Kiwis vanquish England in drenched rugby Rugby Sevens final

The New Zealand rugby team performs the “haka” dance in the rain after beating England. Photo: Philippe Lopez / AFP 

New Zealand defeated England 26-7 in a drenched cup final in Hong Kong Sunday, surging to the top of the points table after the seventh tournament of the IRB Sevens World Series.

Leap-frogging South Africa, whose disappointing final day saw them knocked out of the Cup quarter-finals by England, New Zealand now boast 136 points after their third tournament win of this year’s series.

South Africa is in second place with 129 points, Fiji in third with 112 points, and England in fourth with 104 points.

“It’s a great, great victory in real challenging conditions,” said coach Gordon Tietjens, who like his players was caught in a deluge in the dying moments of the game.

Describing England as a “quick side” and a “dangerous team”, he nevertheless showered praise on his players — one in particular.

“Our captain DJ Forbes was just, simply, simply outstanding… You know, without singling out individuals, he was just quite amazing, I just can’t say enough about the guy.”

Forbes — fresh from a team performance of the Maori “haka” dance to celebrate their victory under the pouring rain — downplayed his role.

“That’s what I am there for – all the horse work,” he said.

“There’s a couple of us out there putting our heads in dark places. There’s a place for that and I am glad I am still able to do my job. We’ve got all the flair and the fast guys out wide. But it was definitely a 12-man performance.

“Every time the heavens open up we’ve been successful so maybe it adds an element to our game,” he added. “We’re happy to do the contact stuff so maybe the conditions fell into our hands a little bit.”

Tietjens praised his team for picking themselves up after a fourth-place finish in Tokyo last week, but insisted the New Zealanders would not be resting on their laurels despite leading the table.

“Yeah it’s great, seven ahead, but that’s nothing, we led after Wellington then the lead changed again… You’ve got to just keep playing well.”

Fiji, whose attempt to take a hat-trick of titles in Hong Kong was blocked in the semi-finals by England, took on Australia for third-place honours, winning 21-12. The win netted the Pacific islanders an all-important 17 points as they close in on South Africa in the table.

“We definitely looked a little bit tired there in that game,” said Fiji coach Ben Ryan, who was until last year the head coach of the England sevens team. “It was just too much in the end.

“Fair play to England, they’re a full-time professional side, their set piece was good against us, moved us around.”

– Blitzbokke battered –

England also killed South Africa’s dreams of winning their maiden tournament in Hong Kong.

The South African “Blitzbokke” fell 14-7 in the quarter-final — the first time in six tournaments that South Africa has not made a Series final.

“I’m obviously disappointed,” coach Neil Powell said after the game. “We just made too many mistakes and gave them opportunities to play from it.”

South Africa, who lost captain Kyle Brown on day one, narrowly defeated Wales 19-14 to win the Plate. “It was important to us to win that,” said Powell.

A scare against the US nearly saw his side miss out, however, with the Eagles launching a comeback from 24-0 in the second half with a hat-trick of tries before running out of time at 24-19.

Japan became the first ever Asian team to enter the Series, celebrating their 26-5 victory over Italy with an attempted swan dive try by Kosuke Hashino — who dropped the ball mid-air — just as the final whistle was blown.

Joining the 2015 Series means they now have a shot at becoming one of the top four teams to automatically qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 — giving rugby in Asia a huge boost before the Tokyo Games in 2020.

Despite being fiercely cheered on by the home crowd, Hong Kong were dumped out in the semi-final by Italy 12-0.

There are two tournaments left in the Series, in Glasgow and then in London in May.

Story: Sarah Titterton / AFP


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