England are assured of top spot in Pool B after beating South Africa

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    The All Blacks Sevens, defending champions Fiji and England are the only teams with a perfect record after day one of the HSBC New Zealand Sevens at FMG Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.

    France and Canada, though, are also unbeaten in Pool C after playing out a 12-12 draw in their second match, having already seen off the challenge of Spain and Ireland respectively.

    England are already assured of top spot in Pool B following a tense 21-19 victory over Dubai champions South Africa, as even if England lose and the Blitzboks win to both finish on seven points the head-to-head rule will place the Europeans top.
    The pool stage concludes on Sunday after which the four teams topping their respective pools will progress straight to the Cup semi-finals. The other teams will go to play-offs to determine the rankings from fifth to 16th. The action gets underway at 11:07 local time (GMT+13) with Canada’s Pool C encounter with Spain.

    POOL A

    USA ensured that captain Madison Hughes’ 50th series event got off to a winning start with first-half tries by speedster Carlin Isles and Stephen Tomasin either side of a run-in from Scotland’s Max McFarland. There was no let up from the Eagles Sevens after the break with tries by Maka Unufe and Perry Baker wrapping up the 24-7 victory.

    New Zealand didn’t take long to click into gear against Wales, Hamilton-born co-captain Tim Mikkelson going coast-to-coast for the opening try before taking the offload from Dylan Collier for their third. Regan Ware and Joe Webber also crossed to put the All Blacks Sevens in total control at half-time, with Scott Curry, Kurt Baker and Vilimoni Koroi wrapping up a dominant 47-0 victory.

    Wales are yet to win a pool match on the 2020 series after Dougie Fife’s try saw Scotland battle to a 24-19 victory in this all-Celtic affair. Scotland had raced into a 10-0 lead only to find themselves trailing by four at half-time. Paddy Kelly edged Scotland ahead with his first series try before Jay Jones’ second gave Wales the lead for the first time midway through the second half.

    The All Blacks Sevens were determined to finish the day on a winning note, co-captain Curry bursting through the USA defence for the opening try. The two Bakers – Perry and Kurt – traded first-half tries before a powerful run by Mikkelson extended the hosts’ advantage, leaving Sam Dickson to wrap up a 26-5 victory.

    POOL B

    Kenya were on fire in the first half against England, two-time winners of the New Zealand Sevens, with a Willy Ambaka brace and another from captain Andrew Amonde giving them a 19-5 lead. Dan Norton cut the deficit on the stroke of half-time and England then denied Kenya any ball in the second half to complete the comeback with two tries by Will Edwards.

    Dubai winners South Africa were much more comfortable winners in their first outing, Muller du Plessis and JC Pretorius dotting down in the first half with Cecil Afrika and Angelo Davids (2) scoring after Fisipuna Tuiaki had got Japan on the scoreboard to run out 31-5 winners over the Tokyo 2020 hosts.

    Kenya’s cult hero Alvin Otieno put them ahead early on against Japan, but they would only go into half-time with a narrow 7-5 lead after Kippei Ishida ‘s late try. Daniel Taabu edged the Shujaa Sevens ahead once more, but they couldn’t shake off the Japanese with Yoshikazu Fujita’s conversion of Dai Ozawa’s try ensuring the first draw in 24 meetings between the teams.

    Effectively the pool decider after Kenya’s draw, the Blitzboks enjoyed a dream start with tries by captain Stedman Gans and Pretorius inside four minutes for a 14-0 lead. However, England were level just 30 seconds into the second half and ahead when Phil Burgess went over. Justin Geduld scored for South Africa but pulled his conversion wide and England were able to claim the restart and boot the ball into touch.

    POOL C

    Phil Berna proved Canada’s match winner in an entertaining opening match with Ireland, scoring with time up on the clock after Jordan Conroy had tied the scores at 21-21. Key to Canada’s success was their offloading, resulting in tries for Jake Thiel and captain Nathan Hirayama with their other try the result of a good line run by Andrew Coe after Ireland had taken the lead through Terry Kennedy.

    France, bronze medallists in Cape Town last month, scored first through Tavite Veredamu but then found themselves trailing Spain 17-7 after tries by captain Francisco Hernandez, Manuel Sainz-Trapaga and their leading try-scorer Pol Pla. A yellow card to Pla, though, proved costly as Sacha Valleau’s try gave Les Bleus hope and from the restart they won the ball to send Thibaud Mazzoleni bursting through to secure a 21-17 win.

    Spain also led as half-time approached against Ireland after two quick-fire tries, but Conroy’s try with time in the red gave his side a slender 14-12 half-time advantage. Kennedy and Harry McNulty were next over the line to put Ireland in control with Spain only able to manage a late try by Eduardo Lopez.

    Paulin Riva gave France the perfect start but Canada hit back when Berna raced down the touchline to give his side a 7-5 lead. Connor Braid’s yellow card saw Jean-Pascal Barraque capitalise to retake the lead but the France captain’s own yellow card for a dangerous tackle was also punished, David Richard’s try resulting in a 12-12 draw. Barraque was subsequently cited and received a four-week suspension, ruling him out of France’s remaining two matches in Hamilton and first two in Sydney next weekend.

    POOL D

    Long-range tries were the name of the game in the opening Pool D encounter, Maurice Longbottom racing away to give Australia the lead before Matías Osadczuk showed his footballing skills to hack on then touch down a kick through. Ben O’Donnell and Henry Hutchison combined to go the length of the pitch for Australia’s third and then in the second half Lewis Holland marked his 50th series event with a try that made him his country’s all-time leading try scorer outright as they ran out comfortable 38-7 winners.

    A huge roar went around the FMG Stadium as Fiji and Samoa ran out for the closest thing to a home tournament on the series. Samoa captain Tomasi Alasio struck first, but Jerry Tuwai was roared over the line for his 126th series try to become his country’s all-time leading try-scorer outright, before Vilimoni Botitu scored with time almost up in the first half. Joe Perez tied the scores at 12-12 but a yellow card for debutant Uaina Sione proved costly with Aminiasi Tuimaba’s try securing a 19-12 win for Fiji.

    Argentina had had no answer to Australia in their first match, but they bounced back with a far better performance against Samoa, Luciano Gonzalez and Osadczuk both scoring braces in a dominant 40-12 victory which also saw German Schulz and Franco Sabata cross the whitewash for Santiago Gomez Cora’s side.

    Chants of ‘Go, Fiji, Go’ repeatedly rang out as the series champions took on Australia in the battle of the pool’s unbeaten teams, their loyal fans cheering every pass, tackle and break. Asaeli Ratuvuaka scored the only try of the first half, before Fiji went from behind their own line to score through Tuimaba. Dylan Pietsch gave Australia hope, but the Fiji fans went home happy thanks to Apenisa Cakaubalavu’s acrobatic dive between the posts which made it 14 wins in a row in Hamilton.