- New Zealand inflict record RWC7s final defeat on England
- “NZ are at the top of their game with world class players” – Ryan
New Zealand Sevens 33 England Sevens 0
New Zealand became Rugby World Cup Sevens champions for the first time in 12 years after out-muscling and out-thinking England in the final in Moscow.
After a torrential downpour earlier in the day reduced the Luzhnik pitch to a sodden mud bath, Gordon Tietjens’ side played a smart territorial game and forced England into errors deep their own half.
With Ben Ryan’s side were starved of possession and the Kiwi’s kicking intelligently, New Zealand embarked on the biggest margin of victory ever in a Rugby World Cup Sevens final, eclipsing the last time they won the title in 2001 – a 31-12 win over the Wallabies.
Despite most of their points arriving from capitalising on errors, the All Blacks’ first was a thing of beauty. Flying wing Sherwin Stowers made light of the heavy pitch to cut a fine line past three defenders and when he was finally accosted, the tracking Tim Mikkelson collected and went over.
The second arrived soon after through Tomasi Cama when the veteran clasped the ball after England conceded possession from a line out deep in their own 22, leaving him with the simple task of flopping over the line.
And the score became 21-0 at half time – Cama slotting three conversions – after Dan Norton was turned over on half way and Mikkelson’s long-striding style again took him away from the defence.
England desperately needed to play the game in New Zealand’s half and emerged from the break intent on kicking for territory. What ensued was the unusual sight, in sevens at least, of two teams pumping the ball back and forth – with New Zealand quite happy to maintain the status quo.
Forced to attack, England surged forward but it was not their day: replacement Marcus Watson slipped as he approached the final defender after scooting past three and when the slippery ball was recycled, John Brake dropped it.
New Zealand, whose women also became world champions by defeating Canada, added gloss to the score line with late tries from Gillies Kaka and Waisake Naholo, prompting back-to-back hakas in celebration.
Ryan was magnanimous in defeat, admitting that while England were not at their best, they were up against a vintage All Blacks outfit enjoying the best season in their history.
“New Zealand played well in the first half and we didn’t get out of our first half, we didn’t execute what we said we were going to do and made some poor errors,” he said. “At 21-0 at half time the result was really only going to go one way. We then played a little conservatively in the second half when we were playing catch-up but the boys will learn from this.
“There are so many young players in our squad and they are going to be around for a long time. These lads have played in a world cup final, we’ve had two third place finishes in the last couple of months and an European title so we have actually got a lot to be proud of.
“NZ are at the top of their game with some world class players at the best they’ll ever be. They have hit a vintage and this will probably sum up their best year ever, winning a world cup and a world series. Our side is on the up, our lads are in their early 20s and I am sure they will be in more world cup and commonwealth finals and world series finals.
“Of course I am disappointed with the final result but over the three days I am so proud of the lads’ efforts. We have had a hard year and we have finished very strongly. A lot of things went right this week in that we have won five games and we have hit a world cup final for the first time in 20 years.”
And, as Ryan attests, while his players will be downcast this evening, there is no shame in losing to a team which reached seven out of nine finals on the way to the HSBC Sevens World Series title and advanced their record against England to 44 wins in 58 meetings since 1993 in Moscow.
England Sevens 12 Kenya Sevens 5
Dan Norton scored two first-half tries as England secured a gritty 12-5 Rugby World Cup Sevens sem-final victory over Kenya in terrible conditions in Moscow.
Ben Ryan’s side will play New Zealand for the title at the Luzhniki Stadium at 18:28 BST after dealing with the torrential rain marginally better than their opponents.
The first semi final, in which the Kiwis defeated Fiji 17-0, was delayed for more than an hour and when England emerged the rain was still hammering down and large pools of water on the pitch made footwork challenging and handling difficult.
But Norton, the HSBC Sevens World Series leading try scorer with 52, touched down in the second and fourth minutes, with fly half Christian Lewis-Pratt adding the extras on the first for a 12-0 half time lead.
Kenya hit back with a try three minutes into the second half through Andrew Amonde but Mike Friday’s side could not find a try to level the scores. That was only due the commitment of Norton, who showed the other aspects of his game, chasing down Willy Ambaka and forcing the wing into touch as the clock ticked down.
England will shoot out with HSBC Sevens World Series champions New Zealand, by far and away the most consistent team this term, having reached seven of the nine finals in the regular season.
England Sevens 21 Australia Sevens 17
England Sevens advanced to the semi finals of the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow after a nerve-shredding 21-17 victory over Australia at the Luzhniki Stadium.
After starving the Wallabies of possession in the opening seven minutes and racing into a 21-0 lead, England appeared to be a safe bet for the last four, until the game turned completely on its head with Australia claiming every try-restart after the break.
Crucially, after opening the scoring with the game’s first play, fly half Christian Lewis-Pratt converted all three England tries, which ultimately made the difference.
Jeff Williams soon added the second try, showing fine pace on the outside after captain Rob Vickerman won an aggressive turnover at the breakdown to set the forward free in broken-field play.
And soon Vickerman added the try his intensity off the ball so often deserves. Lewis-Pratt carried and passed to Mat Turner, who committed two defenders with a drop of the shoulder and executed a neat inside ball for his skipper to saunter in under the posts.
England were sitting pretty at half time but momentum can change so quickly in sevens, with the impetus ceded to the Wallabies as soon as Con Foley claimed the restart and charged over. Importantly, he was not under the posts and Matt Lucas could not send his drop kick through the uprights.
The pressure was ratcheted up on England with two quick fire tries from big Australia wing Shannon Walker, with Lucas adding one conversion to make the score 21-17 with two and half minutes still to play.
Although that completed the scoring, the drama was far from over. First Walker looked like bulldozing through for his third of the half only to be hauled down by some desperate cover tackling. Then, James Rodwell appeared to have won the game by leaping magnificently to steal a line out with 30 seconds on the clock, only for John Brake to be pinged for holding on on the deck.
The Wallabies ran some phases as the clocked ticked down but they conceded possession, Turner was able to get the ball dead and gleefully received the final whistle.