama try in a game in which both teams were looking for their first win of the day. Masaki Kondo pulled one back for Japan as the teams went in level 7-all at the break.
Pat Kay got Canada back in the lead early in the second half, before tries by Justin Douglas and Andrew Coe (two in quick succession) put the match beyond the reach of the outclassed Japan team.
In the final match of the day, Charlton Kerr got it all wrong with a tackle on John Porch, as he went far too high. The result is a yellow card and Australia had a two-minute window to capitalise on the extra man. It was great vision from Longbottom, who picked up from the back of the ruck and darted through to the line.
England captain Tom Mitchell saw a gap and accelerated into it. His angle meant that he dotted the ball down on the far left, but he still nailed the conversion. Charlton Kerr instantly made amends by scoring after he returned from the sin bin.
England then had to have to do it all over again, as Tom Mitchell was handed a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. This time Australia capitalised on the space through Lachie Anderson’s bulldozing line – 14-12 at the break.
It was a nice set-piece play from the Aussies that saw John Porch outstripping the cover to score in the corner. It’s been quite the day for Dan Norton – having become the first man to score 300 tries on the World Series – and he then turned creator for his side. Norton did all of the hard work down the left, took the contact and got the accurate offload away to Ethan Waddleton.
There was a third yellow card for England, Dan Bibby is the man to receive the card for failing to roll away. Australia worked a three-on-one as a result for Ben O’Donnell to make the most of. England had to go the length of the field, but Australia held on to top Pool D and face Argentina in the semifinals.
Spain 35-7 Wales
New Zealand 24-7 United States
Scotland 14-14 France
Fiji 43-12 Kenya
Samoa 17-15 Zimbabwe
South Africa 12-17 Argentina
Canada 27-7 Japan
Australia 22-19 England
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) November 30, 2018
United States 33-12 Wales
New Zealand 28-17 Spain
Kenya 21-17 France
Fiji 21-17 Scotland
Argentina 22-19 Zimbabwe
South Africa 19-12 Samoa
England 31-7 Japan
Australia 31-19 Canada
United States 29-0 Spain
New Zealand 28-7 Wales
Kenya 14-35 Scotland
Fiji 39-0 France
Argentina 19-21 Samoa
South Africa 31-0 Zimbabwe
England 26-12 Canada
Australia 43-0 Japan
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) November 30, 2018