New Zealand have been thrashed 40-21 by South Africa in the final of the Las Vegas sevens, but they will retain a handy buffer atop the series standings.
After overcoming familiar sparring partner Fiji in this morning's semifinal, South Africa proved far too strong in the showpiece as the unpredictable nature of the circuit continued.
New Zealand have won only one tournament this season _ round three in South Africa _ but three runner-up finishes and last week's third place in Wellington has left them well clear of the chasing pack.
South Africa came charging out of the blocks in this morning's final, racing to a 28-0 lead to take firm control of the contest. It was 35-0 and virtually over before New Zealand got off the mark, through Ben Lam with seven minutes remaining.
South Africa then scored their sixth try to render late efforts from Tim Mikkelson and Gillies Kaka nothing more than consolation.
Earlier, New Zealand scored two tries to lead their semifinal 14-0 at the break, before Fiji came storming back in the second half. They levelled the scores and sent the match to extra time, where the first score would win the game.
That came to New Zealand when Fijian-born Blues' wing David Raikuna scored a spectacular individual try to send his side through to face South Africa, who also required extra time to advance past Samoa in the other semifinal.
Yesterday, New Zealand breezed through Pool C with wins over France (21-0), Wales (40-5) and Argentina (17-5) and easily accounted for Canada (17-0) in their quarter-final.
The Kiwis are competing in the United States, the fifth stop on the circuit, without the services of DJ Forbes, Kurt Baker and Lote Raikabula, who are all out with injury.
The next stop on the circuit is the Hong Kong sevens next month.