Rugby sevens: NZ finish third in Hong Kong

Jasa Veremalua of Fiji celebrates scoring a try during the cup semi final match between Fiji and New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images
Jasa Veremalua of Fiji celebrates scoring a try during the cup semi final match between Fiji and New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand remain as IRB Sevens series leaders despite falling in the semifinals at the Hong Kong Sevens to eventual winners Fiji.

The All Blacks Sevens beat Kenya 36-5 in the third-place playoff stretching their series lead after six of the nine rounds. New Zealand now have 113 points, 25 more than Fiji in second place (88).

In the final defending champions Fiji fought back to beat a valiant Wales 26-19, the 14th time they have taken home the trophy.

The sixth and most high-profile tournament of the nine-leg World Series saw the Welsh go into halftime 19-0 up, but the powerful Fijians gave a rugby masterclass as soon as they were back on the pitch.

They scored three tries in as many minutes to be back on level terms before Osea Kolinisau, who had been on the subs bench in the first half, sealed victory just before full-time with his hat-trick try of the game.

As fireworks lit up the packed Hong Kong stadium, crowd favourites Fiji lifted the trophy.

"We just had the faith that we could win - I'm proud of the boys because without them I could never do what I did today," said Kolinisau.

"We were not doing what we should have done in the first half, letting Wales come at us," Fiji coach Alifereti Dere said. "But we settled down in the second half and found our rhythm."

Wales are current World Cup Sevens champions but have never won a Sevens World Series title and this was their first final in Hong Kong.

"We lived with Fiji, we were 19-0 up, but we couldn't get the ball in the second half - we tried our best, the guys were excellent and that was a good final," said Wales coach Paul John.

Fiji reached the final after crushing fellow sevens titans New Zealand, who remain series leaders. Fiji came back after being 14-0 down to take that game 33-14.

"I'm proud of my guys - at times during that game when we had the ball we played very well, but we were beaten by a very good Fijian team," New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens told AFP.

With the skies grey and the usually noisy South Stand subdued after Saturday's partying, the final day in Hong Kong got off to a muted start.

But all that changed when the inexperienced home team claimed a 7-5 victory over Argentina in their Bowl quarter final and overcame the USA 20-12 in the semis to become surprise finalists against England.

The Bowl is contested by the eight teams not to have reached the Cup quarter final stages.

Hong Kong were roared on by the crowd but were overwhelmed 42-7.

For England, who put in lacklustre performances in the pool stages and failed to make the quarters of the Cup, the Bowl title was a bitter pill, despite beating France and South Africa on Sunday.

Samoa took home the Plate, contested by losing Cup quarter-finalists, winning 12-7 against Canada, while France beat Argentina 19-14 in the Shield, the least prestigious of the prizes, storming to victory with a try in the dying seconds.

Russia, Zimbabwe, Tonga and Georgia all earned a place at the London Sevens in May after finishing in the top four in the pre-qualifier competition, which took place alongside this weekend's main World Series tournament.

They will vie at Twickenham for a spot in the Sevens World Series next season.

-AFP

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