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A four try blitz in quick time towards the end of the first half set Fiji on path to an impressive 28-17 win over England in the final to clinch the opening leg of the 2015/2016 HSBC World Sevens Series in Dubai on Saturday.
World Series champions Fiji had only won once in the seven finals they had appeared in at the tournament, and for a while it looked like they may be nearly men again as Tom Bowen put the young England team ahead with an early try. At that point the islanders were struggling for their rythmn.
However, once Sevenaca Ranacwa had crossed for the first Fijian try with three minutes of the 10 minute first half remaining, it was as if someone had given the signal for the gates to be opened. In quick succession Jasa Veremalua, IC Katonibau and Jerry Tuwai had followed Ranacwa in crossing the line, and England looked dead and buried at halftime.
That turned out to be the case, but Bowen added a further try early in the second half to threaten a fightback. It took them too long to score their third though, for by the time Phil Burgess crossed there was just over a minute remaining and with a deficit of 11 points that just wasn’t going to be enough.
So Fiji go to the sold out tournament in Cape Town this weekend as the log leaders in the World Series, and deservedly so because they were the most impressive team on view over the first weekend. Yet while the champs definitely look like the side to beat this year, there are a few teams who will feel pleased with their first outing of the Sevens season, not the least of them being the USA, who clinched third place with a great 31-12 win over New Zealand in the play-off game. The Americans were only just edged out by England in their semifinal.
Although they could only manage to win the Bowl final, France should also feel pleased with their encouraging showing. They were excellent on the second day, and their loss to the All Blacks on Day One was their only blemish over the two days.
The South African challenge floundered because of a yellow card that saw Seabelo Senatla removed from the action at a crucial stage of their quarterfinal against the USA. The Blitzboks looked well in control as they led 19-7, but once Senatla was dispatched for two minutes because of a challenge on a player in the air, the momentum shifted significantly.
The Americans scored two quick-fire tries while Senatla was off, and two penalties and some handling errors cost the Blitzboks their chance of bouncing back once Senatla returned. The USA held on for a 21-19 win. Senatla was banned for two matches and missed both Plate games, but the Boks still won the Plate title, with a Francois Hougaard try in extra time clinching it after they had fought back from being 14-0 down halfway through normal time.
The Boks won the Plate semifinal against Argentina 26-5 but in both Plate games it was clear they were struggling without the services of the injured duo of Werner Kok and Cecil Afrika as well as the suspended Senatla. Coach Neil Powell will be hoping the medical staff can work some magic before the start of the Cape Town leg next Saturday. He will also need to work hard on some defensive issues, as well as the discipline that cost his team in the quarterfinal of the Cup event.
Cup final: Fiji 28 England 17
3rd/4th play-off: USA 31 New Zealand 12
Plate final: SA 19 Australia 14 (extra time)
Bowl final: France 24 Scotland 14
Shield final: Canada 19 Japan 17

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