As it happened: NZ claim ninth Wellington title

By Kris Shannon

New Zealand have won all five of their matches at the Wellington Sevens this weekend. Photo / Getty
New Zealand have won all five of their matches at the Wellington Sevens this weekend. Photo / Getty

Herald rugby writer Kris Shannon provides updates of all the action from the second day of the Wellington Sevens.

8.57pm:

They once more left it late but Joe Webber's last-gasp try has helped New Zealand win the Wellington Sevens for a ninth time.

Facing a 21-7 deficit against a dominant South Africa, the home side launched a stirring fightback that culminated with Webber crossing in the corner after time had expired.

If that sounds familiar then it's because the same thing happened 24 hours ago, when Webber streaked away to score under the sticks to help New Zealand beat South Africa in their final pool game.

And Webber broke South African hearts once again to conclude a thoroughly successful tournament for Sir Gordon Tietjens' men.

It didn't always look that way after Sonny Bill Williams was the first to experience a serious case of deja vu early in the second half.

Facing a 14-7 deficit at the break and with New Zealand looking to launch an attack, Williams' wayward offload allowed South Africa to score a third try through Seabelo Senatla.

South Africa continued to dominate both possession and field position as New Zealand struggled to get out of their own half, but Gillies Kaka's big bust and Senatla's sin-binning saw Rieko Ioane cross in the corner to kickstart the comeback.

Ioane soon had a double after more good work from Kaka capitalised on the numerical advantage, giving New Zealand 30 seconds to find a final try. Enter Webber.

8:42pm:

New Zealand face a fight on their hands if they wish to win the Wellington Sevens, heading to the halftime break trailing 14-7 in the final.

South Africa scored two tries in the first half to seize control of the match, spending almost the entire spell in New Zealand territory after the home side made a nervy start to the match.

New Zealand were forced to defend in their territory throughout the opening stages after an error from the kickoff from Sonny Bill Williams and an errant pass from Augustine Pulu, with South Africa making the most of those mistakes to score the first try through Philip Snyman.

And South Africa doubled their lead a couple of minutes later when Rosko Specimen caught New Zealand napping with a quick free kick.

But from almost their first attack, a big cut-out pass from Joe Webber found Akira Ioane who, as he has all tournament, proved too tough to handle on the right wing and gave his side hope heading into the second half.

8.27pm:

Fiji have earned a popular victory in the third-placed playoff, defeating England 24-12 to please the largely partisan crowd.

Fiji scored four tries to two to see off the English challenge but, much more importantly, we're only moments away from the cup final, with the South African anthem currently ringing around the Cake Tin.

Stay tuned to see whether New Zealand can win this tournament for a ninth time.

8.07pm:

Sir Gordon Tietjens has named an unchanged team to tackle South Africa in tonight's final, with Sonny Bill Williams retaining his place in the starting lineup.

After being promoted in place of a possibly-injured Sam Dickson for the semifinal win over England, Williams will make his third start from six games this tournament.

He's joined by fellow new boys Akira Ioane, Augustine Pulu and Ben Lam, with the team completed by captain Tim Mikkelson, Kurt Baker and Joe Webber.

Meanwhile, Fiji lead England 14-5 at the halfway mark of the race for third place.

7.55pm:

Not too many issues for Australia in that one, winning the plate final 21-5 over Argentina.

After falling behind the opening minute, Australia crossed twice before halftime to seize a 14-5 lead at the break. One more try in the second half sealed it and left the minor trophies all handed out.

We still have one more curtain-raiser before the main event, with Fiji and England about to play off for third place, before New Zealand meet South Africa for the tournament crown.

7.21pm:

Samoa have ended their tournament with a nice consolation prize, treating their fans to a 19-7 victory in the bowl final against Scotland.

A try before the break and two more in the second spell put Samoa right on top, with Scotland pegging one back only after the hooter had sounded.

Next we have the plate final between Argentina and Australia, before the main event between New Zealand and South Africa kicks off at 8.30pm.

One officer missed the memo about the mo. Photo / Getty
One officer missed the memo about the mo. Photo / Getty

6.49pm:

The first silverware of the Wellington Sevens has just been won, with France edging Russia 14-7 in the shield final.

Two first-half tries were enough for France to claim the spoils, with Russia unable to find a way back into the match in the second spell.

The bowl final is next up, with Samoa taking on Scotland in about 10 minutes.

6.14pm:

South Africa have set up a rematch with New Zealand in the final of the Wellington Sevens after crushing Fiji 26-0 in their semifinal.

