Rugby: All Blacks Sevens side send strong message to critics

By Campbell Burnes

Former skipper DJ Forbes was an ideal foil for Mikkelson in the final, his committed work in contact again a feature. Photo / Getty Images
Former skipper DJ Forbes was an ideal foil for Mikkelson in the final, his committed work in contact again a feature. Photo / Getty Images

The All Blacks Sevens answered their critics in palpable fashion with a brilliant tactical execution in the Cup final in Vancouver to overcome South Africa 19-14 and lie just behind the leaders in the World Series.

New Zealand were mediocre on day two last week in Las Vegas, but with just one change - the inclusion of Sherwin Stowers - they made the necessary adjustments and won six bruising games on the bounce to prove there is depth even without Ardie Savea, Scott Curry, Joe Webber, the Ioane brothers and Sonny Bill Williams.

"I'm just so pleased we won the final. It's been a hard week," said captain Tim Mikkelson.

"Finals footy is different. It's much longer. We just had to play territory and once we got down there, get the ball and score points. We trained hard this week and really wanted to finish our tour with a win, so a pleasing result."

Former skipper DJ Forbes was an ideal foil for Mikkelson in the final, his committed work in contact again a feature.

New Zealand were smart about their work, starting Liam Messam for his physicality and controlling the tempo. He set up man of the match Sam Dickson with a nicely-angled run and well-timed pass.

Dickson was again central to much of what was good about New Zealand's play, his accurate kickoffs work highlighted in spectacular fashion with a two-handed catch and then pass to send Kurt Baker away.

A Lewis Ormond try with two minutes to play had them ahead 19-7. South Africa hit back through Seabelo Senatla but their subsequent kickoff sailed over the sideline.

The amount of strapping on the legs and shoulders of the New Zealand team, seen at their topless post-match haka, was testament to two successive tournaments on artificial turf and the immense physical effort of the past two days. New Zealand did not win any game by more than 14 and they conceded just 10 tries.

Earlier, they had beaten Australia 28-19 in the Cup semifinal thanks to a double to Counties Manukau wing Sione Molia, and Samoa 17-12 in the quarter-finals, in a scoreline that was flattering to the Samoan side.

The crowd of more than 60,000 across the two days was a fitting debut for the Vancouver Sevens and the biggest in Canadian rugby history.

New Zealand are third on the standings with 104 points, but are now putting serious heat on South Africa (105) and Fiji (106).

The next World Series tournaments are in Hong Kong and Singapore next month.

- NZ Herald

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