Hosts and defending champions New Zelaand won all three of their matches on day one of the HSBC Wellington Sevens to march into the quarter-finals after dramatically beating South Africa 19-14 in the last match of the day.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series leaders Fiji and Australia also maintained 100% records with impressive displays at the Westpac Stadium, as the third round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series continued to entertain.
The All Blacks Sevens, who have won four of their last five home tournaments, came from 7-0 behind to be Cape Town Sevens champions South Africa 19-14. Two Akira Ioane breaks, the first to set up Sam Dickson, gave New Zealand a 12-7 lead before Cheslin Kolbe looked to have given the Blitzboks the win. But a trademark Sonny Bill Williams offload gave Joe Webber the chance to dot down under the posts for the home side to finish top of Pool A.
On a day where Williams made his international sevens debut and scored a try with his first touch, Sir Gordon Tietjens’ side will now meet Kenya in the quarter-finals, a repeat of the dramatic semi-final from two years ago in which Oscar Ouma scored in sudden-death extra-time to put the African side into the final.
“Hopefully I can grow into the tournament and just keep learning,” said Williams “It was a sneaky scab try, I was just backing up, but like I said I just want to learn. I am grateful to be playing amongst such talented players.
“It is always good to play at home, and in the All Blacks jersey, in Wellington, from an NZ perspective I’m not sure it gets much bigger than this.”
Ben Ryan’s Fiji scored 17 tries, including four from Savenaca Rawaca to take his tally for the season to 14, and will face USA in a mouth-watering quarter-final. Fiji’s impressive pool stage record continues, having won 36 of their last 36. Australia will meet South Africa in their quarter-final after Sam Myers scored at the death to beat Kenya 17-12 in the Pool D decider, adding to two earlier tries from Greg Jeloudev.
Despite a defeat to Samoa, England were the other side to finish top of their pool. Finishing ahead of Mike Friday’s USA having beaten them in their second match of the day, England will play Cape Town runners-up Argentina. Simon Amor’s side return to the quarter-finals having missed out in Cape Town, in the only change from the final eight in South Africa. USA booked their place with a 29-21 win over France with two tries from Carlin Isles.