After the hosts dispatched England with few difficulties, South Africa were even more comprehensive in defeating the standouts from the opening day.

South Africa led 12-0 at halftime after a couple early tries and scored three more in the second spell to earn a chance of revenge later this evening.

It was only the timely work of Sonny Bill Williams that saw New Zealand pip South Africa late last night so we should be in store for a cracking end to the tournament.

That match kicks off at 8.30pm, with the shield, bowl and plate finals to come first.

5.46pm:

A hat-trick of titles in Wellington is well within New Zealand's grasp after thumping England 25-5 in their cup semifinal this afternoon.

The hosts had far too much quality for their opponents' defence, grabbing five tries while defending well on the rare occasions a question was asked.

New Zealand have conceded only one try in the knockout stages, after their 36-0 triumph in the quarter-finals, and they will take some stopping in tonight's final against either Fiji or South Africa.

After running in three tries in the first half against England, Kurt Baker increased his side's advantage after some solid work from captain Tim Mikkelson. Jack Wilson pulled one back for England with a minute to play but a pair of substitutes combined to cancel out that score, with Ardie Savea brilliantly setting up Rieko Ioane to put icing on the cake.

The final is scheduled for 8.30pm and New Zealand will learn their opponents when Fiji face South Africa in a few minutes.

5.35pm:

New Zealand are in control of their semifinal encounter against England, with a Ben Lam brace and Sonny Bill Williams' try handing the hosts a 15-0 halftime lead.

New Zealand's control was asserted from the opening moments through a stunning solo effort from Ben Lam barely 30 seconds into the match. First Lam showed his speed as he managed to get outside the first man, then he showed his strength as he bowled over a second defender.

Lam soon had his second and this time it was Akira Ioane who proved far too tough for the English defence to stop, with the Blues man bumping off a defender before slipping a pass inside.

Ioane, probably the pick of the Kiwis at this tournament, soon repeated the feat to launch a break near halfway, with Williams capitalising to score his second try of the tournament.

Perhaps the only concern was the wayward goal-kicking, yet England will likely need a miracle in the second spell to upset Sir Gordon Tietjens' men.

5.25pm:

We're moments away from kickoff in New Zealand's semifinal against England, with the crowd currently awaiting both sides.

There seems to be more fans here today then on the opening day - a beautiful sunny day in Wellington certain helps, as, I imagine, did Sonny Bill Williams' heroics last night - but the stands still would be less than half-full.

Here come the teams of the tunnel.

5.07pm:

Sonny Bill Williams has been included in the starting lineup for New Zealand's semifinal against England, which kicks off in 20 minutes.

Williams will make his second start of the tournament, after also running on against Scotland, while on three further occasions he has provided impact from the bench.

The All Black replaces Sam Dickson in the only change from the side who dispatched Kenya in the quarter-finals - with Dickson now sporting strapping around his right leg - as coach Gordon Tiejtens settles on something near a preferred lineup.

Captain Tim Mikkelson starts with fellow sevens veterans Kurt Baker and Joe Webber, while Akira Ioane and Ben Lam will provide plenty of size and speed out wide. Augustine Pulu, enjoying an outstanding weekend, rounds out the starting side.

Anyone after an apple? Photo / Getty
Anyone after an apple? Photo / Getty

4.49pm:

It was unpopular among the crowd - who unleashed several 'USA' chants - but Australia have won through to the plate final after defeating the United States 17-5.

A couple of first-half tries and a third in the second spell were all that Aussie needed, defending well to negate the constant threat of Carlin Isles and keep the Americans scoreless after the halftime break.

Australia will take on Argentina for the plate, with the shield to be decided by France and Russia and the bowl final seeing Samoa clash with Scotland.

New Zealand's cup semifinal against England kicks off at 5.27pm, followed by Fiji-South Africa at 5.52pm.

4.27pm:

Argentina have clinched their spot in the plate final, handily seeing off the challenge of Kenya in their semi.

Argentina scored five tries and, impressively for the format, nailed the conversion on every one to run out 35-14 victors.

They will play the winner of Australia's match against the United States in this evening's final, with our neighbours just being lustily booed when the crowd was asked who it wanted to win.

We're also exactly one hour away from New Zealand's cup semifinal against England.

4.08pm:

Samoa, every fan's third-favourite team judging by the crowd noise, have just won their way through to the bowl final after beating Canada 26-7.

The Pacific Islanders will face Scotland in the third-tiered showpiece, after the Scots beat Japan 31-26 in an entertaining affair that saw sudden-death extra time needed to separate the sides.

