NZ earns statement win over SAfrica in 7s pool
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — New Zealand underlined its tournament ambitions with a 19-5 win over South Africa at the Glasgow Sevens in an uncommon pool matchup of the world series’ two leading teams on Saturday.
New Zealand and South Africa previously met only in finals this season, with the Africans winning two of three. But New Zealand’s consistency has it leading the series by seven points.
Despite resting stars DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson, New Zealand dominated the pool decider physically, but struggled to score.
Adam Whitelock was about to plant the ball over the tryline but had it kicked from his grasp, then South Africa’s Branco du Preez and Seabelo Senatia made try-saving tackles. Inevitably, with South Africa tiring, New Zealand scored just before the break through Whitelock.
South Africa, the winner over New Zealand in last year’s final, levelled at 5-5 when New Zealand over-ran the second-half kickoff and Justin Geduld broke away. But New Zealand produced the speed to send in Akira Ioane and Ben Lam from its own half.
New Zealand will face Australia in the quarterfinals on Sunday, while South Africa lined up host Scotland, which topped a pool for the first time in more than a year thanks to comfortable wins over Australia, the United States and Spain.
Fiji and England, third and fourth in the series standings, meet in another quarterfinal. Fiji beat Argentina, squeaked past Kenya, and crushed Wales to go unbeaten, with Samisoni Viriviri scoring five tries. England came from behind to draw with Canada 7-7 and finished runner-up in their pool.
Canada reached a fifth straight quarterfinals for the first time, and will meet Kenya. Kenya qualified with only one win, 33-19 over Argentina, which could have advanced instead if it had lost by only five points.