England win sevens
December 13, 2003

England took another step in their quest for total rugby dominance in all forms of the game as they crushed sevens world champions New Zealand 38-14 in the final of the Emirates Air George Sevens at Outeniqua Park.

A hat-trick of tries for Rob Thirlby and a brace by the impressive Ben Gollings saw England take a jaded All Blacks side apart to take the title and join the Kiwis and Springboks at the top of the IRB Sevens standings after the first two tournaments.

England looked sheer class on day one as they swept aside Canada, Zambia and Argentina, conceding just five points as they went into the play-off rounds.

But it was here that they stepped it up a gear, whitewashing France 50-0 in the quarter-final before overcoming hometown favourites and Dubai champs South Africa 19-7 in a tense semi-final.

By beating the Springboks they upped their game to the level they could not in the Emirates when the Boks beat them with a drop goal in the last minute.

With Danny Hipkiss banned for the semi-final after a punch in the quarters and regular captain Simon Amor missing out on the tournament with a leg strain, it made the victory all the sweeter.

It may have been billed as a close final, but it was anything but as England side pulled into the lead early and never looked back.

Thirlby opened the scoring, showing pace and skill as Gollings put him in before the flying Richard Haughton scored.

New Zealand showed there was still a lot of life in them as Anthony Tuitavake - the latest in a string of South Sea imports - swerved around three players to score.

In a tense atmosphere, with most of the home crowd supporting the Kiwis, hometown referee Craig Joubert crucially ruled that Justin Wilson was ahead of Amasio Valence's kick as the All Blacks threatened again.

That decision left England 14-7 up at the break.

Thirlby then stepped up a gear as he took on the All Black defence twice and both times beat the Sevens maestros with pure speed.

Thirlby first rounded Wilson - who pulled a try back for the Kiwis - en route to the line and then beat Sevens legend Valence in a straight duel to the line.

Gollings added a brace at the end to show how cruel the decision was not to give him the player of the tournament award, as England underlined their superiority in the shortened game.

Captain Tony Roques, who sat out the final, said he believed his side were the best on the day.

"We knew it would be tough against the All Blacks, they are the (sevens) world champions, but we asked the boys to dig in and play for each other. And they did the job," he said.

"New Zealand are a very good side, you don't win the Sevens World Championship four times and not be a good side, but we got a couple of lucky breaks that turned things out way in the end."

In the other finals Argentina beat France 29-12 to win the Plate competition, while Canada edged out Namibia 19-14 to win the bowl competition and Kenya narrowly survived a strong challenge from Morocco to win the Shield 22-19.

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