More golden glory for NZ sevens

NEW DELHI - New Zealand have won a fourth consecutive Commonwealth Games sevens rugby gold medal after beating Australia 24-17 in a thrilling final today.

A perfect record was maintained by Gordon Tietjens who has been coach since sevens was introduced to the Games in 1998 and his team did him proud with a superb campaign in Delhi.

It was capped by a brilliant comeback display in the 20-minute trans-Tasman struggle, where New Zealand fought back from 7-17 down with six minutes remaining, running in three of their four tries in the closing stages.

With his team two points up, Kurt Baker - arguably New Zealand's star player at the 16-nation tournament - scored their last try in the final minute, prompting wild celebrations from his teammates while the Australians collapsed to the turf.

Other tries went to Lote Raikabula, to put his side up in the fourth minute, and Sherwin Stowers and DJ Forbes when the New Zealand team surged home late.

Australia produced a stern challenge, scoring their three tries either side of halftime to rock a New Zealand side who were down to six men late in the first half after Liam Messam was sinbinned for a high tackle.

Victory takes New Zealand's gold medal tally at the Games to three.

South Africa, who were ousted 17-7 by Australia in the semifinals, bounced back to win the bronze medal, beating England 17-14.

Earlier, New Zealand started slowly before beating Wales 31-10 in the quarterfinals and hammering England 33-12 in the semis.

The England win was especially impressive, with captain DJ Forbes grabbing the limelight courtesy of two first-half tries to put his team 12-0 up at the break.

He and former skipper Liam Messam. led from the front as the New Zealanders adopted a direct game plan, finding holes in the middle of the park rather than going wide to the speed of winger Hosea Gear.

It paid dividends in the fourth minute when Forbes backed up a Lote Raikabula half-break to score, followed by his second 2min later when he dived over from a ruck.

Manawatu pair Raikabula and Tomasi Cama scored the three second-half tries between, Cama's second from an astute chip and chase.

Rocked onto the back foot early by Wales in their opening game today, New Zealand broke out of their half for the first time in the sixth minute to score through Baker and take a 7-5 lead into halftime.

An animated halftime message from coach Gordon Tietjens seem to do the trick as the three-time defending gold medallists bounced back to score four second-half tries.

World series champions Samoa were below their best here and were eliminated by a 7-5 quarterfinal loss to England.

- NZPA

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