WORLD SEVENS SERIES

Fiji, Australia, SA grab wins in Hong Kong 7s openers, Samoa upset New Zealand

Fijian Players at the Commonwealth Games. Photo Courtesy/World Rugby.

After a three-year wait, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens returned and the action and atmosphere inside the ground on day one did not disappoint.

As the first of 11 tournaments, Hong Kong is not only the launchpad for this season’s World Series but also for Olympic qualification, with the top four teams at the end of the season snapping up automatic tickets to Paris 2024.

Wanting to lay down a marker as defending World Series champions, Australia ruthlessly put away Hong Kong in the final match of the day but they weren’t the only side to impress.

Samoa’s 24-0 win over New Zealand, also in Pool A, marked them down as serious contenders, while Pacific rivals Fiji looked comfortable in their second home, as they began their bid for a sixth straight Hong Kong title by racking up a half-century of points against Japan.

France and South Africa top Pool B after wins over Great Britain and Uruguay respectively, USA edged out Spain to join Fiji at the top of Pool C and Argentina and Ireland both kicked off with wins in Pool D.

POOL A

Samoa ended a five-match losing streak to New Zealand with a convincing 24-0 victory.

Brian Lima’s side bossed the game from start to finish but it took seven minutes for them to get in front, Melani Matavao sniping over from a five-metre scrum.

Vaa Apelu Maliko got their second from a quick tap penalty before Paul Scanlan pounced on another New Zealand handling mistake to add a third.

Moses Leo received a yellow card for his late challenge on Scanlon and Samoa capitalised on the one-man advantage to score a fourth through Steve Onosai.

“We have played New Zealand a few times and we hadn’t beaten them. For 11 of the boys it is their first Hong Kong tournament and they were looking forward to playing New Zealand. It’s a good start for the boys,” said Lima.

Reigning World Series champions Australia had to wait until the last match of the day to begin their title defence against invitation team and hosts Hong Kong.

But they wasted no time in piling on the points with Dietrich Roache crossing twice inside the first three minutes.

There was no let-up thereafter with captain Nick Malouf adding his name to the scoresheet and Josh Turner helping himself to a double.

Hong Kong pressed hard to reward the partisan crowd for their support with a try but it was Australia who rounded off the match with two more scores through Kye Oates and Henry Paterson.

POOL B

Great Britain’s fifth World Series event and their first since the English, Welsh and Scottish teams officially came together began in disappointing fashion with a 34-0 defeat to a rampant France.

Les Bleus Sevens exposed Great Britain defensively and ruthlessly capitalised on any errors to score five unanswered tries. Three of them went to Aaron Grandidier, the former England academy winger.

“Credit to the team, the boys put me in open spaces and it is just my job to finish them off and luckily I could help the team to a victory,” he said.

Uruguay’s debut as a core team on the Series almost got off to a dream start but, unfortunately, Tomas Etcheverry, couldn’t hold onto a low-slung pass with the try-line in front of him.

Unlike last season, South Africa began the Series surprisingly sluggishly and only scored their first points with 30 seconds of the first half to go, Selvyn Davids dotting down to the relief of the 2022 Commonwealth champions.

Shilton van Wyk added another before Roland Brown atoned for a blooper, when he dropped the ball over the line, with their third try taking the score to 21-0.

“It’s great to be back in Hong Kong, we knew they were going to come after us, they are not a bad side at all, no team is on the sevens circuit anymore, so it was a great effort from the boys to keep fighting until the end,” said Davids, who draws level with Paul Treu on 70 World Series tries for the Blitzboks.

POOL C

USA and Spain fought out the closest game of the day, the Men’s Sevens Eagles taking it 15-14 right thanks to a try at the death from Malacchi Esdale.

Both teams had scored two tries apiece up to that points but USA’s failure to convert either effort looked as though it would cost them dearly until Esdale slid over in the left corner with only 20 seconds left.

Defending five-time champions Fiji were stung by a first-minute score from Taisei Hayashi but that only served to fire up Ben Gollings side who ran away with the contest, scoring nine tries.

Iowane Teba celebrated his Hong Kong debut with his first World Series hat-trick as Fiji sent out an emphatic message they won’t be giving up the trophy lightly.

POOL D:

Ireland kicked off the day with a 28-12 win over Kenya with the prolific Jordon Conroy showing he has lost no appetite for the try line with a brace of tries.

Billy Odhiambo also crossed twice but tries from Niall Comerford and Jack Kelly either side of Conroy’s brace settled the game in Ireland’s favour.

Five of the previous seven meetings between Argentina and Canada since 2019 had been close, decided by a margin of seven points or less. But Los Pumas Sevens completely dominated the North Americans in this instance.

Building on last season when they were the top try-scoring team on the Series, Argentina came flying out of the blocks and were 26 points up at half-time without conceding any in reply.

Sandwiched between a Marcos Moneta double were tries from Luciano Gonzalez and Matías Osadczuk, while Agustin Fraga and Tomas Lizazu added two more after the break for a 36-0 win.

Play continues on Saturday with the completion of the pool stages, with Match 16 – Australia v Samoa (KO 06:00 GMT) – already looking like one to savour.

Hong Kong 7s playing schedule (Times in EAT)

Friday 04 November

Ireland 28-12 Kenya 7s
Argentina 36-0 Canada
USA 15-14 Spain
Fiji 59-12 Japan
France 34-0 Great Britain
South Africa 21-0 Uruguay
New Zealand 0-24 Samoa
Australia 43-0 Hong Kong

Saturday 05 November
Ireland vs Canada: 06:00
Argentina vs Kenya 7s: 06:25
USA vs Japan: 06:50
Fiji vs Spain: 07:15
France vs Uruguay: 07:45
South Africa vs Great Britain: 08:10
New Zealand vs Hong Kong: 08:35
Australia vs Samoa : 09:00
Kenya 7s vs Canada: 09:45
Argentina vs Ireland: 10:10
Spain vs Japan: 10:35
Fiji vs USA: 11:00
Great Britain vs Uruguay: 11:37
South Africa vs France : 12:05
Samoa vs Hong Kong : 12:35
Australia vs New Zealand: 13:03

Sunday 06 November
9TH PLACE QUARTER-FINAL
3rd Pool A vs 4th Pool D : 04:45
3rd Pool C vs 4th Pool B: 05:1
3rd Pool D vs 4th Pool A : 05:35
3rd Pool B vs 4th Pool C : 06:00

CUP QUARTER FINALS
1st Pool A vs 2nd Pool D: 06:25
1st Pool C vs 2nd Pool B: 06:50
1st Pool D vs 2nd Pool A : 07:15
1st Pool B vs 2nd Pool C : 07:40

13TH PLACE SEMI FINAL

Loser M25 vs Loser M26: 08:15
Loser M27 vs Loser M28: 08:40

9TH PLACE SEMI FINAL

Winner M25 vs Winner M26 : 09:05
Winner M27 vs Winner M28: 09:30

5TH PLACE SEMI FINAL
Loser M29 vs Loser M30 : 09:55
Loser M31vs Loser M32 : 10:20

CUP SEMI FINALS
Winner M29 vs Winner M30 : 10:45
Winner M31Winner M32 : 11:10

13TH PLACE PLAY-OFF
Winner M33 vs Winner M34 : 12:07

9TH PLACE PLAY-OFF
Winner M35 vs Winner M36: 12:35

5TH PLACE PLAY-OFF
Winner M37 vsWinner M38: 13:03

BRONZE FINAL
Loser M39 vs Loser M40 : 13:30

CUP FINAL
Winner M39 vs Winner M40 : 14:00
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