All Blacks triumph in Hong Kong

2011-03-27 14:43

Hong Kong - New Zealand won the clash of the titans as they marched to a 29-17 victory over England in the Hong Kong Sevens on Sunday to open a gap over their fierce rivals at the top of the IRB World Series.

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A brace of tries by Frank Halai capped a stunning display of power rugby which saw the All Blacks restore pride after losing last year's final and buoy spirits in earthquake-hit New Zealand.

The All Blacks, ten-time winners of the vibrant annual showpiece, are hosting this year's Rugby World Cup but have had to relocate matches after February's devastating quake in rugby-mad Christchurch.

Victory also avenged a painful loss to Samoa in last year's dramatic Hong Kong final.

The pre-tournament favourites drew first blood with a try against the run of play before England levelled through Mat Turner from wide on the right.

New Zealand nudged 12-5 ahead just before the half time hooter when Halai took the ball in the open and powered over between the sticks.

They cemented their lead turning over possession in the loose to unleash Halai on a blistering run down the right wing for his second.

From then on the All Blacks made it look easy, pinning England back on their try line and underlining their superiority through a Tomasi Cama try.

England showed flashes of the side that beat Fiji in Dubai, coming back through Greg Barden, but New Zealand were able to find another gear, replying through the mercurial Tim Mikkelson.

A jinking run down the left by Dan Norton provided a try for England but it proved to be a just a consolation.

The Hong Kong showpiece is the fifth stop on the eight-leg Sevens World Series with further tournaments to come in Australia, England and Scotland.

England, holders of four previous Hong Kong titles, had been dominant if uninspiring in the knockout stages.

They were pushed to the limit against defending champions Samoa in a tense and, at times, ill-tempered encounter which demonstrated the Pacific Islanders are a team who can match great flair with gamesmanship.

New Zealand had held off Fiji in the semi-finals 19-14.

In sevens tournaments only the truly mediocre enter the third afternoon with nothing to play for and so it was that Kenya collected the fourth-tier shield trophy to muted applause with Hot Chocolate's "Everyone's A Winner" blaring out over the loudspeakers.

Japan, a nation with bigger issues than sport weighing on the collective consciousness, had described their appearance in Hong Kong as a step on the long road to recovery from the devastating quake and tsunami which hit the country a little over two weeks ago.

But 40,000 rugby fans reminded the world of the redemptive qualities of sport as they cheered on the team's every kick and pass in the third tier bowl final.

In the end the fairy tale was not to be as they were soundly beaten by Canada while South Africa won the consolation plate competition beating Australia 26 to 19.

Although they leave without the top prize, South Africa will be proud of a good showing in Hong Kong, with playmaker Cecil Afrika fast becoming one of the best players in world sevens.