Huxley heroics seal Wallaby win in Wellington
by Huw Turner in Wellington
February 10, 2001

Australia won the Wellington round of the IRB World Sevens Series in dramatic fashion at the WestpacTrust Stadium.

The Wallaby seven defeated defending champions Fiji in an enthralling finale, with Julian Huxley's last-gasp conversion from the wide securing a 19-17 win almost from the same spot as John eales did the trick in last year's Tri-Nations match.

Australia made a great start to the final before Scott Barton was cut down by a head high tackle, for which he required medical attention, and Fijian starlet Rupeni Caucau was sin-binned for two minutes.

Despite being a man down the Fijians cleared their lines only for Rob McDonald to burst away from the lineout to get the first try, and Huxley converted.

Fiji struck back at once, Raque scoring out wide on the right and a period of stalemate was broken by Fijian brilliance, Bainavalu getting the try on the right to give his side the lead for the first time.

In first half injury time Caucau appeared to have scored but was held up over the line and at half time Fiji led 10-7.

Bainavalu extended Fiji's lead to 10 points but Caucau was sensationally sent off, and Australia then went for broke. Rob McDonald scored his second try as the Fijian defence was stretched on the right and the Fijians then narrowly avoided conceding another beneath the posts.

With time running out Peter Hewat broke away and scored on the left to bring the scores level, and Huxley's boot did the rest.

Fiji beat the Cook Islands in one semi-final, with some of their ball handling straight from the basketball court in a 27-12 win.

The USA squeezed past old rivals Canada in the quarter-finals and made a spirited start against Australia in the other semi, but the Aussies scored the first try through skipper Richard Graham.

Scott Barton flew down the right for the second and his side thereafter always looked in control.

New Zealand's defeat by Fiji in the quarter-final meant the hosts had to console themselves by competing in the Plate Championship, an ignominy previously unfamiliar to them in the two years of the World Series.

Against Samoa in the first Plate semi they started scrappily and struggled to achieve any domination in the first half, although a fine individual try by Damian Karauna just before the break should have settled their nerves.

But the second half started disastrously, Setiti intercepting a risky pass by Te Nana on his own line and scoring to take the lead. As Samoa pressed home their advantage , Setiti was held up but Fa'atau was then worked into space to score on the right.

The conversion added to the agony and the Samoans eased to a comfortable 21-12 victory. So New Zealand were beaten twice in one afternoon ! This precipitated a mass exodus of disgruntled kiwi punters, although those who remained gave their side a standing ovation on their lap of honour.

In the second semi Argentina were always too strong for a demoralised Canadian side , winning 21-0. And in the final Samoa took an early lead which they then consolidated with two further tries before half time, eventually running out winners by 40-7.

After a good start by Wales in the Bowl Final , South Africa came back very strongly to record a comprehensive victory, 47-17. In the quarter finals Tonga had too much pace and guile for China, Japan could not match the tenacity and cohesion of the Welsh team work, especially in the second half, South Africa outclassed Papua New Guinea and England made hard work of disposing of Niue.

In the first semi Wales and Tonga were well matched but the Welshmen just got up in the final minute to record a narrow , 19-17 victory. In the second, South Africa always had the edge over England and ran out convincing winners 31-12.

The Shield Championship was won by Japan , who beat Papua New Guinea 27-19 in the final. Earlier in the afternoon, Japan had beaten China 21-7 and Papua had got the better of Niue 45-0.

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