Hong Kong 7s: BlitzBoks score nervy win
DAY ONE WRAP: World Series leaders South Africa got their campaign in Round Seven off to a nervy start.
The BlitzBoks beat France 17-10 in their only match on day one, but the much-changed SA team did not have it all their own way and required some Cecil Afrika magic to secure the win in the one tournament they have not yet won.
It was just reward for the former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Afrika, who celebrated his 50th tournament. Australia's Ed Jenkins is also playing in his 50th tournament.
The BlitzBoks have featured in every Cup Final on the tour this season and have, at times, looked imperious.
Dan Norton crossed the tryline scored his 245 try and became England's all-time leading try-scorer.
In the opening match of the day, between Australia and Samoa, Henry Hutchison struck the first blow for Australia. He got across his defender and powered over the line. Great set-piece play from Samoa saw fast man Samoa Toloa go flying under the posts to draw the men in blue level with his 80th World Series try. But Boyd Killingworth, who's enjoying a super series, picks it up on the left flank after a dream pass from James Stannard to dot down his 10th of the campaign.
Henry Hutchinson is a five-pointer machine and quickly becoming a superstar of the Australian Sevens game. The 20-year-old dove early for the line to increase Australia's advantage. They were playing with such clarity in defence and creating a lot of turnovers, one of which lead to John Porch nipping in for his country's fourth. Samoa refused to go quietly and hit back with a couple of tries of their own, but Australia had enough of an advantage to see the game out.
In the second game there was a sucker-punch from England after absorbing all sorts of pressure from South Korea. Teenager Charlton Kerr bulldozed his way through the South Korean defence and offloaded beautifully for Oliver Lindsay-Hague to go over. He was in again moments later after more pressure on the ball from England, who had threats all over the pitch. South Korea were causing their European opponents some headaches in the opening exchanges, but England have raced now into a healthy lead.
Dan Norton crossed the tryline 244 times before for England, but that became 245 as he became the all-time leading World Series try scorer with a trademark chip-and-chase score to overtake Collins Injera.
In Game Three Argentina raced out of the blocks quickly, as 30-year-old Gaston Revol skipped to the line to take some advantage of some sluggish Scottish defending. Scotland's Jamie Farndale had levelled the scores prior to the break but Argentina just applied a bit of extra gas and started pulling away.
The dazzling Matias Osadczuk almost fell short of the line, but lets his momentum take him over the line, while Dougie Fife showed us his twinkle toes at the other end and went under the poles. Scotland drove hard to the bitter end, but Argentina started their Pool D campaign with a win.
In Game Four the United States were sporting their brand-new all-white strip and their performance in the early stages were worthy of their new look. Folau Niua produced a moment of magic with an audacious dummy that had every defender moving right, and that meant Niua skipped through the gap and dotted down his 46th try. Then, on the stroke of the break, the US Eagles went coast to coast as superstar Perry Baker used his electrifying pace to storm over under the sticks.
German Davydov took advantage of a tired-looking Eagles defence to get Russia on the board after the Yanks went four and a half minutes without the ball. It was an intense battle, but Russia just did not have the legs to create one more opening. The Americans have touched the ball just twice in the second period.
Game Five took us to Pool C, with Wales and New Zealand. The Kiwis, after two minutes, were yet to get a touch of the ball. It doesn't matter, though, because it's first blood to the All Blacks Sevens as Tim Mikkelson - fifth on the all-time try-scoring list - sauntered through a gap to score on his return to the tour.
However, Mikkelson ended up in the sin bin for a cynical foul. Wales worked it wide and after their 39th pass of the match, finally got on the scoreboard courtesy of Morgan Williams. The half-time hooter went nearly two minutes before that score.
Isaac Te Tamaki went close to putting New Zealand in front in the corner, but was denied by a foot in touch - leaving the teams level at 7-all with three minutes left on the clock. An explosive pass from Trael Joass sent DJ Forbes in the clear on the outside and he brought up try number 149 of his career. Wales gave it everything, but lost possession following the full-time hooter and Beaudein Waaka was rewarded for some nice support play as he iced New Zealand's victory.
In Game Six Fiji's Vatemo Ravouvou took to the Hong Kong skylines to hold up possession before Jerry Tuwai stepped in brilliantly from the touchline to put his country ahead. It was a special moment for half-century hero Vatemo Ravouvou as he brought up his 50th World Series try in style. Joeli Lutumailagi touched down Fiji's third to put his side up by 19.
There was another sensational score from Fiji who had fun. They are so potent in attack and after some fabulous work at the breakdown by Osea Kolinisau, their talisman Apisai Domolailai was in support to finish the move off. There was some more brilliant offloading and interchanges and Jerry Tuwai went over for number six.
In Game Seven Nate Hirayama became another player running out for his 50th tournament in Hong Kong, and his country are ahead. University of Victoria graduate Luke McCloskey surged over the line to put the Canadians in front. There was a huge moment for Nate Hirayama, when he kicked the conversion and became the all-time top points scorer for Canada.
After Kenya drew level through Dennis Ombachi, Canada hit back as two veterans combine for a beautiful score. Man of the moment Nate Hirayama sent a grubber forward and Harry Jones timed his run to perfection to meet the pass and send his country ahead. Nelson Oyoo drew Kenya level again but, with the clock on zero, Hirayama kicked Canada to victory with a penalty.
In the final match of the day a much-changed South Africa were looking on point. Siviwe Soyizwapi scored the opening try and then sent a huge pass outside to the left for Branco du Preez to score a second for the BlitzBoks. But France were not going lay down and Les Bleus captain Terry Bouhraoua showed he still has some wheels and put his country firmly back in the match. And then Jonathan Laugel put a pass out the backdoor for Jean Pascal Barraque, who evened it up.
Chris Dry went over in the corner, but the referee spotted a forward pass. In his 50th World Series event Cecil Afrika put South Africa back in front with his 146th try and it was a winning start for the BlitzBoks.
Friday, April 7
Australia 22-19 Samoa
England 52-0 South Korea
Argentina 22-14 Scotland
United States 14-7 Russia
New Zealand 19-7 Wales
Fiji 36-0 Japan
Canada 17-14 Kenya
South Africa 17-10 France
(Kick-off is local time - GMT plus eight hours)
Saturday, April 8
Australia v South Korea (11.18)
England v Samoa (11.40)
Argentina v Russia (12.02)
United States v Scotland (12.26)
New Zealand v Japan (12.50)
Fiji v Wales (13.12)
Canada v France (13.34)
South Africa v Kenya (13.56)
Samoa v South Korea (15.18)
England v Australia (15.40)
Scotland v Russia (16.02)
United States v Argentina (16.24)
Wales v Japan (16.48)
Fiji v New Zealand (17.12)
Kenya v France (17.34)
South Africa v Canada (17.56)