New Zealand back in pole position after Tokyo sevens victory
May 1, 2001

A late burst of tries saw New Zealand recapture their Japan Sevens crown in Tokyo, coming back in the final against Australia to win 26-12.

The win meant New Zealand took a four-point lead over their trans-Tasman rivals in the International Rugby Board series with two tournaments to play.

Trailing 12-7 with just four minutes to play, the Kiwis dug deep and produced a remarkable turnaround, scoring three late tries to get the better of the Aussies at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens said his boys had worked hard for the victory, making up for last week`s loss to Australia in Kuala Lumpur.

"We had two very close games today," Tietjens said.

"And most pleasing was the fact that we lost three of our top players through injuries, and the young players stepped up to the challenge."

Wing Dan Parkinson pulled his hamstring on Sunday, while Johnny Leo`o (concussion) and Kevin Senio (calf muscle) dropped out before the 17-12 semi-final defeat of Samoa.

In the final, Jason Tiatia put New Zealand into the lead in the fourth minute after a break from skipper Karl Te Nana.

Five minutes later, Australian captain Richard Graham scored in the corner following a long period of possession, but the conversion attempt was unsuccessful so the Kiwis led 7-5.

A professional foul by New Zealand playmaker Hayden Reid earned him two minutes in the sinbin, and Australia capitalised on the mistake by putting Tim Donnelly through to score and send Australia into the breather leading 12-7.

The stalemate in the second half was broken with only minutes left to play when Te Nana set up Damian Karauna for an end-to-end try to put New Zealand ahead.

Then, as the Australians wilted, the Kiwis applied further pressure.

Mana Ashford took a short-tap penalty and dummied round his marker to score New Zealand`s third try, then Karauna grabbed his second in injury time to leave the Aussies looking exhausted.

Graham talked of the injuries taking their toll in his team too.

"It`s been a long month on the road," Graham said, pointing to playing in five tournaments in five weeks. "Naturally, we`re going to pick up injuries.

"We lost Scott Barton and Matt Isaac today before the final."

Tietjens said the win over Samoa, when the scores were locked at 12-12 shortly before the end, took a lot out of them.

"That was a very physical clash, and we lost our discipline a bit," Tietjens said. "But the boys held together well to clinch it."

Te Nana, who scored the winning try in that game too as he had also done Sunday against South Africa, underlined his coach`s sentiments.

"Both teams had very hard semi-finals, and in the end it was a case of last team standing," Te Nana said.

Australia beat Fiji 17-7 in the other semi-final with Cameron Pither`s brace of first-half tries setting the foundation.

South Africa won the Plate, downing England 38-15 after trailing 15-12 at the half, while Argentina captured the Bowl with a 31-19 win over the United States.

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