New Zealand race clear, as BlitzBoks falter again
DAY TWO WRAP: New Zealand became the first team to win two tournaments in the Sevens World Series 2023, beating Argentina 22-12 in the Cup Final in Los Angeles.
Leroy Carter was the hero for New Zealand on a much more dry Day Two, scoring five tries – including two in the showpiece match – to help his side to their second successive title.
In winning in the United States, New Zealand avenged their defeat to Argentina in their home Cup Final in Hamilton last month and solidified their position at the top of the standings.
With six of 11 2023 Series tournaments played at the end of the Los Angeles leg, New Zealand have amassed 107 points, 21 more than Los Pumas, who are now second.
They have overtaken South Africa, who endured a horrid tournament and managed just one win all weekend.
Both Argentina and South Africa have 86 points, but Los Pumas go ahead based on their +200 points difference to the BlitzBoks’ +85.
Fiji (fourth on 84 points) and Samoa (fifth, 81) are also closing in on the BlitzBoks in that all-important race for a top-four finish and an automatic Olympic qualification spot.
“We’ve been working hard for a few years now,” New Zealand captain Sam Dickson said.
“We made a few finals last year and now we’re finally clicking, that hard work’s paying off.”
(Article continues below standings …)
History doesn’t repeat
Moses Leo opened the scoring in the Cup Final, outpacing Marcos Moneta to score in the left corner and give New Zealand a 5-0 lead.
That soon became 12-0 as Carter crossed for the first time, converted by Akuila Rokolisao, who had notched his 60th Series try in the 33-12 Cup semifinal win against Australia.
New Zealand had conceded a 12-point lead in losing the Hamilton Cup Final to Argentina in January, but any nerves were eased in first-half stoppage time as Carter went over again.
Los Pumas Sevens hit back with tries from Tobias Wade and Agustin Fraga to set up a tense final two minutes, but it was New Zealand who held their nerve.
Brady Rush made sure of the victory and the tournament as he produced a stunning dummy to fool the Argentine defenders and canter over.
Player of the Final
Joint-top try-scorer with Fiji’s Iowane Teba in Los Angeles, Carter came up big when New Zealand needed him, scoring in each of their knockout stage wins (against Great Britain, Australia and Argentina).
In the Cup Final against Los Pumas Sevens, Carter displayed his finishing ability to score twice at the end of the first half and ultimately take the match away from his side’s opponents.
Carter made six linebreaks in LA, second only to Teba (nine), and contributed 14 tackles to New Zealand’s defensive effort at the Digital Health Sports Park.
— World Rugby 7s (@WorldRugby7s) February 27, 2023
Fiji hold on to claim bronze
Fiji had been undone by indiscipline in their 17-20 Cup semifinal loss to Argentina, but it looked as though they were cruising to victory in the third-place play-off.
Anasa Qaranivalu stormed through the Australian defence to score the first try of the match within the opening minute.
Rokoua Rasaku crossed the whitewash to double the Fijian advantage before half-time and it was 21-0 in the ninth minute when Manueli Maisamoa cut through before handing the ball off to Rauto Vakadranu to score his first Series try.
Australia had less than five minutes to mount a comeback, but they gave it their all as Maurice Longbottom, Dietrich Roache and Nathan Lawson all touched down.
Ultimately, though, Longbottom’s missed conversion from his own score – which hit the crossbar from the right touchline – proved decisive and enabled Fiji to hold on to win bronze.
“These games are crucial,” Fiji coach Ben Gollings said.
“They’ve regrouped well, and it was a big performance.”
Samoa ended the weekend on high
Earlier, Samoa needed golden point extra-time to beat Great Britain 24-19 in the fifth-place play-ff.
Tom Emery’s impressive conversion of Jamie Barden’s late try forced the additional period and it looked as though he might have the final say in extra-time.
He was unable to hold onto Robbie Fergusson’s pass, though, and Samoa went up the other end to score through Faafoi Falaniko.
France held off a second-half fight back from Spain to win the ninth-place play-off 26-24 after United States had beaten Japan 31-7 to finish 13th.
Main results from Day Two
Cup Final: Argentina 12-22 New Zealand
Third-place play-off: Fiji 21-19 Australia
Fifth-place play-off: Samoa 24-19 Great Britain
Argentina 20-17 Fiji
New Zealand 33-17 Australia
Fifth-place qualifying matches
Samoa 45-5 South Africa
Great Britain 12-5 Ireland
Samoa 12-19 Argentina
Fiji 28-7 South Africa
Great Britain 12-24 New Zealand
Ireland 7-31 Australia