So with Samoa and Scotland meeting in the bowl and France to clash with Russia in the shield, two of the tournament's finals are set.

We still have the plate semifinals to come, with Kenya about to face off with Argentina, and of course the cup semis a little later this afternoon.

3.07pm:

With more than two hours until New Zealand's semifinal against England, the players will be in the middle of their recovery process. Ice baths, nutrition and hydration form that, before the players review the Kenyan game and set about formulating a plan for England.

What they watch will certainly be pleasant viewing, after their plan against Kenya worked to perfection.

"We didn't start too well against South Africa, so that was something we really wanted to do," captain Tim Mikkelson said. "That was perfect. We wanted to kick deep, keep them in their own half and force them to make mistakes, and we did that."

On the field, France have beaten Portugal to advance to the shield final, where they will play the winner of Russia's clash against Wales. Russia currently lead 12-0 at halftime.

I don't even know what's going on here. Photo / Getty
I don't even know what's going on here. Photo / Getty

2.29pm:

Fiji have overcome a minor scare to book their place in the semifinals, taking control of their quarter-final against the United States with a strong second half.

After almost heading to the break behind, Fiji exploited some soft defence to score a couple of converted tries early in the second spell, with the United States pulling one back only after the hooter had gone.

Fiji's 21-12 victory sets up a clash with South Africa in the final four, while New Zealand will take on England in the other cup semifinal.

We now have a wee bit of a break before the shield portion of the competition begins in 10 minutes or so.

2.19pm:

Fiji have been made to work very hard in taking a 7-5 lead at halftime of their quarter-final clash against the United States.

The Americans looked set to head to the break with their noses in front after speedster Carlin Isles scored a superb individual try to put his side in front. But the underdogs were made to pay for their attacking intent, coughing up a turnover after the hooter had sounded and watching Isake Katonibau saunter away to score under the sticks.

Fiji had failed to fire in attack after such a strong opening day of the tournament, leaving the United States with hope of pulling off an upset in the second spell.

2.08pm:

A dominant second half has helped South Africa see off the challenge of Australia and advance to the semifinals of the Wellington Sevens.

South Africa ran in a pair of tries after the break to take a 26-7 lead and, although Australia showed some late fight, eventually ran out 26-14 victors.

As they showed against New Zealand last night, South Africa have a serious chance to win this tournament and they will prove a tough test for either Fiji or the United States.

Fiji were perhaps the most impressive side on the opening day and their quarter-final against the USA has just begun.

The Pacific Island side are also the second-most popular team at the tournament, with the 'Fiji' chants ringing around the Cake Tin.

These young AC/DC fans didn't seem to be enjoying the action. Photo / Getty
These young AC/DC fans didn't seem to be enjoying the action. Photo / Getty

1.53pm:

New Zealand will play England in the cup semifinals after they accounted easily for Argentina in the second quarter-final of the day.

England scored five tries to run out 33-7 victors to set up a clash with the hosts at 5.27pm and, unfortunately, I can't tell you much more as we were in the bowels in Westpac Stadium talking to Tim Mikkelson.

The Kiwi captain had no complaints after his team's comfortable win over Kenya, saying the side were targeting a fast start after doing the opposite in last night's victory against South Africa.

I'll bring you some of those comments soon and, in the meantime, South Africa and Australia are locked at 5-5 late in the first half of their quarter-final.

1.25pm:

New Zealand have played the perfect quarter-final to beat Kenya 36-0 and advance to the final four of the Wellington Sevens.

After scoring four tries in a one-sided first half, the home side ran in two more in the second spell to set up a semifinal clash with either England or Argentina.

The second half began the way the first ended, with brilliant work from Augustine Pulu seeing Tim Mikkelson score his second of the match. While Kenya showed a little more defensive steel, substitute Regan Ware soon stole the ball from the breakdown and scampered away his for side's sixth.

Pleasingly for coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, New Zealand defended well when called upon and kept their line in-tact. Though, in truth, Kenya's opportunities were minimal as the hosts spent much of the match in the opposition half with ball in hand.

England and Argentina will be clashing in a few moments, with New Zealand keen spectators to find out who they will face.

1.15pm:

New Zealand are in complete control of their cup quarter-final against Kenya, spending the entire opening half on attacking and scoring four tries to set up a comfortable second spell.

Akira Ioane crossed for his fourth try of the tournament, captain Tim Mikkelson scored his side's second, Joe Webber grabbed a third on the stroke of halftime and Kurt Baker put the home side in complete control after the hooter had sounded.

