There are just two more events to go and New Zealand has moved into top position in the 2013-14 HSBC Sevens World Series, with a convincing 26-7 win over England in the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2014 on Sunday March 30.
New Zealand beat Wales 28-7 in the Quarter Finals and followed this with a 19-7 win against Australia in the Semi-finals.
England with sparkling displays knocked out South Africa and then defending champions Fiji in their Quarter Final and Semi-final, respectively. But they started poorly against New Zealand in the Final.
The Final was played under increasingly heavy rain and England made several handling errors in dangerous positions early in the game and paid the price – allowing Ben Lam to open the scoring for New Zealand.
A second try for New Zealand by Tim Mikkelson and a conversion by Gillies Kaka pushed New Zealand 12 points ahead, but England scored just before half-time with a try by Tom Mitchell converted by Tom Powell to bring the game back to 12-7 at the break.
A tactical error close to their own line by England early in the second half left DJ Forbes unmarked out on the left and a long pass enabled the stalwart New Zealander, with 64 Seven’s appearances to his name, to score with ease. Gillies Kaka converted making the score 19-7.
After another 4-minutes Sherwin Stowers was halted close to the try line, but passed the ball to Sam Dickson to score. Another conversion by Kaka took the New Zealanders to an unassailable 26-7 score line.
South Africa Slip to Second
Meanwhile, South Africa who were leading the series standings after the previous week’s Tokyo Sevens had, for their standards, a poor weekend to the disappointment of their supporters.
South Africa lost to Australia 10-7 in their Pool match then lost to England 14-7 in the Cup Quarter Final. But they salvaged some pride by winning against the United States 24-17 in the Plate Semi-final and then beating Wales 19-14 to win the Plate. This win gave them 13 points and, although dropping to second place in the standings on 129 points, they are still within striking distance of New Zealand on 136.
Dominating performances by Fiji in the Pool matches looked promising for a repeat of last years’ win, but this did not continue in the knock-out phase. Although Fiji beat Sri Lanka 56-nil, Kenya 43-5, Wales 42-7 and overcame United States 17-5 in the Cup Quarter Finals, they lost to England 17-7 in the Cup Semi-finals.
Fiji went on to beat Australia 21-12 for the tournament’s third spot. Fiji are now on 112 points in the standings—24 points behind New Zealand.
England are in fourth position on 104 points and like Fiji have virtually no chance of catching the leaders.
With two rounds of the World Series remaining in Scotland (Glasgow Sevens May 3-4) and England (London Sevens in Twickenham, May 10-11) it is now a two horse race between New Zealand and South Africa for the top spot of the Series.
Hong Kong performed well in their attempt to gain Core Team Status, winning all of their Pool matches and beating Chile to move into the Semi-finals. But Hong Kong just lost out to Italy in the Semi-finals.
In the other Semi-final, Japan beat Russia. Then Japan went on to beat Italy 26-5 in the Qualifier Final to give them Core Team status in next season’s World Series.