New Zealand stamp authority on Hong Kong Sevens
HONG KONG (AFP) –
World Series leaders New Zealand came back from a try down for a convincing win against France as the Hong Kong Sevens kicked off Friday, while Argentina dominated title challengers South Africa.
In the sixth and most high-profile tournament of the the nine-leg HSBC Sevens World Series, a packed Hong Kong Stadium watched Paul Albaladejo break away for a try to put the French on the scoreboard first.
But New Zealand’s Ben Lam found a gap soon after to score and though the French managed to get across the line once more, New Zealand romped home with a 33-12 victory.
“We are a bit disappointed for letting those two tries through but we would have been nervous going in to tomorrow with no tries against us,” said New Zealand’s second try scorer Lote Raikabula.
Defending champions Fiji, who lie fourth in the overall standings, also made their mark by trouncing Hong Kong 36-0 with the home crowd booing each time they scored a try.
“We needed a good start, we were determined and that’s what we got today,” Fiji captain Nemani Nagusa said. “We knew Hong Kong would be the crowd favourites and we didn’t care about the booing. We just played the game.”
Disappointed Hong Kong coach Dai Rees believes his team, who earned their place in the competition by winning the Asian Sevens in October, can come back from their hammering.
“I think the players were overawed by the intensity Fiji brought, but we can bounce back, we’ve done it before,” he said.
South Africa, coming in off a win in Las Vegas and lying second in the overall standings, failed to show their best losing 21-0 to Argentina in the day’s biggest upset.
Third-placed Samoa dominated a shellshocked England beating them 28-7 after picking holes in their defence and closing them down whenever they tried to break.
A strong Kenya won 17-14 in a tough physical match against the USA which saw American sprint ace Carlin Isles, known as “the fastest man in rugby”, put his first try on the board after a signature breakaway down the right wing.
Scotland lost out to Portugal 27-21 in a tight match while Wales beat Australia 19-14 despite a desperate last-minute try attempt from Shannon Walker.
Spain struggled to keep a lid on Canada who won 31-7 with a brilliant fourth try from Sean Duke who ran from inside his own half, brushing off a series of attempted tackles.
The season has proved unpredictable so far, with each of the previous five rounds won by a different team and injuries plaguing some star players.
In a tournament famed for its entertainment and party atmosphere as much the rugby itself, Hong Kong’s Friday schedule kicked off with choir performances and traditional dragon dances.
The stadium stands packed out as the day wore on, crammed with singing spectators wearing fancy dress and draped in national flags, enjoying giant beers in the breaks between matches.
In the women’s competition, Canada lifted the trophy after beating Australia 29-0 in the final.