New Zealand set out to defend their Emirates Airline London Sevens title at Twickenham today in the knowledge that, should they do so, they will also tie up a World Series defence with one event to spare.
The IRB reports that Gordon Tietjens’ side is well clear at the top of the standings. With two events remaining they have 126 points from a possible 130. South Africa are the second ranked side with 92 ahead of Fiji with 74 and Samoa on 68.
The kiwis lost to the Boks in the final of the Adelaide Sevens last time out but had won their previous 47 matches, spanning seven tournament wins, and now need just seven series points – either reaching the Cup semi final (12) or winning the Plate (8) would achieve that – to be sure of wrapping up their title defence with an event to spare.
South Africa again look best equipped to trouble the New Zealanders this weekend. In Stefan Basson, Gio Aplon, Kabamba Floors and Danwel Demas, coach Paul Treu has recalled players of genuine quality who also crucially possess Sevens experience.
New Zealand name two new caps in Ben Nowell and Kendrick Lynn and, although Steven Yates and Victor Vito have left the Sevens scene, they do still have the core of their side in captain DJ Forbes, Edwin Cocker, Tomasi Cama, Nigel Hunt, Zar Lawrence and Lote Raikabula and former captain Tafai Ioasa.
New Zealand needed a late try from Tomasi Cama to avoid defeat against Argentina in the opening match, capitalising on the sin-binning of Santiago Gomez Cora to sneak home 10-7. Wales were more convincing winners in their first match, Martin Roberts scoring a hat-trick in their 52-7 defeat of IRB Sevens World Series debutants Moldova.
The defending champions might have been expected to run in the tries against Moldova in their second match, but the newcomers left the pitch to huge cheers after touching down twice in a 38-14 defeat. Argentina then scored a late try through Tomas Passerotti to draw 21-21 with Wales in an end to end encounter.
South Africa signalled their intentions to claim back to back IRB Sevens World Series titles after winning in Adelaide with an impressive 40-0 defeat of France, Danwel Demas and Schalk van der Merwe both scoring two tries. England then delighted the home fans with a 29-7 defeat of Spain with Tom Biggs claiming a hat-trick of tries.
Gio Aplon claimed a hat-trick of tries in another impressive performance from South Africa against Spain in a 42-5 victory. Their biggest test of the day will come against home side England, who beat France 33-5 with Ben Foden among their try scorers.
Emosi Vucago scored two of Fiji’s five tries as they got off to a winning start by beating Canada 29-5, but it was Portugal who caused the first upset of the London Sevens with their 28-12 defeat of Australia. The score had been 7-5 before three unanswered tries saw Portugal pull clear.
Fiji made it two wins out of two with a 39-0 defeat of Portugal, Seremaia Burotu scoring four of their seven tries. Australia then bounced back from their surprise opening loss to Portugal with a 38-5 victory over Canada to keep alive hopes of reaching the Cup quarter-finals.
Samoa’s quest for their first title of the season started with a 33-10 defeat of Russia, Reupena Levasa scoring two of their five tries. A late try from Richie Vernon then made certain of a 17-5 victory for Scotland against the well-supported Kenyans.
Two tries apiece from Alafoti Fa’osiliva and Timoteo Iosua ensured Samoa remained unbeaten with a 31-12 defeat of Scotland, before Russia showed the strides they are making by upsetting Series core member Kenya 17-7 with Evgeniy Matveev touching down for two of their three tries.Tweet