New Zealand keep dominance at Hong Kong Rugby Sevens

New Zealand continued their dominance at Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, defending both men's and women's titles here

Hong Kong, April 8 (IANS) New Zealand continued their dominance at Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, defending both men’s and women’s titles here.

Hong Kong Rugby Sevens marked its 30th anniversary at Hong Kong Stadium this year as 24 teams were equally split between men’s and women’s areas. 12 teams each were drawn into three pools, with the top two of each pool and two best third-placed finishers earning quarterfinal spots, reports Xinhua.

In the men’s competition on Sunday, New Zealand was flawless in the group stage and eliminated Fiji and Australia in the knockout stage, setting up a final clash against France.

A tense first half ended scoreless as both sides canceled each other out with a number of unforced errors. The best chance fell for New Zealand, but France’s Aaron Grandidier recovered well to cover tackle and snuff out the chance for the defending champions.

The second period kicked off with similar tension, but New Zealand eventually broke the deadlock through Scott Curry as they swung the ball from right to left.

They didn’t have to wait long for the second as Cody Vai found the space to extend their lead.

France brought some last-minute drama, stealing the ball with moments left. Varian Pasquet powered away to score, but it was just too late for them to mount one final attack to find a winner.

On the women’s side, Michaela Blyde scored a hat-trick as the Black Ferns Sevens proved too strong for the United States.

Jorja Miller got the first points of the gold-medal match, bursting through on an outside break to score under the sticks for seven points. That lead was extended to 12 as Blyde couldn’t be stopped in the left corner.

The US side’s problems were compounded when Steph Rovetti was shown yellow for a tackle in the air, allowing Blyde to score an almost identical second. But there was hope on the stroke of halftime, with Ilona Maher’s break being finished by Alex Sedrick to make it 17-7 at halftime.

Blyde’s third in the second half all but secured New Zealand’s win, and Mahina Paul’s score cemented it, pushing their lead to 29-7. Paul found a gap once more as the clock went into the red as New Zealand became the champions for the second year in a row.

–IANS

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