London Sevens: BlitzBoks back with a bang
DAY ONE WRAP: South Africa and New Zealand bounced back from shock exits in Toulouse by topping their Pools on day one at Twickenham, while in-form Fiji and Samoa did likewise, and Series leaders Argentina were knocked out.
South Africa and New Zealand returned to form in style on day one of the London Sevens, while the race for the World Rugby Sevens Series took another twist as leaders Argentina were knocked out in the Pool stage.
The Los Pumas Sevens moved to the top of the Series standings for the first time ever last weekend following a shock Pool-stage exit for South Africa in Toulouse, but they won’t be on top for long after finishing behind the Blitzboks and fourth seeds Ireland in a ferociously competitive Pool B.
A last-gasp try from Terry Kennedy sealed a 22-21 win for the Irish in a dramatic conclusion to Pool action, marking a hat-trick for the Series’ leading try scorer and an early exit for the Pumas.
South Africa won all three of their Pool games to set up a high-stakes quarter-final against Australia, who sit six points behind them in third in the overall standings.
The Aussies finished second in Pool C behind New Zealand, who were in ruthless form as they issued a big response to their first-ever failure to reach the Cup quarter-finals in France last weekend.
The All Blacks Sevens topped their Pool with three wins from three, and they will face Ireland in the last eight.
France Sevens champions Fiji, who still have an outside chance of clinching the Series title due to this season’s unique scoring system of counting the best seven of nine results from the 2021/22 campaign, also recorded a perfect Pool record to set up a clash with England.
Spain progressed to their first Cup quarter-final of the season thanks to wins over the USA and Wales.
They will face Samoa for a place in the last four, after the Samoans launched a second-half comeback to beat England in the final game of the day and clinch top spot in Pool D with three wins from three.
Fijians continue to fly
Fiji headed to London as one of the favourites for the Cup crown after a superb recent run of two golds and one silver in their last three tournaments.
The Olympic champions, who claimed gold the last time the London 7s was contested in 2019, soon demonstrated that their flying form won’t slow down any time soon as six different try scorers crossed the line in an opening 38-17 victory over Wales.
The Flying Fijians seem to love playing at Twickenham, as that victory took their winning streak at England’s national stadium to 16 – which soon became 17, and then 18.
They recorded a 29-19 victory over a lively Spain side, this time spreading the try-scoring load between five players, and finished off by beating USA with another display of skill and power.
Kaminieli Rasaku charged between two defenders for a wonderful try that opened the scoring, and the Fijians looked comfortable as they went in 19-5 up at the break after a dominant display.
But, not for the first time on Saturday in London, a second-half comeback was launched as Perry Baker and Lucas Lacamp struck to draw the game level at 19-19 with five minutes still to go.
But substitute Pilipo Bukayaro punctured the American defence and sprinted under the posts to wrestle the advantage back in Fiji’s favour and seal a 26-19 win.
Los Leones Sevens claimed second place and their first quarter-final appearance of the season thanks to a superb 26-10 victory over the USA in their opening game and a resounding 42-17 win over Wales.
Blitzboks bounce back
There was a mouth-watering start to Pool B as the top two sides in the Series standings, Argentina and South Africa, went head-to-head.
The match delivered on the hype as South Africa went 14-7 by half time to set up a helter-skelter second half.
Argentina failed to gather the restart, allowing James Murphy to touch down and give the Blitzboks a 12-point lead, but a lung-busting score from the electric Marcos Moneta and a try from German Schulz directly from the restart saw the Pumas 7s draw level.
However, South Africa – without a medal in the last three tournaments – turned on the flair for the winning try as Angelo Davids hared after a well-judged Dewald Human kick to and went under the posts to seal a momentous victory.
Toulouse silver medallists Ireland survived a scare in their opener, requiring a try from Kennedy with the clock almost two minutes into the red to overcome a resilient Kenya 17-14.
Next, the Blitzboks backed up their earlier win by beating Ireland 19-12 in a shoot-out for top spot.
The Irish fought back from behind as star men Jordan Conroy and Kennedy responded to Zain Davids’ early try to take the lead, but Mfundo Nohlovu and Angelo Davids scores turned the game on its head once more to give Neil Powell’s side victory.
The Blitzboks made it three from three with a 24-21 win over Kenya, leaving Argentina, who earlier defeated the Kenyans 26-0, facing a winner-takes-all battle with Ireland for second.
In one of the day’s most thrilling matches, Ireland raced into a 17-0 half-time lead thanks to a Kennedy brace and Conroy try.
Los Pumas Sevens showed their quality with a second-half fightback, as Matias Osadczuk, Marcos Moneta and Luciano Gonzalez scored to give the Pumas a four-point lead.
