Fiji claimed their third straight Hong Kong Sevens title after beating the Blitzboks 22-0 in the Cup final on Sunday.
The defending champions came into this contest on an 18-match winning streak in Hong Kong, but had not won a Cup final since the corresponding fixture last year. In stark contrast, the Blitzboks were playing in their seventh final in as many events this season, of which they’d won four tournaments.
However, on Sunday the Blitzboks looked characteristically disjointed and failed to impose themselves on the game, with multiple handling errors and missed tackles the aggravating factors in their downfall.
All the early momentum was with South Africa, but Fiji struck the first blow with a try against the run of play when Sevuloni Mocenacagi dotted down. The Pacific Islanders weren’t done yet and crossed for a second try before the break to extend their lead to 10-0.
There was to be no respite for Neil Powell’s men at the resumption as Fiji maintained their stranglehold on the contest.
Kalione Nasoko burst through the Blitzboks defence to score under the posts before running in another towards the end to seal the victory.
The Blitzboks are through to the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens after a narrow 21-19 victory over New Zealand in a quarter-final encounter.
Converted tries from Chris Dry, Cecil Afrika and Werner Kok sealed the victory despite South Africa trailing 7-12 at half-time as well as a yellow card for Dylan Sage.
New Zealand scored through Regan Ware, Sione Molina and Sam Dickson.
The Blitzboks will now play the United States for a place in the final.
The match takes place at 09:53 (SA time).
The Springbok Sevens team on Friday started their HSBC/Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens tournament on a winning note, beating France 17-10 in their opening pool B match at the Hong Kong National Stadium.
The Blitzboks take on Kenya and Canada on Saturday in Day Two of the tournament, the seventh in the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Cecil Afrika, who became only the fifth South African to reach 50 tournaments in the series when he took the field, scored the decisive try against France after the teams were tied up at 10-all at the break. Two early tries by Siviwe Soyizwapi and Branco du Preez edged South Africa 10-0 ahead, but two quick tries by the French cancelled the lead.
Afrika then pounced for a 146th career try and Branco du Preez converted.
The match also saw the debut of Selvyn Davids, who became the 164th Blitzbok to play in the series.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was not too critical of his team’s performance.
“It was a long day and we only played 20h40 at night in the last match of the day, so it was not that easy to keep the guys focussed,” Powell said.
“We made some errors out there and that helped France to stay in the game, but we will be a better team because of it. Some of the youngsters got the opportunity to stretch their legs as well and they will benefit from that experience. They were put in pressure situations at the end of the match where they were supposed to keep the ball and they didn’t, but that is how you learn.”
The coach is pleased that the first match is out of the way.
“France is never an easy opponent and they pushed us all the way. It was a good start as it showed some areas we need to concentrate on better on Day Two. Which is exactly what we plan to do,” said Powell.
South Africa face Kenya at 07h56 (SA time) and Canada at 11h56 (SA time) on Saturday.
Defending champions Fiji made a perfect start at the Hong Kong leg of World Rugby’s Seven Series when they beat Japan 36-0 in their opening match.
There were also victories for World Series tabletoppers South Africa, New Zealand, England, Australia, Argentina the USA and Canada.
England’s win over South Korea saw Dan Norton scoring his 245th try to become the all time top try-scorer on the World Rugby Sevens Series, moving him above Kenya’s Collins Injera.
Australia kickstarted ther campaign with a hard-fought 22-19 win over Samoa in the tournament opener. The second match of the day was saw England cruising to an easy 52-0 win over South Korea.
South Korea were causing their European opponents some headaches in the opening exchanges, but England soon raced into a healthy lead. That fixture was all about Norton, who scored his notched his landmark with a trademark chip-and-chase score.
It was a day of great achievements for England’s players because Tom Mitchell, who led Great Britain to a silver medal in Rio last summer,also clocked up try number 100 of his career.
Canada held on for a narrow 17-14 win over Kenya with the Canucks’ with Nathan Hirayama becoming his country’s all-time top points scorer after converting Luke McCloskey’s early try.
Kenya drew level through a Dennis Ombachi try, but Canada hit back as two veterans combined for a beautiful score. Man of the moment Hirayama delivered a grubber kick forward and Harry Jones times his run to perfection to meet the pass and send his country ahead. Nelson Oyoo drew Kenya level again but, with the clock on zero, Hirayama kicked Canada to victory.
And in the day’s last match, South Africa had to work hard before beating France 17-10. The Blitzboks were fastest out of the blocks and two early tries by Siviwe Soyizwapi and Branco du Preez gave them a 10-0 lead.
But France were soon level thanks to tries from their captain, Terry Bouhraoua, and Jean Pascal Barraque. Cecil Afrika, who became only the fifth South African to reach 50 tournaments in the series when he took the field, scored the decisive try for South Africa.
New Zealand had to dig deep to beat Wales 19-7 with the match secured late on after the sides were level at 7-7 early on. The All Blacks drew first blood courtesy of a Tim Mikkelson try which put him fifth on the all-time try-scoring list.
Things went pear-shaped for Mikkelson, however as he was then yellow carded for slowing the game down and Wales made their numerical advantage count when Morgan Wiliams scored their try just before half-time.
New Zealand finished stronger, however, and secured the victory thanks to second half tries from DJ Forbes and Beaudein Waaka.
Fiji made a superb start against Japan after Vatemo Ravouvou did well to hold up possession before Jerry Tuwai stepped in brilliantly from the touchline to score.
Vatemo Ravouvou brought up his 50th Sevens Series try in style and there were further five-pointers from Joeli Lutumailagi, Apisai Domolailai and Tuwaias the Pacific Islanders cruised to a 36-0 win.
Argentina made a superb start in their opener against Scotland and were out of the blocks quickly as 30-year-old Gaston Revol skipped to the line to take advantage of some sluggish Scottish defending.
Scotland’s Jamie Farndale had levelled the scores prior to the break but Argentina struck back via a Matias Osadczuk try and Los Pumas eventually held on for a 22-14 win.
The USA were made to work hard in their clash against Russia but Mike Friday’s charges eventually claimed a 14-7 victory. Folau Niua produced a moment of magic with an audacious dummy that had every defender moving right, and that meant Niua could skip through the gap and dot down.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, USA went wide and speedster Perry Baker used his electrifying pace to cross over under the sticks. German Davydov took advantage of a tired-looking USA defence to get Russia on the board in the second half but Eagles did enough to secure the win.
Day One Results
Australia 22-19 Samoa
England 52-0 South Korea
Argentina 22-14 Scotland
USA 14-7 Russia
New Zealand 19-7 Wales
Fiji 36-0 Japan
Canada 17-14 Kenya
South Africa 17-10 France
Day Two, schedule – Saturday, April 8
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus eight hours)
Australia v South Korea – 11:18
England v Samoa – 11:40
Argentina v Russia – 12:02
United States v Scotland – 12:26
New Zealand v Japan – 12:50
Fiji v Wales – 13:12
Canada v France – 13:34
South Africa v Kenya – 13:56
Samoa v South Korea – 15:18
England v Australia – 15:40
Scotland v Russia – 16:02
United States v Argentina – 16:24
Wales v Japan – 16:48
Fiji v New Zealand – 17:12
Kenya v France – 17:34
South Africa v Canada – 17:56
With thanks to World Rugby