South Africa on seventh heaven as they deny All Blacks

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - South African men became the first team to win the Rugby Sevens for a record seventh time on Saturday. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Al Khaleej Today

Dubai: South Africa added a seventh jewel to their Dubai crown with a comprehensive 15-0 win to deny defending six-time champions New Zealand back-to-back titles in the men’s final of the Dubai Rugby Sevens late on Saturday.

With both teams going into the final with six titles each, it was South Africa coming up the better side as their defence held the All Blacks back from scoring for only the second time in a final.

South Africa came in with six titles here on previous occasions, starting with their first in 2003, followed by 2006, 2008, 2014, 2016 and 2017. They have also finished runners-up once while reaching the semi-finals five times.

But on Saturday evening, there was no denying the Blitzboks as they did just enough to tame the All Blacks as both defences stood out through most of the first half till captain Siviwe Soyizwapi tore down the left to score on the half-time hooter for a 5-0 lead.

The second half was even more intense with Chris Dry settling nerves midway as he exposed the weaker New Zealand left flank to make it 10-0. Substitute Seabelo Senatla then assured the Blitzboks’ final glory — running through the middle to send the crowd into raptures.

“I’m so proud of the boys and what they have achieved tonight,” Soyizwapi said.

“We always knew it was going to be tough against New Zealand, and I am glad the boys showed up tonight. I am sure we can use this tough competition for bigger battles ahead as we go to Cape Town next weekend. The rust is off now and we should be in a good frame to play at home,” he added.

Earlier, England replicated their third place show of last year with a consolation bronze medal after a hard-earned 19-17 win over Samoa. Alamanda Motuga levelled out Tom Bowen’s first minute try and then Paul Scanlan put the Samoans ahead till Richard de Carpentier got a try in the sixth minute as England broke off for the break 14-12 ahead.

In the second half, Tofatu Solia once again gave Samoa the lead only to see his teammate Elisapeta Alofipo sin-binned — resulting in England making full use of their opponents being one man down with Kurt-Lee Arendse powering through the heart of the Samoan defence to make it 19-17.

In the semi-finals, New Zealand had to dig in deep for a last-gasp 19-12 win over England. It was top try-scorer Dan Norton hurting the All Blacks Sevens with an early score, but Andrew Knewstubb got New Zealand back on track as the English led 7-5 at half-time.

In the second half, Regan Ware put the defending champions clear for the first time only to see Harry Glover level up for England. With just 48 seconds remaining, Salesi Rayasi slipped through to hand over the narrowest of wins to New Zealand.

In the second semi-final, South Africa recovered from a slow start to thrash Samoa 38-7. Stunned with an early try from Paul Scanlan, South Africa fought back with six different players — three each on either side of half-time — scoring at will to smother the Samoans into submission.

RESULTS (Men)

Final: South Africa 15 New Zealand 0

Third Place: England 19 Samoa 17

Semi-finals: New Zealand 19 England 12; South Africa 38 Samoa 7

Quarter-finals: England 17 France 12; New Zealand 26 USA 0; South Africa 12 Argentina 5; Samoa 19 Australia 14

9th Place: Fiji 40 Canada 17

11th Place: Spain 19 Ireland 14

13th Place: Kenya 26 Scotland 14

15th Place: Wales 38 Japan 12

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