New Zealand beats England at Hong Kong Sevens

New Zealand stormed to their 10th Hong Kong Sevens title Sunday, dedicating the 29-17 win over England to those who died in the Feb. 22 Christchurch earthquake.

By (AP)

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Published: Sun 27 Mar 2011, 8:44 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:25 PM

Frank Halai scored two blistering tries either side of half time and Tomasi Cama, Tim Mikkelson and Solomon King chipped in with one try apiece.

But it was New Zealand’s pounding defense that proved the difference as they kept England at bay.

“I thought the performance we had today was the best we have had all season,” said New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens. “Just a lot of heart, some real gutsy defense and it was a game I thought where we might struggle a bit with the pace of their backs. But we defended very well and I am very happy about it.”

The Kiwis had come into the final unbeaten but were hardly convincing through the group stages, where they had struggled against Portugal and France. Tietjens said the squad had gathered on Saturday to sort out their problems.

“We beat ourselves up a bit yesterday after we thought we performed badly. We didn’t play as well as we could. Overnight, we thought about it hard,” said Tietjens.

New Zealand came to Hong Kong hoping to raise sprits at home after the earthquake, which claimed 182 lives. Spectators at Hong Kong Stadium observed a minute’s silence for the victims in Christchurch and those who perished in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

“It was on our minds that we were playing for Christchurch, to do whatever we could do to try to soften the blow of what happened there,” said Tietjens. “My boys certainly delivered that today. It was on our minds. Sevens rugby is all about family. It’s about unity and playing for each other. And that’s what my guys did out there tonight.”

The win lifted New Zealand five points clear of England in the Sevens World Series standings, after the pair had come to Hong Kong level.

Tietjens was happy to get his team’s noses in front, but he stressed there was plenty more work ahead.

“Collectively it was a great team performance but we’ve got to back it up with some good performances again,” he said.

England coach Ben Ryan said his team had been “simply outplayed” but added that he hoped they could turn things around.

“Absolutely disappointed,” said Ryan. “On the day New Zealand were better than us and I’ve got no ax to grind there. They took their chances in crucial moments. Picking up turnovers and running the length. That’s a killer when that happens and we’ll learn from it. They’ve got ahead in the world series but by no means is this fatal for us.”

There was consolation for South Africa in the Plate final where it beat Australia 26-19. South Africa had earlier missed several opportunities to beat Fiji in the Cup quarters, before losing 24-19.

“I think we can be very happy with our performance,” said coach Paul Treu. “We were down to 10 players after day one. It was the bounce of the ball in the semifinal against Fiji and if not for that we could have made the final, you never know.

“But I’m really proud of the guys and the way they kept the composure. It’s a young team but we have a lot of talent here and things are looking good for the future.”

South Africa’s Cecil Afrika finished the event with 88 combined points - the most by a player in a single world series event for eight years.

In the Bowl final, Canada overpowered Japan to win 33-12, while the Shield went to Kenya, 17-12 winners over Spain.

The Sevens World Series resumes in Adelaide April 2-3.

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