However, there was a dramatic finale as Kennedy completed his hat-trick at the death to send Ireland through at their opponents’ expense and spark joyous celebrations.
New Zealand in the winners circle
The day’s action kicked off in style as rivals Australia and New Zealand faced off, the latter looking for revenge after suffering a defeat in this fixture last weekend that sealed their shock Pool stage exit.
Joe Webber got them off to a perfect start by running in the first try of the weekend as two tries apiece were traded before half-time.
Caleb Tangitau and Nick Malouf crossed after the break to keep the score level with two minutes, but the breakthrough came when the All Blacks Sevens shifted the ball wide for Leroy Carter to run in the winning try of a confidence-boosting 24-19 victory.
Toulouse bronze medallists France had to fight back from behind to beat Canada 19-14 in their opening game, but they were blown away 36-7 by the All Blacks Sevens in their second outing.
Ngarohi Mcgarvey-Black was the star of the show as he ran in a hat-trick and nailed three conversions, while Sam Dickson, Tangitau and Rokolisoa also got in on the try-scoring fun before Nelson Eppe crossed for a late French consolation.
There was some bad news, though, as Amanaki Nicole picked up a red card for a dangerous clear-out at a ruck that earned him a three-match ban, while Sione Molia picked up a calf strain that ended his weekend early.
Nevertheless, New Zealand finished with a flourish, sealing top spot with a 40-14 victory over Canada.
Australia defeated Canada 26-5, helped by an outrageous try from Corey Toole, who had the pace to run from behind his own posts to under the Canadian sticks.
That set up a showdown against France for second place, which the in-form Toole immediately lit up with a try to give Australia an early lead.
Nathan Lawson and Nick Malouf scores gave the Aussies a comfortable lead, but France chipped away at it through Aaron Grandidier and Joachim Trouabal in the second half.
Ben Marr’s try calmed the nerves for the Aussies, and Trouabal’s last-gasp second score was no more than a consolation in a 28-19 defeat for Les Bleus.
Samoa stun England
The home crowd was treated to a thriller when England mounted a spectacular comeback to earn an opening win over Scotland.
The impressive Scots, 2016 and 2017 champions in London, raced into a 17-0 half-time lead thanks to Jordan Edmunds, Lee Jones and Ross McCann tries as they looked to end an eight-match Pool stage losing streak.
But they collapsed after the break as the hosts scored 19 unanswered points to grab a stunning victory; Freddie Roddick and Tom Bowen scored either side of a penalty try being awarded, which also saw Scotland captain Jamie Farndale sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on.
Samoa had an eye on top spot in the Pool after fourth-place finishes in Toulouse and Vancouver, and they got off to a great start by beating Japan 33-15.
They then benefited from Scotland again fading out of a game, as Edmunds and Farndale tries put the Scots 12-0 up against Samoa at half time, only for history to repeat itself.
Neueli Leitufia got Samoa back in it with a try early in the second half, and a high tackle resulted in a yellow for Scotland substitute Alex Coombes, which led to an immediate leveller from Steve Rimoni.
But it was Melani Matavao who was to thank for the victory, as he nailed a difficult conversion from wide that proved crucial to a 14-12 win. Scotland did finish on a high though, beating Japan 24-7 to end that long wait for a Pool win.
England’s earlier 38-12 win over Japan meant they headed into the final game of the day against Samoa knowing that it represented a play-off for top spot.
The home side got off to a great start as Jamie Adamson and Will Homer crossed the whitewash, but Paul Scalan struck back to make it 14-7 at the break.
Alex Davis’ try early in the second half pushed the advantage further in England’s favour, but Samoa turned on the style to finish off a day of comebacks with yet another one.
Scanlan grabbed a second try before Vaovasa Afa and Uaiana Sione struck in the space of a minute to turn the game on its head and earn Samoa a memorable 26-19 victory.
United States 10-26 Spain
Fiji 38-17 Wales
United States 33-19 Wales
Fiji 29-19 Spain
Spain 42-17 Wales
Fiji 26-19 United States
Argentina 19-26 South Africa
Ireland 17-14 Kenya
Argentina 26-0 Kenya
Ireland 12-19 South Africa
South Africa 24-21 Kenya
Ireland 22-21 Argentina
Australia 19-24 New Zealand
France 19-14 Canada
Australia 26-5 Canada
France 7-36 New Zealand
New Zealand 40-14 Canada
France 19-28 Australia
England 19-17 Scotland
Samoa 33-15 Japan
England 38-12 Japan
Samoa 14-12 Scotland
Scotland 24-7 Japan
Samoa 26-19 England