Dusty defence continues to plague the All Blacks Sevens, but a last second try to Lewis Ormond saw them escape with a 24-21 win over Kenya in the fifth place semifinal in Singapore.
New Zealand rested some key personnel, including skipper DJ Forbes, and Kenya made most of the early running, firing to a 14-0 lead through tries to Brian Tanga and Derick Mayar Dulo before New Zealand got hold of the ball. In quick succession, Trael Joass, who again impressed with his work-rate and tenacity, and Lewis Ormond, from a well-worked set-play, scored to reduce the deficit to 14-12 at the break. Beaudein Waaka's show and go try saw New Zealand seize the lead at 17-14 until a solo try by Dennis Ombachi again exposed New Zealand's defensive frailties.
At 17-21 with time up, it looked very much like New Zealand were going to have to settle for their worst finish in eight tournaments in this World Series, but for Ormond's final flourish.
New Zealand now face South Africa at 11.41pm for fifth place. A win there would equal last weekend's placing in Hong Kong.
Earlier, they were knocked out of the Cup section in Singapore after being sensationally tipped over by Canada in an upset-filled quarter-finals schedule.
New Zealand's defence has some very large question marks over it after Canada bundled them out 26-14, with the seasoned Nathan Hirayama giving a virtuoso display from three tries and three conversions for 21 points.
New Zealand did score two nice tries, but lacked possession and again made costly errors. Regan Ware showed his pace after a cut with Sione Molia, while Trael Joass crossed after Vilimoni Koroi had set him up via his dancing feet.
The Kiwis' problems were compounded when Sam Dickson was harshly sinbinned for what looked to be a legitimate hard tackle.
The earlier quarter-finals saw USA upset Fiji 24-19 and series leaders South Africa stunned 19-17 thanks to a last minute Australian try.