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NZ through but Fiji miss quarters

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Sportal.co.nz     01 Feb 2013     Getty Images

But on a day of upsets Fiji failed to make the Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

New Zealand may have suffered an early blip but they rallied with wins against Spain and the USA to finish second in pool A to set up a Cup quarter-final with Australia, who finished top of pool D.

The Australians were probably the most impressive team on day one as they easily accounted for Portugal (24-5), Fiji (21-12) and Scotland (29-5).

England, who have failed to make the Cup quarter-finals in the opening three rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series, made it through the pool A unbeaten - but only just after the United States snatched a late draw in their second game of the day.

Ben Ryan's team will take on pool D runners-up Scotland on day two at Westpac Stadium.

Kenya (pool B) and Samoa (pool C) were the other teams to go through the day unscathed.

South Africa needed a huge 21-0 win over Wales to sneak in to the Cup quarter-finals after having a largely forgettable opening day.


In the build-up to Wellington Gordon Tietjens had stressed the need for a good start to 'set the tone' for the New Zealanders' home tournament, which they have won the past two years.

But it never materialised as England's defence frustrated the Kiwis and they won the pool A opener 19-14.

Mat Turner, returning from injury, scored the first and last of England's three tries but it was Dan Norton who got the best of them when he showed plenty of pace to get around Tomasi Cama.

New Zealand started well with a try to Kurt Baker under the posts but didn't really click into gear after that.

Norton and Turner scored before half-time then a converted David Raikuna try early in the second half got the All Black Sevens back on level terms before Turner's decisive score with just over a minute to go.

But Tietjens' side got their title quest back on track against Spain. While there were still too many errors for their coach's liking the Kiwis had enough class to get past the dogged Spanish 36-5.

New Zealand led 10-0 at half-time as the Spanish resorted to spoiling tactics. But the New Zealanders ran away with the match in the second spell. They eventually outscored Spain six tries to one with Rocky Khan's individual effort the highlight of them.

They rounded off the day with a hard-fought 17-10 win over the USA, which saw Baker leave the field injured.

New Zealand had to come from behind after an error-strewn start. A Nick Edwards try for the Americans was the only score that split the sides until the half-time hooter when Tomasi Cama converted his own try.

But as they had against Spain, New Zealand finished strongly and tries to Ben Lam and Lote Raikabula were enough to get the home side across the line despite a late score by the Eagles' Zach Test.

It wasn't just New Zealand who stumbled early on day one. All of the top four teams in the series' overall standings lost their first matches.

Fiji went down 14-12 to Scotland following a late try for Andrew Turnbull and the all-important conversion from Colin Gregor.

Kenya also accounted for France - who were second in the series overall heading into the Wellington leg - 24-12, while Samoa defeated South Africa 19-10 in pool C.

The Blitzbokke's afternoon didn't improve with a comprehensive 26-15 defeat to Canada in their next match which left them needing to beat Wales by a 10-point margin.

In the end they did it comfortably enough with a brace for Stephan Dippenaar and a third try to Frankie Horne in their 21-0 win, but it was tough luck on Canada who went into the Bowl competition with Wales.

There was no great escape for Fiji however, as they suffered a second loss, this time to Australia. The 21-12 defeat meant even a 24-7 win against Portugal in their final match of the day wasn't enough and the winners of the Gold Coast tournament were consigned to the Bowl.

Samoa, who won the title in round two of the series in Dubai, look in good form heading into the knock-out stages. After accounting for South Africa they had comfortable wins over Wales and Canada. They will play Argentina in Saturday's Cup quarter-final.

Kenya also looked strong in their wins against France (24-12), Argentina (12-0) and Tonga (17-0) and will play South Africa in the Cup.

Cup quarterfinals: England v Scotland, Samoa v Argentina, Australia v New Zealand, Kenya v South Africa

Bowl quarterfinals: Spain v Portugal, Canada v Tonga, Fiji v USA, France v Wales.