Fiji down All Blacks for title
Cape Town - Fiji rallied from 12-7 down at half-time to beat New Zealand 26-12 in Sunday's final of the Gold Coast Sevens, first leg of the International Rugby Board's world series.
New Zealand had beaten Fiji 28-5 in pool play on Friday but the Fijians reversed that result, taking control in the second half to deliver an early success for new national coach Etuate Waqa.
Waqa recently replaced Iliesi Tanivula as Fiji national coach and had only weeks to prepare the Fiji team for the opening round of the 2011-2012 IRB world circuit. Fiji looked rusty in pool play and was well beaten by New Zealand in the last Pool A match on Friday but was more confident and commanding through Saturday's playoffs.
The Fijians beat previously unbeaten Wales 33-5 in the quarter-finals, running in four second half tries after leading 7-5 at half-time. They then beat South Africa 24-7 in the semi-finals after leading 19-0 at the break.
New Zealand were commanding in pool play, comfortably beating Kenya, Niue and Fiji. They carried that form into Saturday's playoffs, beating England 24-14 in the quarter-finals with Frank Halai scoring two of their four tries.
New Zealand beat hosts Australia 26-7 in the quarter-finals with the help of two first half tries to veteran Tomasi Cama.
Fiji's win in the final gave them an early lead in the IRB world series with 22 points to New Zealand's 19 under the new point system instituted on the eve of the Gold Coast tournament.
South Africa beat Australia 17-15 in the playoff for third and fourth and lie third on world standings with 17 points ahead of Australia with 15 and Wales with 13.
Wales beat Samoa 26-15 in the plate final and Argentina beat Scotland 17-14 in the bowl final.
Australia's young side made a strong start to the world series, finishing second behind South Africa in Pool B but upsetting former world champions Samoa in the quarter-finals.
Captain Ed Jenkins said the 26-7 semi-final loss to New Zealand had shown his rookie team the standard they needed to achieve to be successful on the world circuit.
"They (New Zealand) have probably been the benchmark over the last couple of years and they have been together for a long time," Jenkins said. "We've got eight new players this year."
"There's definitely positives to come out of (the tournament) and we can definitely improve."
Results on Saturday on the second day of the Gold Coast Sevens:
United States 24, Papua New Guinea 5
Scotland 36, Niue 0
Argentina 38, Japan 12
Tonga 7, Kenya 5
Argentina 24, Tonga 15
Scotland 19, United States 5
Argentina 17, Scotland 14
Japan 19, Kenya 14
Papua New Guinea 38, Niue 0
Papua New Guinea 31, Japan 19
Samoa 17, England 14
Wales 14, France 12
Wales 26, Samoa 15
New Zealand 24, England 14
Australia 14, Samoa 12
Fiji 33, Wales 5
South Africa 14, France 5
New Zealand 26, Australia 7
Fiji 24, South Africa 7
South Africa 17, Australia 5
Fiji 26, New Zealand 12