Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
New Zealand have clinched victory at the NZI Sevens in Wellington, beating England 29-14 to draw level with them at the top of the HSBC Sevens World Series standings after three events.
Declan O’Donnell was the home hero at a rainy Westpac Stadium, scoring a hat-trick in the final to take his tally for the tournament to 10 tries and secure the first home Cup title for New Zealand since 2008.
Isoa Damu’s converted try gave England an early 7-0 lead but O’Donnell soon hit back for the home side and with England leading 7-5 nearing the break the same man scored again to give New Zealand a 12-7 half time lead.
Almost immediately after the resumption the home side extended that lead when their playmaker in chief Tomasi Cama sliced through some unusually threadbare English defence and, although the 2009 champions refused to buckle, the kiwis played an intelligent match without injured captain DJ Forbes.
With one minute remaining Toby Arnold snatched a fifth for New Zealand and although Simon Hunt scored a late consolation it was the home fans who went home singing.
New Zealand and England are now tied in first place in the HSBC Sevens World Series standings on 64 points apiece. Samoa lie third with 52, Fiji fourth on 44 and South Africa fifth with 32.
Earlier, O’Donnell’s tries inspired New Zealand to beat Australia 17-0 in the semis, while John Brake’s converted effort helped England come through 7-5 winners against Samoa.
The Series’ joint-leading scorer with Seremaia Burotu and Cecil Afrika on 17, O’Donnell also scored twice as New Zealand proved too strong for reigning Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Wales in the quarter finals. England had defeated Argentina 14-7 with first half tries from Isoa Damu and Dan Norton.
Fiji beat South Africa to Plate
Despite relinquishing their NZI Sevens title at the Cup quarter final stage, Fiji finished on a high at the Westpac by beating South Africa to take the Plate, and 12 points towards their World Series tally.
The Fijians lost out to Samoa in their last eight clash but recovered to beat Argentina 28-0 in their Plate semi and were then equally impressive in seeing off the Boks in the final, 26-12 with tries by Ilai Tinai, Mitieli Nacagilevu, Watisoni Votu and Peni Gaunimeke.
Earlier, the South Africans had proved too strong for Wales, Branco du Preez (2), Lubabalo Mtembu and Paul Jordaan all scoring to book their place in the final.
Kenya win Bowl
Kenya won their first HSBC Sevens World Series points of the season by beating Tonga 19-0 to secure the Bowl title. Tries by Biko Adema, Sidney Ashioya and captain Humphrey Kayange carried them to victory.
Earlier the Kenyans were the first side through to the final with a last-gasp win against Scotland, Biko Adema crossing after the buzzer for a 15-12. In their quarter final the Kenyans had also left it late, trailing 14-12 for the entire second half against Canada before Andrew Amonde crossed in the last play of the match.
Vaea Tangilau Poteki had scored both of Tonga’s tries as they beat the Cook Islands 12-7 in the semi finals.
USA win Shield title
USA won a fine Shield final 19-12 against France to take silverware back to the States one week out from their home tournament, the USA Sevens in Las Vegas. Tai Enosa, Ronald Suniula and veteran Paul Emerick all scored in a physical battle against the improved French.
Earlier, the Eagles Seven reached the Shield final with a convincing 31-7 victory over North American rivals Canada. with tries from Justin Boyd, Enosa (2), Zach Test and Roland Suniula.