Kiwis put seal on Series win, as BlitzBoks flop again
DAY THREE WRAP: New Zealand wrapped up a 13th men’s Sevens World Series title in Toulouse and followed that up with a come-from-behind 24-19 extra-time win against Argentina in the Cup Final on Sunday.
Heading into the penultimate tournament of the Series, New Zealand knew they would secure the overall title if they reached the Cup Final.
That looked in doubt at the death of their Cup semifinal against France as the hosts threatened their line with the New Zealand defence stretched.
However, the attempted pass went to a black jersey and the New Zealand Sevens could celebrate.
New Zealand still had the Cup Final to play, of course, and despite having their hopes of winning a first Series title ended, Argentina started brightly at Stade Ernest-Wallon.
German Schulz, Agustin Fraga and Marcos Moneta all crossed the whitewash to give Los Pumas Sevens a 19-7 lead at the break.
Against a team that had conceded only seven tries in reaching the Cup Final, the New Zealand Sevens’ chances looked slim but Clark Laidlaw’s team displayed a champion spirit to win a titanic contest.
Akuila Rokolisoa narrowed the deficit with a try before player-of-the-match Roderick Solo levelled the scores, sending the match into golden point extra-time.
And it was left to Solo to produce the moment of magic that secured the title in Toulouse, drifting across the turf before producing an outrageous finish in the right corner.
“I didn’t plan that,” Solo admitted afterwards. “We got a move to crash midfield, but it came from nowhere and I just had to go for the corner and hope for the best.”
New Zealand Sevens captain Sam Dickson said: “So proud of the boys to come back again in extra time and show that ticker we’ve had all season and top-off our World Series. This victory means a lot to everyone.”
Stade Ernest-Wallon was given something to cheer earlier on day three as France beat Canada 28-12 to win the bronze medal.
The hosts were an errant pass away from beating New Zealand and reaching the Cup Final, and home nerves heightened when Jack Carson opened the scoring for Canada in their last match.
However, France refused to panic and two tries from Aaron Grandidier and one apiece from Jordan Sepho and Jonathan Laugel wrapped up an impressive win.
“It’s just incredible to play in front of that crowd, all the energy we could feel it,” Laugel said afterwards.
“I’m also very proud of the guys, we were very disappointed after New Zealand even though we were so close to beating them. Now we beat Canada and it’s very good as we want to get a better position on the world championship [standings].”
Despite back-to-back defeats on Sunday, there is plenty for Canadian fans to be happy about from their performances in Toulouse as the team prepares for the Sevens World Series 2024 play-off in London next weekend.
Canada will certainly take heart from victories over Uruguay and Kenya – who they meet alongside Tonga next weekend – as they travel to Twickenham.
Australia close on Olympic qualification
Australia had a chance to put some distance between themselves and those chasing the final Olympic qualification place as they faced Ireland in the fifth-place play-off.
They fell 0-7 and 7-14 behind in the early stages but a Nathan Lawson hat-trick either side of half-time set them on course for a 26-21 victory.
It means Australia retain the fourth and final qualifying spot ahead of the season finale at Twickenham next weekend.
Australia head to London with a nine-point cushion on Samoa and South Africa immediately beneath them and will be guaranteed of a ticket to Paris if they reach the Cup semifinals at English rugby’s HQ.
All the main Day Three results follow below …
Argentina 19-24 New Zealand
Canada 12-28 France
Canada 5-33 Argentina
New Zealand 19-14 France
Australia 26-21 Ireland
Australia 21-19 South Africa
Ireland 22-0 Great Britain