Hong Kong Sevens Cup: New Zealand topple England

Hong Kong Sevens Cup: New Zealand return to winning ways with a 26-7 win against England

By Gareth Llewellyn

New Zealand got back to winning ways in the Sevens World Series with a 26-7 win over England in the final of the Hong Kong Sevens.

It was sweet revenge for the All Blacks Sevens after going down to England in last week’s round in Tokyo as the reigning World Series champions raced into a 12-7 half-time line, with a driving try through Ben Lam before player of the year Tim Mikkelson left England captain Tom Mitchell sprawling on the deck as he ran through the England defence for his 139th rugby sevens try.

From the restart, England stormed back and, when New Zealand were penalised in their 22, Tom Powell took a quick tap penalty for a burst to the line for a crucial try to keep their hopes alive for the second half.

Outstanding All Blacks captain DJ Forbes bossed the breakdown and allowed New Zealand to control the match, but became the delighted recipient of a long ball out to the left flank after patient build-up play had stretched the England defence to him stroll over for the first score two minutes into the second period to stretch their lead to 12 points.

Lam was then sin-binned with six minutes remaining for throwing the ball away after he was penalised for taking a man without the ball on a kick-chase into the England goal area, but good work from Sherwin Stowers down the England left and a deft offload in the tackle allowed replacement Sam Dickson to dot down.

With three minutes left on the clock, Mitchell sent away speedster Marcus Watson for a 60-metre breakout in the move of the match, but the officials sent England back for a forward pass and the try was chalked off.

England tried everything to get back into the game, but the All Blacks snuffed out their attacking threats to win and return to the top of the World Series standings before the tour heads to Glasgow at the beginning of May.

Fiji finished the tournament in third place, their worst performance in Hong Kong for three years, with a 21-12 win over Australia.

Australia opened the scoring through Paul Asquith who darted down the outside, stepped inside and had the momentum to cross the tryline.

Never ones to be outdone, the Fijians produced another a magical moment in Hong Kong as Samu Saqiwa hit a pop pass and sprinted clear.

Waisea Nacuqu stretched Fiji’s lead with seconds left on the clock in the first half before 35-year-old Benito Masilevu set off on a great diagonal run to go over in the corner with two minutes to go in the encounter.

Australia hit back through Peter Schuster for an unconverted try, but Fiji held on.

South Africa came from behind to defeat Wales 19-14 to win the Plate final with two tries from Jambo Ulengo. Ulengo opened the scoring for the
Blitzbokke before Ross Jones and Jason Harries dotted down for a 14-5 lead at the break.

South Africa hit back 34 seconds into the second half as Kwagga Smith ran in, the conversion added by Justin Geduld to bring the score to 12-14. Repeated errors at the breakdown and Welsh tiredness allowed South Africa to take a quick tap and go and Ulengo was unchallenged as he ran down the left wing as South Africa took a 19-14 lead and further infringements prevented Wales from getting any momentum together to mount a comeback.

It may have been a day of disappointment for England and Wales despite making huge strides in this round of the Series, but it Scotland were back among the trophies with a 31-5 Scotland win over France in the Bowl final with tries from Andrew Turnbull (2), James Johnstone (2) and Lee Jones after Glasgow Warriors centre Mark Bennett took his try-scoring tally to five for the round in a 24-12 Bowl semi-final win over Argentina.

Earlier in the day, Kenya won the Shield with a 17-10 win over Portugal as Collins Injera ran in his 182nd and 183rd try of the World Series to maintain his place at third on the all-time leading try-scorers’ list.

Japan booked their place as a core nation on the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series with a 25-6 win over Italy in the qualifier final as they came through three days and 12 nations looking to secure a lucrative part of the World Series tour.

Last week’s series hosts reached the final after needing dramatic sudden-death extra time to edge Russia 19-14 in the semi-finals, while Italy defeated hosts Hong Kong 12-0.

“We can’t put it into words, now everyone knows Japan can compete at the world level,” said Japan Sevens hero Lomano Lemeki.

“We are excited to show what we can do on the next Series. Japan has not been able to compete on the world level until recently and now this is the first step. There is a lot to come from Japanese rugby.”

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