Benjamin try gives South Africa sevens title
November 29, 2008
South Africa's Robert Ebersohn is tackled during a closely-fought final © Getty Images
South Africa's Ryno Benjamin scored a last-minute try to kill off an England fightback and give the Springboks their third Dubai Sevens title with a 19-12 win.
After England's shock wins over Fiji on the opening day and world champions New Zealand in the semi-finals, South Africa were first out of the blocks in the final, scoring early through 19-year old Robert Ebersohn and then shortly afterwards through Mpho Mbiyozo to take a 12-0 lead into the break.
But then after the interval England regained their composure, and forced South Africa into mistakes, including a contentious yellow card for Paul Delport as they clawed their way back into the game. Tries from Micky Young and Tom Biggs brought the scores level, but South Africa's physical approach gave the English a nightmare of injuries as captain Ollie Phillips and winger Uche Oduoza both limped off with injuries.
As the tide seemed to be turning England's way, South Africa stole a ball from a ruck, with Aplon sprinting past the England defence before handing the ball to Man of the Tournament Benjamin to seal the win.
"We want to be the best sevens side in the world and that means being World Series champions," said England coach Ben Ryan. "Our defence over the last two days has been pretty rock solid and that gave us the edge. We deserved our semi-final place and that defence put us in the final.
"The final was a little bit less expansive rugby, it was a bit more confrontational and we knew to expect that. But to come back from 12-0 down with our fly half playmaker injured, our other fly half not on the field and then to lose our winger in the first half as well, the cards were really marked against us. We fought back, scored two cracking tries and we had just a little further to go.
"We had a lineout where if we'd made that count it would have been our trophy. Our teams learning but I've got to say I'm very proud of them and feel we have turned a corner."
Earlier South Africa needed sudden death to beat Fiji in the semi-finals while England withstood an All Black fightback to win. South Africa were trailing 7-0 when Vuyo Zangqa caught the Fijians napping and sprinted in for a try. Mzwandile Stick put over a difficult conversion from the touchline despite a cacophony of boos to level the scores. In sudden death, the Boks stunned the 50,000 crowd by putting over a 50-metre drop goal - again courtesy of Stick. England rattled up a 21-0 lead against the Kiwis, before three late tries saw the scoreline end 21-19.
In other results, the United States won the shield competition 31-7 against the Arabian Gulf, Portugal blanked France 24-0 to take the Bowl and Samoa scraped home 12-7 against Kenya for the Plate.
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