New Zealand dominate at Wellington Sevens
February 9, 2014
New Zealand celebrate a remarkable tournament performance with a haka for the Wellington crowd © Getty Images
New Zealand shut out South Africa 21-0 in the Wellington final to complete one of the great second-day performances at an International Rugby Board World Sevens Series tournament. The series defending champions also reclaimed the lead in the nine-leg circuit with four tournaments to play, inching two points ahead of the South Africans, who had won the last two finals.
While the Blitzbokke had beaten New Zealand in both of those deciders - at Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas - they weren't in the contest on Saturday against a home side that won the popular Wellington tournament for the seventh time in 15 editions.
All three converted tries came in the first half, with two to wing Sherwin Stowers giving him a tournament-best eight. The opener, to Tim Mikkelson, was the first try South Africa conceded for the day after beating Australia and Fiji by the same 10-0 scoreline earlier on Saturday.
However, that record didn't stack up against New Zealand's, who scored 76 unanswered points in their three games, beating Canada 24-0 in the quarter-finals and England 31-0 in the semi-finals. After losing their opening pool match to Fiji 12-7, New Zealand bounced back to score a remarkable 178 points without conceding any.
They adapted best to wet conditions on Saturday, employing a long kicking game and attacking opposition ruck ball effectively. The speed and sevens nous of players like Mikkelson, Stowers and Gillies Kaka proved the difference in the big games, along with a ferocious team defence. South Africa spent the final five minutes of the final on attack but couldn't break down a desperate tackling effort led by captain DJ Forbes.
"The loss to Fiji woke us up a little bit, to the extent that we got our defence right," New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens said. "Defence wins tournaments. What really capped it off was the final tackle of the final - it was a great, great tackle."
Tietjens was referring to a desperate lunge from 18-year-old Akira Ioane to deny Jamba Ulengo as he dived for the corner at the end of a long period of Blitzbokke attack.
"We had the game won but the drive for no one to cross our line was still there," he said.
The outcome leaves New Zealand (99 points) and South Africa (97) contesting a two-horse race for the series crown. Third-placed Fiji (73) beat England (68) 14-7 courtesy of a late try in the playoff for third place.
Australia climbed one place to fifth overall (59 points) after also scoring a try after the hooter to Ed Jenkins to head off Canada 12-10 in the Plate final.
The sixth leg of the series is in Tokyo on March 22-23.
Carl Froch's rematch with George Groves at Wembley Stadium on May 31 has sold 60,000 tickets in less than an hour
Joleon Lescott is set to be handed the task of stopping Lionel Messi when Manchester City go to the Nou Camp on Wednesday to try and overturn a 2-0 aggregate deficit
Newcastle midfielder Dan Gosling has accepted a charge from the FA for breaking betting rules
Bayern Munich midfielder Tony Kroos has put Manchester United on red alert after he admitting the Premier League is "a possibility for me"
Ireland have fallen in the IRB rankings despite being on the verge of their first Six Nations title since 2009
Have any of the Home Unions ever recorded back-to-back wins against the All Blacks?
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
Why are there five majors in women's golf?
Maurice Hamilton looks at how the biggest F1 shakeup in a decade is failing to make waves in the UK papers just a week before the season opener in Australia.
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
Tom Cleverley's difficult week is poised to end positively as Manchester United are set to offer the midfielder a new £15 million deal, according to the Mail on Sunday
Canelo Alvarez turned things around on Saturday against the perfect opponent in Alfredo Angulo, stopping his Mexican compatriot in the 10th round of a brutally one-sided fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena
Amir Khan won't be taking up Floyd Mayweather's challenge to fight Adrien Broner, his trainer Virgil Hunter has confirmed
Samuel Eto'o made light of the controversy about his age while tormenting a blundering Tottenham defence with a devastating spell in a 4-0 victory for Chelsea in the Premier League
Inter Milan are lining up a summer move for Chelsea misfit Fernando Torres, according to reports
In the latest edition of our favourite quotes from the sporting week, all things come to Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi is given support, and Floyd Mayweather will go to places he has never been before
Only Chelsea and Liverpool can win the Premier League this season, despite Jose Mourinho's claims
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner
With just two rounds left in the 2014 championship, the intensity cranks up a notch at Twickenham. Tom Hamilton previews the weekend's action
Pat McCabe has been used as a battering ram; he has been forced to undergo the most selfless of tasks; his footballing career has repeatedly been assumed to be over; but he just keeps producing