New Zealand spent virtually the entire period in the Kenyan half, with some patient build-up initially finding Ioane on the right who once again prove unstoppable with the try-line in sight. That patience was eventually repeated as New Zealand continued their stranglehold on possession, with Mikkelson stretching out from close range.

Once Ben Lam showed his elusiveness to evade the Kenyan defence and slip Webber through a hole and Baker crossed in the other corner, Sir Gordon Tietjens' men had one foot in the semifinals.

1.03pm

They didn't have to wait for too long. Samoa barely let their opponents touch the ball in the extra period, launching wave after wave of attack that eventually produced the match-winning try.

The New Zealand and Kenya sides are currently in the tunnel and the cup quarter-finals are about to kick off.

12.59pm:

Well, New Zealand might not be in action so soon after all. Wales have launched a stunning comeback in their bowl quarter-final against Samoa, scoring three tries in the final five minutes to force extra time.

The teams will now play an extra five-minute sudden death period, with the sparse crowd forced to wait to watch the home side.

12.57pm:

New Zealand are five minutes away from taking the field for the first cup quarter-final, with Sir Gordon Tietjens naming an imposing team to take on Kenya.

While Sonny Bill Williams will again be used to provide impact from the bench after his heroics against South Africa last night, there is plenty of Super Rugby experience in the side.

Opening-day standout Akira Ioane is joined by Ben Lam and Augustine Pulu, while sevens specialists Tim Mikkelson, Kurt Baker, Joe Webber and Sam Dickson round out the starting lineup.

12.47pm:

Hello and welcome to our rolling coverage of the second day of the Wellington Sevens. Wellington has turned on a beautiful afternoon for finals day at the tournament, with the crowd slowly starting to file in.

New Zealand will be playing the first of the cup quarter-finals in about 20 minutes, taking on Kenya for a place in the final four, while we've already had a few matches for the minor placings.

First up was Scotland's 29-12 win over Portugal, followed by Japan's 19-14 upset of France, before Canada easily accounted for Russia 35-12.

Currently in action are Samoa and Wales, with the Pacific Islanders running away with it 24-7 early in the second half.

9.30pm:

Sir Gordon Tietjens was a very happy man after that victory, praising his side's ticker for coming back at the death after the game had appeared lost.

"There was a lot of character and a lot of heart, which was good to see," the coach said. "To finish like that against a really good South African team was really pleasing."

Tietjens wasn't about to anoint his side favourites for the tournament but they will certainly be hopeful of advancing past Kenya in tomorrow's quarter-final, which kicks off at 1.02pm.

Thanks for reading today and be sure to join our coverage then.

8.53pm:

Sonny Bill Williams picked the perfect time to show just how effective he can be at the game of sevens.

The code-hopper, making his first appearance in the small-sided format, unleashed a trademark offload with time up on the clock to set Joe Webber away for the match-winning try in their final match against South Africa.

New Zealand trailed by two points as the hooter sounded after a Williams error allowed South Africa to sneak in front, but the All Black quickly redeemed himself to help his side top pool A and set up a quarter-final clash with Kenya tomorrow.

New Zealand began the second spell against South Africa in the same scrappy fashion with which they ended the first, but Akira Ioane also picked up where he left off. The Blues loosie showed speed that would have made brother Rieko proud, escaping down the left sideline for his side's second after a huge hit from Augustine Pulu earned a turnover.

Williams was among the cavalry that arrived from the bench but his errant offload soon allowed Cheslin Kolbe to capitalise and cross.

If at first you don't succeed, however...

8.38pm:

Top spot in pool A will be decided in a fierce final seven minutes after South Africa took a 7-5 lead to halftime against New Zealand.

Sir Gordon Tietjens' side made a nervy start and South Africa enjoyed many more attacking opportunities, with the coach undoubtedly pleased to be facing only a two-point deficit at the break.

South Africa opened the scoring after exploiting some space following a lineout, with Kwagga Smith allowed to weave his way under the posts virtually untouched. New Zealand attempted to immediately hit back and showed a willingness to attack expansively from deep, but some staunch South Africa defence protected their lead.

Starved of possession, the hosts seized a rare chance right on the stroke of halftime, with Akira Ioane brilliantly breaking from deep before popping a pass for Sam Dickson.

8.24pm

We're moments away from the final match of the day and, considering just about everyone who has a ticket should be in their seats, it's safe to say there weren't too many walk-ups.

