New Zealand take Hong Kong title
South Pacific sorcerers Fiji were booted off their Hong Kong Sevens throne here Sunday after a powerhouse performance from New Zealand saw the Kiwis storm to a 31-5 victory.
Fiji, reigning world sevens champions and raging favourites for a hat trick of titles this weekend, were blown away by a fired-up Kiwi side led by evergreen former All Black Eric Rush.
The Fijians got off to a flying start with a first minute try from Fero Lasagavibau almost from the kickoff. But the tough-tackling New Zealanders never let the Fijians into the game thereafter and ran in five tries through Craig De Goldi (2), Justin Wilson (2) and Tony Monaghan to seal an emphatic win.
"I guess that's what going down the drain must be like," said Rush, in a quip directed at the Fijians after they had said before the tournament that New Zealand were past their prime.
"Our defence was excellent. To restrict Fiji to one try is a pretty good effort anywhere and that was very satisfying," said the 35-year-old Rush, who rolled backed the years with a vintage performance in the final.
"This is probably one of our best wins up here considering we had such a young and inexperienced squad," he added. Coach Gordon Tietjens echoed Rush's words, and paid tribute to the New Zealand captain - making his 13th appearance in the tournament. "He's 35 but he didn't look it did he? Rush was magnificent but really what won it was our defence. It was outstanding - we only conceded two tries in the whole tournament," Tietjens said.
"We conceded a try against Singapore in our first match and we said after that that we wanted to really focus on shutting our opponents out," said Tietjens.
The anonymous performance of Fiji maestro Waisale Serevi summed up the match, with the Kiwis never giving the diminutive playmaker any space to weave his magic. Serevi was gracious in defeat. "You have to congratulate New Zealand for a wonderful performance. They didn't make any mistakes and they retained the ball superbly," the playmaking flyhalf said. "We made a lot of mistakes and you can't do that in sevens finals. The teams that don't make mistakes win sevens tournaments," he added.
Tryscorer Tony Monaghan was stretchered off during the final after being knocked out but was reported to have suffered no serious injury. Fellow tryscorer De Goldi was left nursing a broken nose after being stiff-armed by Viliame Satala. Satala was sinbinned for the foul.
New Zealand's victory was their seventh in the tournament overall and their first since 1996. This year's tournament was the eighth leg of the International Rugby Board's inaugural sevens circuit. New Zealand's win puts them on four tournament wins along with Fiji.
New Zealand had been imperious during their passage to the final, failing to concede a point in the knockout phase. The New Zealanders defeated Argentina 29-0 before sending old foes
Australia crashing to a 26-0 loss in the semi-finals. Fiji had earlier obliterated traditional rivals Samoa and suprise Six-Nations package England on their way to the final.
Samoa were spanked 50-0 before England -- who had seen off South Africa 14-12 in the quarter-finals -- were swatted aside contemptuously 52-7.
"You can't expect to beat Fiji if you don't prepare for sevens," said English skipper Andy Gomarsall who like most of his team-mates spent the semi-final drubbing groping at thin air.
In the consolation competitions, France defeated Croatia in the final of the plate with a sudden death try from Sebastian Viars clinching a 19-14 win. Ireland won the plate competition silverware with a 59-7 defeat of China.