Hong Kong 7s: Isles-inspired Yanks sprint past BlitzBoks
DAY THREE WRAP: South Africa’s final hopes of retaining their World Series crown was well-and-truly ended by the blistering pace of American speedster Carlin Isles.
The sprinter, Isles, scored twice in the opening Cup quarterfinal, as the United States beat South Africa 21-12 – leaving the BlitzBoks with a desperate fight on their hands to retain their top four position and automatic qualification for next year’s Olympic Games.
The Yanks will face crowd favourites Fiji in the semifinal, after Gareth Baber’s side also had to come from behind to beat Argentina 29-24.
Samoa caused an upset in beating England 14-12 in a thriller. Samoa had lost their last six Cup quarterfinals against England, but this time they finished on the right side of the result – in their first Hong Kong Cup quarterfinal since 2015.
They will face France, who held on in a tense second half to beat New Zealand 14-12.
We look at the quarterfinals!
South Africa struck first against the flying United States outfit in the opening match of the Cup section – Impi Visser the scorers. The United States worked incredibly hard to get themselves back on even terms.
Martin Iosefo brought about a huge turnover and they got the ball swiftly into the hands of Carlin Isles. Isles missed a few tackles early on, but made up for it by accelerating away down the left.
Isles then scored a second to hand the Yanks a slender advantage. South Africa got back into the game through a second try by Impi Visser’ to make it a two-point game – 14-12.
Martin Iosefo showed his power to set up Pinkleman for the United States’ third try and a comfortable win.
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Argentina dominated the early exchanges against Fiji – with Santiago Mare and Matias Osadczuk scoring tries as starved Fiji of possession. The response from Fiji was a swift and efficient – Meli Derenalagi athletically gathered up a loose ball and charged upfield. He had his captain on his shoulder and Paula Dranisinukula got them up and running.
Argentina quickly restored their cushion, but with the time in the red Fiji went end-to-end, working calmly as if nothing was troubling them Paula Dranisinukula went through a missed tackle to get his second.
A failed attempt by Argentina to put the chip over the top was collected by Jerry Tuwai and the ‘Little Magician’ stepped in the smallest of spaces, before he gave the offload to Aminiasi Tuimaba. They immediately followed it up with a fourth try, which came from excellent breakdown work. There was just no way back for Argentina and Fiji fished with a fifth try.
The trend continued in the third quarterfinal as Samoa opened the scoring against England. However, England was quickly back in the game with some powerful work on the left from Dan Bibby and Harry Glover – Glover putting the big fend on the final defender.
Dan Norton then put England in the lead (12-7) in typical fashion, using his pace, before hard work saw Samoa reclaim the lead through Tila Mealoi. They held on in the face a fierce onslaught from the English, winning by the margin of one conversion – 14-12.
Kurt Baker opened the scoring for New Zealand, before Gabin Villiere introduced himself to the crowd with a stunner, to give France the lead. Villiere picked the ball up from the breakdown and brushed off one defender and before he races away from another.
Tavite Turaganibuli Veredamu then gave France a 14-5 lead at just before half-time.
New Zealand worked a try for Andrew Knewstubb to close the gap to 12-14, but France held on as the Kiwis struggled to unlock the powerful French defence. Despite New Zealand getting back to within two, a plethora of errors ended their Cup campaign.
South Africa 12-21 United States
Fiji 29-24 Argentina
England 12-14 Samoa
France 14-12 New Zealand
Challenge Trophy quarterfinals
Jaime Mata Sanchez latched onto an offload and raced under the sticks for the opening try of the quarterfinals – as Spain took an early lead against Scotland. Javier de Juan then powered over for their second. Max McFarland made sure that Scotland remains in touch by showcasing his power to shake off the close attention of the last defender. After Spain’s early strike it was all about Scotland, who finished with five tries in the second seven minutes – three from Max McFarland, and they moved into the Challenge Trophy semifinals.
Australia decided to follow Scotland’s lead and take the tricky route to victory. Portugal raced into a 21-0 lead, with three converted-tries against Australia in the first half. It required a determined comeback from Australia. With just two minutes remaining some slick play saw them complete their comeback – Tim Walsh’s side scoring four second-half tries.
As was the case in the first two matches, one team got out the blocks quickly – as Japan totally dominated possession and hardly gave Wales a look at the ball race into a tidy 24-point lead after seven minutes. Wales eventually broke their duck off the final play, but two more from Japan before that made this a rout.
Kenya was just too good for Canada. A pick-and-go from Jeff Otieno was followed by the experienced Andrew Amonde crossing. Both conversions found the right spot and they finished the first half with a flourish. Kenya maintained their hold on the game and after a scoreless second half walked away with a comfortable win.
Scotland 33-14 Spain
Australia 26-21 Portugal
Wales 7-38 Japan
Canada 0-19 Kenya