There were around 12,000 tickets pre-sold for the event and Westpac Stadium has never appeared more than a third full, but the crowd has still been loud and colourful.

The volume is sure to increase in a few minutes when New Zealand take the field for their crucial clash against South Africa, with Scotland have just walked off 19-17 winners over Russia.

8.00pm:

A strong second half has carried Australia to a 17-12 victory over Kenya, clinching top spot in pool D. They will now play the second-place team in group A, which will be determined in 45 minutes or so.

If New Zealand lose against South Africa, they will face a quarter-final clash against their transtasman rivals. Win, and they play Kenya.

Gordon Tietjens' team has just been named, with Sonny Bill Williams again back on the bench. Sevens veterans Tim Mikkelson, Kurt Baker and Joe Webber round out the day with their third start in as many matches, joined by Akira Ioane, Augustine Pulu, Ben Lam and Sam Dickson.

7.45pm

Back from dinner (a rather nice beef casserole, thanks for asking) and there's one result to report: Canada's 42-7 cruise over Portugal to decide the minor placings in pool D.

Kenya and Australia are currently battling it out for top spot in that pool, with the Africans holding a 12-7 lead at halftime, and this result will determine who New Zealand face in the quarter-finals.

A couple of last eight match-ups are already set: England will take on Argentina while Fiji will be favourites to advance past the United States.

Following the conclusion of this match, Scotland will meet Russia before the evening's main event kicks off - New Zealand v South Africa at 8.30pm.

7.02pm:

Fiji look like one of the teams to beat at this tournament after racking up their third comprehensive win on the trot.

The leaders in the World Series standings were made to work a little harder against Argentina but still had too much strength and flair, running out 31-10 winners to end pool play with a perfect record.

Earlier, England advanced in top spot from pool C despite their loss to Samoa, earning the nod on points differential ahead of the USA, who rounded out pool play with a win over France.

There are four games left this evening, highlighted by New Zealand's clash with South Africa at 8.30pm. In the meantime, dinner time.

The Canadian mounties were supporting their side at the sevens. Photo / photosport.nz
The Canadian mounties were supporting their side at the sevens. Photo / photosport.nz

6.05pm:

Just made our way back up from the bowels of Westpac Stadium, where Rieko Ioane said he was happy with both his performance and the effort of all the new boys in the win over Scotland.

The youngster crossed in the first half of the win and joked that he had been jealous watching older brother Akira score a couple of tries in the earlier win over Russia. Teitjens will undoubtedly shuffle his side again for the showdown against South Africa, so it will be interesting to see how the Ioanes factor in the coach's plans.

On the field, Samoa upset England 17-14 after dropping both of their opening games, while the United States are currently clinging to a one-point lead over France.

5.25pm:

For the second game running, New Zealand's strength in depth has proven a major factor as they eventually eased past Scotland to post a second win of the Wellington Sevens.

Sir Gordon Tietjens' men endured a stubborn resistance from the Scots in the opening half but ran in three second-half tries to clinch the match, 27-7.

The difference was once again New Zealand's stacked bench, with Tietjens introducing fresh legs and reaping the reward with tries to Sam Dickson, Joe Dickson and Ardie Savea.

New Zealand and South Africa lead pool A with two wins from two matches and will meet at 8.30pm to determine the victor.

5.14pm:

The All Blacks Sevens side have a battle on their hands to secure a second victory from two matches, leading Scotland 10-7 at the halftime break.

New Zealand hit the front barely a minute into the match, as superb support play on the left allowed Kurt Baker to cross in the corner. And if the opener was down the teamwork, the second was all about Rieko Ioane, who stepped on the gas and shrugged off a tackler to race away down the left touchline.

But, despite the setbacks, Scotland remained composed and enjoyed their fair share of the ball, finally capitalising after the hooter had sounded to leave it all to play for in the second spell.

5.02pm:

We're moments away from New Zealand's second match of the day, with a Cake Tin that's about a third-full currently awaiting the home side and Scotland.

South Africa have just romped to a 54-0 victory over Russia to move to the top of group A, where New Zealand will join them with victory against Scotland. Two two rivals will battle on the last game of the evening.

4.37pm:

The New Zealand team to take on Scotland has just been named and, good to his word, Sir Gordon Tietjens has selected Sonny Bill Williams in the run-on team.

Williams is one of four changes to the starting side, with only experienced sevens trio Tim Mikkelson, Kurt Baker and Joe Webber retained. Coming into the team alongside Williams are Sam Dickson, Gillies Kaka and Rieko Ioane.

