A depleted All Blacks Sevens have fallen 35-19 victim to a heady mix of Fijian flair and power in the Cup final of the USA Sevens in Las Vegas.
Just nine men suited up for New Zealand in the final, their third World Series sevens decider in a row. But unlike in Wellington, where they won in brilliant style against England in the Cup final, here they were overwhelmed by a rampant Fiji, who sprinted out of the blocks to lead 21-0 at the break.
Missing Gillies Kaka with a broken hand and Joe Webber and Murphy Taramai with concussion, New Zealand started well, Sherwin Stowers slipping his marker after a crooked Fiji lineout throw.
But one loose ball was all it needed for Fiji to swoop, Vatemo Ravouvou with a brilliant one-handed pick-up to send Jerry Tuwai in for the first of his double. New Zealand started to slip off tackles and then suffered at the hands of Savenaca Rawaca, who bullocked over.
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At halftime, coach Gordon Tietjens called for mongrel, but instead they conceded two tries to the rangy Semi Kunatani.
Sam Dickson had set up Jack Goodhue for the first New Zealand try, and then they set about reducing the 35-5 deficit. Two tries to Wellington speedster Ambrose Curtis gave a brief flicker of hope but it was too little, too late for the outgunned New Zealanders.
Fiji were presented the Cup by former sevens legend Waisale Serevi, now domiciled in the USA.
New Zealand will now have to regroup for the Hong Kong and Japan tournament cluster at the end of next month. South Africa still lead the World Series standings on 93 points, hotly pursued by New Zealand on 88 and Fiji on 86.
Earlier today, in the Cup semifinals, New Zealand beat hosts USA 26-12, while Fiji edged South Africa 24-19.
Fiji 35 (Jerry Tuwai 2, Semi Kunatani 2, Savenaca Rawaca tries; Vatemo Ravouvou 5 con) All Blacks Sevens 19 (Ambrose Curtis 2, Jack Goodhue tries; Beaudine Waaka 2 con) HT: 21-0