New Zealand took their first tournament win of 2017 after beating Argentina 38-14 in Cape Town to go top of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings.
The All Blacks Sevens made up for their Cup final loss in Dubai last weekend with a clinical display in front of a sold-out Cape Town Stadium. Two tries from HSBC Player of the Final Joe Ravouvou combined with scores from Vilimoni Koroi, Tim Mikkelson, Regan Ware and Sione Molia to help head coach Clark Laidlaw’s side to victory over an Argentina side chasing their first Cup win since San Diego in 2009.
“I’m so proud of how the boys played this weekend and last weekend,” said captain Scott Curry. “It could have gone either way after we lost our first pool match against USA yesterday but day two is another day. We started fresh and really worked for each other and that’s what won it for us. We’ll look forward to our home tournament in Hamilton coming up soon – it’s a new city and they really love their rugby there.”
Hosts South Africa were knocked out 19-12 in the Cup semi-final by New Zealand yet finished strongly in third after beating Canada 19-17 in the bronze final.
New Zealand are now two points clear of South Africa in the overall HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 standings with eight stops remaining. The teams will regroup in Sydney on 26-28 January.
South Africa 12-19 New Zealand
South Africa went into this match as favourites having beaten New Zealand in the final in Dubai but the All Blacks Sevens had other plans. Blitzboks captain Philip Snyman scored early on after handing off the New Zealand defence on the right wing. Joe Ravouvou received a yellow card in the process for a late tackle, putting New Zealand down to six men. However, shortly after Tim Mikkelson found himself going under the posts after the South Africa defence was found napping. Cecil Afrika scrambled over the line for the hosts before half-time to make it 12-7 at the break.
In the second half New Zealand star Vilimoni Koroi got his side right back into it with a brilliant 75m break to score, with Afrika not even being able to catch him. Ravouvou made up for his earlier mistake by making a powerful run down the right wing and looked set to score before Rosko Specman came in with a strong tackle. With the ball loose Joe Webber got his hands on it and put New Zealand ahead 19-12.
The Blitzboks had one more chance to take the win but Tim Agaba knocked on after a flat pass came too hot to handle.
A star on day two, Connor Braid started Canada off with a great break before offloading to Pat Kay for the first score of the match. Marcos Moroni got Argentina back into the game after pulling in three defenders before offloading to Santiago Alvarez for the try.
Braid was at it once again, picking up the ball in the Argentina half, then making a huge arcing run to split the defence and score. Canada looked in control at this stage, but the tables turned quickly when Rodrigo Etchart showed a clean pair of heels to score. The conversion, from Lautaro Bazan Velez, proved to be absolutely crucial.
South Africa 31-26 Fiji
South Africa were under pressure from the outset at their home tournament after Fiji went 0-14 up within two minutes. A yellow card for Seabelo Senatla for a high tackle left them down to six men as Fiji capitalised on every mistake made by the Blitzboks. Werner Kok settled nerves after scoring a nice solo effort down the left wing, but immediately Fiji were back in the game as Josua Vakurunabili handed off Senatla on the right wing and helped Fiji to a 21-5 lead. South Africa then scored one of the tries of the tournament as Kwagga Smith, Tim Agaba and Justin Geduld linked up to run the length of the pitch. 12-21 to Fiji at half-time.
In the second half, Cecil Afrika unleashed a huge 30m pass to Senatla who ran in a try to make it 17-21 after the kick was missed by by Afrika. Kalione Nasoko dampened Blitzboks’ hopes once more though, breaking through the line and running half the pitch to go under the posts, making it 17-26. Smith once again showed his true class, slicing down the right wing and dotting down under the sticks. With the kick good, just two points separated the sides. A Fiji attack was stunted on the right wing and the ball eventually ripped out, which was scooped up by Senatla to score his second and secure a thrilling win.
England 12-17 New Zealand
A loose NFL style pass from Sam Dickson gave England an early scrum five metres out after the ball eventually went dead behing New Zealand’s posts. The ball made its way to Ruaridh McConnochie who went over from close range and gave England the lead. The All Blacks Sevens went straight back deep into England’s half with some beautiful interlinking play, scoring eventually through Andrew Knewstubb.
England led 7-5 at half-time, and extended their lead through McConnochie once more in the second half. New Zealand attacked down the right wing, with Joe Ravouvou and Dylan Collier linking up, Collier going over for the score. At 12-10, a yellow card for Tom Mitchell for a high tackle opened up the space, and the All Blacks Sevens exploited this with Ravouvou finishing off in the left corner.
Connor Braid gave Canada the perfect start as he sped down the right wing, offloading to Pat Kay who turned and popped the ball to Mike Fuailefau to score. Nate Hirayama, in his 55th tournament, jinked and stepped through three French defenders to score and converted to make it 14-0. Justin Douglas, lethal on day one of the tournament, went into top gear down the left wing to add to the score and make it 21-0 at half-time.
Braid kicked things off in the second half with a try straight from the restart and then Matt Mullins added a score of his own to make it 35-0. France’s only try came from Johan Demai-Hamecher late in the game as Damian McGrath’s team took a convincing win.
USA 12-28 Argentina
Franco Sabato and Lautaro Bazan Velez both scored within the first three minutes to pile the pressure on Mike Friday’s USA side, who went unbeaten on day one of the tournament. At 14-0 going into the second half, Santiago Gomez Cora’s Argentina outfit turned up the skill level once more as Conrado Roura added another try. A long range run from Stephen Tomasin and score from Folau Niua made it 21-12 with seconds to go, but Argentina closed out the game thanks to Luciano Gonzalez.