New Zealand retain George Sevens crown
December 11, 2010
New Zealand skipper DJ Forbes lifts the George Sevens trophy © Getty Images
New Zealand denied England back-to-back IRB Sevens Series titles with a 22-19 victory in a thrilling finale to the George Sevens in South Africa.
Tries from Declan O'Donnell, DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson laid the foundation for their first tournament victory of the season but it was sealed with a last gasp penalty from Tomasi Cama in the final dramatic act of the game.
Tries from Ben Gollings and Liam Rodwell gave England a 14-5 and put them on course for their second title of the season following their success in Dubai last weekend and another from Mat Turner in the second half saw them pull level before a yellow card for New Zealand's Bryce Heem appeared to give their rivals a priceless advantage. But New Zealand rallied and earned the match-defining penalty long after the hooter that Cama calmly slotted to give his side their seventh tournament success on South African soil.
In defending the title they won last year in George, the New Zealanders have closed England's early lead in the Series standings to just four points. After the first two events in Dubai and South Africa, England lead the World Series with 44 points from New Zealand (40), Samoa (36) and Fiji (32) with South Africa lying fifth on 24.
South Africa recovered from the disappointment of losing in the Cup quarters to beat Argentina to the Plate. Scotland won the Bowl and Zimbabwe the Shield.
England had lost to New Zealand in their pool but wins over Kenya and Russia carried them through on Friday, and on Saturday Ryan's troops defeated the South African hosts 19-10 and Samoa 22-12.
Head coach Ryan said: "It was really tight. We could have kicked the ball out but decided to play and unfortunately they came back and slotted a penalty to win the game.
"But overall it's as good a start as England have had in 11 years. We set out to win back-to-back tournaments and we've had a great two weeks and the results make us number one seeds going into the next two tournaments.
"Today we played really well and came within a whisker of doubling up. We've knocked over all last year's top six sides in the last two weekends and we got up and running straight away after Dubai to back up what we'd done there.
"We'll have two weeks off now and then we'll work them pretty hard and come back in better shape to go to Wellington as number one seeds and looking forward to taking on New Zealand again."
While England fell short in the elite Cup competition, Scotland won the Bowl final, beating Russia 26-0 with tries from Andrew Skeen, Dougie Fife, Scott Riddell and Graham Fisken.
Wales lost 22-21 to South Africa in the Plate semi-finals. Cecil Afrika scored a hat-trick of tries, with his third arriving in the last minute to allow South Africa to reach the Plate final, where they beat Argentina 10-5.
New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens was delighted to have retained the South African leg of the series.
"It is a great feeling," he said. "We had to do it the hard way with six men at the end. But it was a tremendous result for us. We played England twice here in this tournament and have beaten them twice after they beat us in Dubai. It was magnificent and all credit to the new guys, I couldn't ask for more than that."
"It is really important [to close the gap on England in the series] otherwise you are on the back foot all the time. So starting well in the first two tournaments, you have to be there or there about to do well in the Series. The first two legs have been great, outstanding. "
Meanwhile New Zealand had comprehensive 26-0 win over Argentina followed by a 26-19 victory over Fiji in the second semi final.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker