NZ, England, Aus and SA through to HK Qtr finals

Defending champion New Zealand recovered to beat archrival Australia Saturday and title favorite England survived a late challenge from World Cup champion Wales to make the quarterfinals at the Hong Kong Sevens.


Australia scored first on a try by Domonic Shipperley in the second minute, but the New Zealanders replied with two tries by Zar Lawrence and another by Hurricanes star Victor Vito.


Lawrence was playing after learning his 16-year-old younger brother Wiremu died in a auto accident Friday night in Auckland. The entire New Zealand team wore black armbands in memory of the younger Lawrence.


“My thoughts are back there (New Zealand), but my family told me to stay here and do it for him, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve got to play my best tomorrow for my brother,” Lawrence told reporters after the win.


The Kiwis crushed Zimbabwe 52-0 earlier Saturday as Vito, Tim Mikkelson, Ben Souness and Julian Savea crossed for two tries apiece.


Australia still qualified for the quarterfinals as the second-best second-place team in round-robin play. The Wallabies, who beat Sri Lanka 56-12 earlier Saturday, will next play South Africa.


The Springboks, co-leaders with England in the IRB Sevens series, crushed Uruguay 53-0, then France 26-12 to qualify.


New Zealand will next play Kenya, the World Cup semifinalist, which beat Scotland 31-7 and the United States 19-12.


England was up 26-0 at the half against Wales, with Ollie Phillips, Kevin Barrett, Chris Cracknell and Isoa Damu each scoring, but the Welsh responded with three tries and two conversions in the second half.


Coach Ben Ryan was upset about England’s second-half lapse.


“It was unacceptable. That’s not what we wanted,” he said.


The result relegated Wales to the plate competition. However, the Welsh side was never considered a title favorite in Hong Kong because they are only fielding two players from their World Cup winning squad.


Wales had to come from behind to narrowly beat China 19-17 earlier Saturday.


England will next face 2005 World Cup winner Fiji, which was held to a 12-12 draw by Samoa, another losing semifinalist at the recent World Cup. Samoa finished on top of Pool E on points difference, but both teams advanced with two wins and a tie.


Samoa will next play World Cup finalist Argentina, which beat Tonga 22-17 on a last-minute try.


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.


Sapa-AP Rugbyweek.com

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