New Zealand started their Sevens title bid with a win over the USA in this weekend's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai.
New Zealand beat USA 21-5 to win a first Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens title since 2009 and start the new HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series off on a winning note on Saturday.
It was New Zealand’s record 10th appearance in the Dubai final and saw them end their title drought at the 7he Sevens Stadium, the 21-5 victory over USA giving the All Blacks Sevens their first title here since 2009.
They had gone into the final with only nine fit players with captain Scott Curry among the injured quartet and came up against a USA side playing in their first Cup final in Dubai only a year after losing all five of their matches.
New Zealand lost Luke Masirewa to the sin-bin and in his absence, the USA hit back, Stephen Tomasin running in the try but captain Madison Hughes’ conversion went just wide of the left upright.
There was to be no first Dubai title for USA, though, as tries by Dylan Collier and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black ensured it would be New Zealand celebrating a long-awaited sixth Dubai title.
“There wasn’t much said (before the final), said Knewstubb, who was named the HSBC Player of the Final. “You just look across at your mates there, they look at you, and you just connect on the field. Off the field as well we’re all great mates. Even the boys back home who couldn’t be here, I know they were cheering us on.”
Sione Molia added: “It was really unfortunate for us (to have so many injuries) but we knew we had to get our heads down and start working coming into this final against a really good USA Team. The boys put an unreal shift out there and we’re really happy.”
Earlier in the Cup quarter-finals, England kicked day two off with a head-turning 22-5 defeat of the defending Dubai and series champions South Africa.
Later, South Africa and Fiji, the top two in the 2018 series, played out another classic encounter but this time with fifth place at stake.
The two went blow-for-blow before Muller du Plessis’ hat-trick try, and Dewald Human’s boot gave South Africa a sniff of a 19-14 victory.
However, Waisea Nacuqu had other ideas and his breakaway try levelled the scores, only for Vilimoni Botitu to step up and miss the straightforward conversion to mean extra-time would decide the winner.
South Africa’s defence initially held firm but Aminiasi Tuimaba, playing in his first tournament, confidently chipped ahead and collected his own kick to score the winning try.
Samoa left Dubai with the Challenge Trophy in their luggage after showing great resilience and focus in a hard-fought 33-24 defeat of France.
African News Agency