NZ and England stay unbeaten in Hong Kong

Defending champion New Zealand, title favorite England and South Africa thrashed their opponents for their second wins at the Hong Kong Sevens Saturday.


Fiji and Argentina also won and World Cup champion Wales survived a scare against China.

Playing in rain-free but humid conditions, Hurricanes star Victor Vito, Tim Mikkelson, Ben Souness and Julian Savea crossed for two tries apiece as the New Zealanders crushed Zimbabwe 52-0.

Rob Vickerman scored a hat trick of tries and Tom Varndell and Isoa Damu each added a pair to help England thrash Japan 50-0.

Playmaker Mzwandile Stick, Vuyo Zangqa and Mpho Mbiyozo each had two tries to lift South Africa past Uruguay 53-0.

World Cup finalist Argentina narrowly beat Tonga 22-17 on a last-minute try by Benjamin Urdapilleta.

Kenya was the first team through to the quarterfinals after finishing round-robin play undefeated. The Kenyans beat Scotland 31-7, then the United States 19-12 on Saturday.

In the tightest match of the day, 2005 World Cup winner Fiji was held to a 12-12 draw with Samoa, losing semifinalist at the recent World Cup. That left both teams with two wins and a draw.

New Zealand, England and South Africa all lost in the quarterfinals of the upset-laden World Cup in Dubai earlier this month, which was won by unheralded Wales.

But the Welsh are in Hong Kong with a weaker side that includes only two members of their World Cup-winning squad. It showed in their second match on Saturday when they had to come from behind to edge China 19-17 on Jevon Groves’ try.

The top eight teams in round-robin play will advance to the Cup quarterfinals on Sunday.

At the halfway mark of the IRB Sevens season, England and South Africa are tied in first place with 60 points. Hong Kong is the largest and most prestigious event on the sevens calendar and offers 30 points to the winner.

The World Cup results do not factor into the IRB Sevens race.

“They’re starting to get their confidence,” said New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens.

“Physically we’re playing very well and defensively also. That’s the key to winning tournaments. But we’ve got a game against Australia tonight which will be a toughie for us.”

South Africa, series joint leaders alongside England, also had a big win — 53-0 over Uruguay — as pool matches continued.

Earlier, surprise World Cup winners Wales trailed unfancied China until the last minute when Jevon Groves crossed to spare their blushes 19-17.

“We knew we were playing the World Cup champions so we were a little bit nervous,” said China captain Johnny Zhang.

“We had our chances but we couldn’t finish them off.”

However, there was joy for local Chinese fans as Hong Kong shocked Portugal 24-7. Kenya reinforced their growing reputation with a 31-7 demolition of Scotland and Australia hammered Sri Lanka 56-12.

Benjamin Urdapilleta scored after the hooter to give Argentina a narrow 22-17 win over Tonga, while Fiji, looking for their 12th win here, beat Canada 26-7.

The showpiece Hong Kong event is the fifth stop on the eight-leg Sevens World Series with further tournaments to come in Australia, England and Scotland.

England and South Africa lead the series with 60 points each while New Zealand have 52 and Argentina 48, with 30 points going to the winners here.

The Hong Kong Sevens, played this year against the backdrop of recession and heavy cloud cover, began in 1976 and has become a mainstay of expatriate life in the former British colony.

Sevens is also pushing for inclusion in the 2016 Olympics with a decision expected in October.


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