Wellington World Series Sevens quarter finalists
February 4, 2000
Fiji were looking unstoppable here Friday on the opening day of the New Zealand Sevens while Jonah Lomu put in a blockbusting performance as the home side slowly got into the groove.
The tournament is the fifth round of the IRB sevens series and the first time rugby has been played in the new Wellington Stadium which replaces the ancient Athletic Park.
New Zealand -- playing sevens in their home country for the first time here -- shares the top of the sevens series points table with Fiji but New Zealand leads on points difference.
After play here Friday the quarterfinals for Saturday will match up New Zealand vs Argentina, Canada vs Australia, Samoa vs South Africa and Fiji vs Tonga.
It took little more than half a game for All Black superstar Lomu to regain his sevens rhythm, and when he did there was little time for the 14,000 strong crowd here to take their seats again.
Each time he took the ball in their second pool match the crowd were on their feet.
Lomu, playing sevens again for the first time since helping New Zealand to win the 1998 Commonwealth Games gold medal in Kuala Lumpur, had a disappointing start, being subbed off at half-time in their lethargic 21-12 win over the Cook Islands.
However, in their second match, a 57-0 win over Tonga -- who had earlier upset France 14-12 -- it was a different story.
He sparked the first second-half try for New Zealand, after tries by Eric Rush (two), Tony Monaghan, Craig de Goldi and a scorcher by Karl Tenana had given them a 29-0 cushion.
The big man stepped in and out to leave a Tongan grasping thin air and pumped his huge legs to get clear before allowing Caleb Ralph a run to the line.
The entire New Zealand team left their disorganised first game behind and brought urgency into their second match. As a result they looked much sharper and scored nine tries, leaving the hapless Tongans to ponder their game plans for the next match.
"I wasn't happy with our start but it happens. We had to get into the same wave-length after that," coach Gordon Tietjens said.
Fiji, swapping backs and forwards, looked extremely powerful in beating Papua New Guinea 28-0 and the US 47-10.
They scored 15 tries in the two games, eight against PNG with Filimone Delasau, who scored 55 tries in the previous four international circuit tournaments, crossing for a hat-trick.
Canterbury Crusaders' Marika Vunibaka, who played as a forward in their first match, reverted to the wing and scored twice.
Australia and South Africa, in the same pool, breezed past their first two opponents to set the scene for an epic battle for first place in the pool.
The South Africans, seeded ahead of the Australians, beat Hong Kong 49-5 and Japan 42-7 and the Australians disposed of Japan 36-7 and Hong Kong 52-0.
Tonga caused the early upset of the tournament, beating France 14-12.