New Zealand are currently warming up ahead of their 5.06pm kick off and receiving plenty of cheers while, on the field, Australia currently lead Canada 26-17. Earlier Kenya eased past Portugal 26-5.

3.56pm:

Fiji have just recorded their second comfortable victory of the day, showing far too much class in defeating Wales 33-7. That match also double as easily the most animated the crowd has been, with chants of 'Go, Fiji, Go' ringing around the Cake Tin throughout.

Next up is Kenya's clash with Portugal, with New Zealand's second outing of the afternoon a little more than an hour away.

3.27pm:

England ended up making light work of a highly-rated United States team, who sit third after two rounds of the World Sevens Series. England grabbed their second win from as many matches, easing past the USA 19-5 to seize control of pool C.

Argentina are currently romping to victory over Japan, leading 31-0 midway through the second half, while Fiji have completed their warm-ups ahead of their second match of the weekend. Judging by the reaction from the crowd, the Fijians appear to be many fans' second-favourites.

There are still plenty of yellow seats around Westpac Stadium, with maybe a quarter of the stands full at the halfway point of the opening day.

The force awakens on a sleepy first afternoon at the sevens. Photo / photosport.nz
The force awakens on a sleepy first afternoon at the sevens. Photo / photosport.nz

2.52pm:

Back from the sheds where Sir Gordon Tietjens was pleased with his side's opening performance but promised there was still plenty of room for improvement.

The coach was most impressed with the size and speed of Akira Ioane and Ben Lam out wide, with that pair proving far too tough for Russia to contain. Tietjens also said Sonny Bill Williams will be starting the second game against Scotland at 5.06pm, with New Zealand set for a reshuffle.

In the meantime, France have beaten Samoa 28-12, condemning the Pacific Islanders to their second defeat, while England and the United States are currently locked scoreless.

2.20pm:

A comfortable first-up win for the All Blacks Sevens, with a 38-7 victory over Russia.

Sonny Bill Williams marked his debut with a try right on the final hooter after coming on four minutes earlier, capping off a solid win which could have been slightly more convincing.

Russia came away with from the clash with a solitary try - one which proved popular with the punters as they crossed right after the halftime break.

2.12pm:

The All Blacks Sevens lead Russia 19-0 at halftime of their first game of the Wellington Sevens, after a predictably one-sided opening spell.

New Zealand showed only glimpses of fluency in attack but it was enough to score three tries against an over-matched Russian side, leaving the hosts heading towards an easy victory.

Akira Ioane opened the scoring after New Zealand capitalised from a turnover and Ben Lam fed the Blues man into space on the right, before Lam laid on another for Tim Mikkelson on the left.

New Zealand's third came courtesy of a big hit from Augustine Pulu, which saw the ball fall loose deep in Russian territory and allowed Ioane to trot in for his double, completing a dominant half.

2.00pm:

South Africa have just kicked off their tournament with a comfortable 28-5 win over Scotland and now we're about to see the opening appearance of the All Blacks Sevens.

New recruit Sonny Bill Williams will start the clash with Russia on the bench, while New Zealand's team is boosted by the Super Rugby experience of Akira Ioane, Ardie Savea, Augustine Pulu and Ben Lam. Captain Tim Mikkelson, Kurt Baker and Joe Webber round out the starting lineup.

We're only a couple of minutes away from action as the players line up in the Westpac Stadium tunnel.

1.36pm:

A big roar goes up around the crowd as the New Zealand team begin their warm-up. Well, a medium-size roar, at least. The crowd is still pretty sparse, but even in the glory days of the tournament these stands took some time to fill as many punters spent in the early afternoon pre-loading and preparing their costumes.

On the field, Australia needed a late try to see off the challenge of Portugal, with the minnows putting up a fierce fight against their much more renowned opponents.


1.10pm:

Welcome to our (slightly delayed) coverage of the opening day of the Wellington Sevens at Westpac Stadium. Your humble correspondent experienced some issues at Auckland Airport this morning - according to the Air New Zealand pilot, the plane was missing - but will keep you up to date throughout the rest of the day.

What we've missed: The day began as England pipped France 17-14, before the United States narrowly edged Samoa 24-20. Match three saw Argentina beat Wales 19-12 and Fiji have completed their first outing with a 45-7 win over Japan.

We're currently nearing the conclusion of the encounter between Kenya and Canada, with the Africans leading 31-7, while New Zealand will kick of their tournament with a clash against Russia at 2.04pm.

- NZ Herald

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