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Fiji crowned champions at HSBC Cape Town Sevens

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It was Fiji’s first final since 2009 and completed a fantastic weekend — in which they remained unbeaten — by defeating the United States.

Nasoko opened the scoring with a solo run after some excellent Fiji defending, before they were handed two gift tries. First Botitu got between a Madison Hughes pass and was free to run from deep in his own half, and then Perry Baker fumbled a one-handed play for Sevuloni Mocenacagi to capitalise.

Botitu — who won HSBC Player of the Final — exploited a gap after half time and despite Ben Pinkelman’s two tries, Fiji were too far clear. Nasoko’s line break allowed his second and Carlin Isles capped the final with a brilliant run to the corner, but USA finished second for the second consecutive event.

Fiji head coach Gareth Baber: “It’s been a long time coming, for the Fijians to win in Cape Town. We were disappointed last week that we didn’t manage to perform to the level that we’ve done this week.

“It makes me most proud that these players have done everything for their families back home and the country of Fiji. It’s great. Fijian fans are everywhere in the world, wherever we travel, and we say a big thank you to all those who make a big effort to come and support us.”

SOUTH AFRICA EARN BRONZE

There was a repeat of the final match on day one in Cape Town as the hosts South Africa got one back over New Zealand with a 10-5 win to claim third place. It was a breathless affair once again as New Zealand took an early lead through Sione Molia after a one-two with Etene Nanai-Seturo. South Africa pulled level when Werner Kok went on a blistering diagonal run to find the corner, before taking the lead in the second half. After a number of phases were brilliantly broken down by the All Blacks Sevens’ defence, Selvyn Davids played a step and go before offloading to Dewald Human to touch down the winning try.

In a physically brutal semi-final, Fiji had to come from behind to beat South Africa after Siviwe Soyizwapi’s early try. Botitu brought Fiji back level and Waisea Nacuqu took full advantage of a Kok missed tackle to give them the lead. Rosko Specman pierced the defence to put pressure back on Fiji but the eventual winners snatched it late through Alosio Naduva, who broke down the left to touch down with two seconds remaining.

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The USA had produced arguably the performance of the weekend to sweep aside New Zealand and reach the final. After the All Blacks Sevens defeated Australia in the quarter-finals, they were put to the test immediately by a USA side who came flying out of the blocks. Stephen Tomasin shrugged off tacklers down the left to open the scoring, Martin Iosefo forced the ball over with New Zealand trying to hold up Danny Barrett, before Barrett barely seemed to feel a tackle from Vilimoni Koroi on his way to putting USA 19-0 up at the break. That try won Barrett the UL Mark of Excellence Award. Perry Baker added to the All Blacks’ misery with Carlin Isles ensuring his side would not be caught. Andrew Knewstubb and debutant Taylor Haugh added consolation tries but the Cape Town holders crashed out.

South Africa came through a difficult quarter-final against Scotland, with an early score by Justin Geduld cancelled out by Sam Pecqueur after Siviwe Soyizwapi was shown a yellow card. They played the second day without captain Philip Snyman and Muller du Plessis, who were ruled out with shoulder and lower back injuries, respectively. Specman put the Blitzboks back ahead and Pecqueur’s second wasn’t enough when Kok broke through.

Fiji demolished Spain in their quarter-final, putting eight tries past them on their way to a 46-7 victory. Waisea Nacuqu opened the scoring inside the first minute, but Meli Derenalagi’s yellow card for a high tackle allowed Spain to take the lead through Francisco Hernandez. But Kalione Nasoko, Jerry Tuwai, and Sevuloni Mocenacagi put Fiji 17 points clear at half time. Nasoko doubled up after the break, as did Alosio Naduva, to secure the win.

Amanaki Nicole scored a hat-trick as New Zealand overcame Australia 26-17 in their quarter-final. He cut back inside from the right after Nanai-Seturo got them going, before coming back inside twice more either side of half time to make it a treble.

In the last Cup quarter-final, England went down to eventual runners-up USA. They led inside 19 seconds through Alex Davis but were soon pegged back by Madison Hughes. Dan Bibby’s try put England back ahead on the stroke of half time but a pair of second half tries from Danny Barrett saw USA home.

ENGLAND END FIFTH

England took fifth in Cape Town after their play-off final win against Spain, who themselves recorded their best-ever finish in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Charlton Kerr got his first try of the weekend to open the scoring after a nice offload from Tom Mitchell, before Phil Burgess spotted a huge gap in the defence and was left with a simple run at the posts. England led by 14 at half time but Spain recovered after the break, Dan Norton’s touch beyond the try line stopping them from getting on the board. Pol Pla eventually gave Spain hope with a run around the outside, but they couldn’t mount the comeback they needed.

England had survived a series of comebacks by Australia in the fifth-place semi-final. Tries from Will Muir and Tom Mitchell were countered by the Australian speedster Maurice Longbottom, who put his side 14-12 up. But Tom Bowen restored England’s lead before Muir impressively shook off Longbottom’s tackle to put them ten points clear. Tom Connor scored a late try but there wasn’t enough time for Australia to recover.

Meanwhile Spain had to fight hard to reach the play-off, losing Tobias Sainz-Trapaga to injury in a gritty 12-7 win over Scotland. Their defence was sublime throughout, with the only blemish a pair of missed tackles in the first half that allowed Sam Pecqueur to pounce. But Pla had already put his side ahead and Javier De Juan’s try just before half time was all they needed.

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ARGENTINA TAKE CHALLENGE TROPHY

Argentina left Cape Town with the Challenge Trophy after beating Samoa 38-14 in the final. They took the lead early in the first half through Lautaro Bazan Velez and Franco Sabato, before Alamanda Motuga’s double levelled things up. Conrado Roura restored the lead before half time and Argentina ran riot in the second half, scoring three more tries. Ignacio Mendy touched down in the corner, Gaston Revol recovered well after a slip and Sabato got his second — his seventh of the weekend — to seal victory.

Argentina had to come from behind to beat Canada, with tries from Matt Mullins and Connor Braid putting the South American outfit 14-5 behind at the break. But Canada played much of the second half with six men after receiving two separate yellow cards, and Argentina made the most of their advantage. Lautaro Bazan Velez brought them back into the contest, Santiago Mare’s dummy allowed them to take the lead, and Franco Sabato ensured they’d reach the final.

The semi-finals saw a brilliant performance from Danny Tusitala as Samoa beat France 31-7. He set up their fourth try, spinning around the defence before a superb one-two with Alatasi Tupou, who finished the move. Tusitala got a score of his own to complete the victory with a lovely sidestep out of the France defence.

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