28 Jan 2017

All Blacks Sevens unbeaten in pool play

10:24 pm on 28 January 2017

New Zealand have beaten the US 24-12 to complete pool play unbeaten at the Wellington Sevens.

Isaac Te Tamaki flies over the line for his second try.

New Zealand's Isaac Te Tamaki flies over the line for his second try against the US. Photo: Getty

The victory followed a narrow victory against France and a thorough defeat of Samoa, who are now coached by the home team's former mentor Sir Gordon Tietjens.

The All Blacks Sevens trailed the US 7-12 at half time before scoring three tries in the second half to finish on top of their pool.

It was the visitors who scored first in the match, following a mistake from New Zealand. A loose pass fell into American hands and they did well to complete several passes of their own to reach the try-line.

The scores were levelled a minute later when Vilimoni Koroi scored his first try for the All Blacks Sevens. The 18-year-old playmaker showed pace and composure to beat a tackler on the outside on his way to the chalk.

A yellow card to Tim Mikkelson for diving on a prone player gave the US the upperhand with a minute remaining in the first half.

With a one-man advantage and the overlap, the US scored their second try in the left-hand corner following a powerful run from Danny Barrett.

For the first time on Saturday, the All Blacks Sevens went into the second-half behind on the scoreboard.

Mikkelson returned from the sinbin just in time to help his team spread the ball to the right-hand flank for Isaac Te Tamaki to cross the try-line and put his team ahead.

Mikkelson made up for his foul play with a well improvised try in the left-hand corner before Te Tamaki showed dazzling footwork to score his second in the right as the hooter sounded.

Narrow escape against France

Earlier this afternoon, in their second pool game of the day, New Zealand narrowly defeated France 21-14.

French players look on as Tim Mikkelson throws a pass.

French players look on as New Zealand veteran Tim Mikkelson throws a pass. Photo: Photosport

The tournament's defending champions were made to battle for the three tries to two victory against a confident French side.

Three minutes passed in the first half before Rocky Khan opened the scoring with a breakaway try for the All Blacks Sevens.

His team mate Sherwin Stowers crossed the try-line for their second two minutes later. Stowers found himself in space, but needed his signature speed to slip around a tackler and into the in-goal.

As the first half came to a close, France got on the scoreboard after burgling the ball from the back of a ruck.

Leading 14-7 at half-time, New Zealand's Sione Molia showed great pace to slip through a gap and motor 60m to the try line, three minutes into the second spell.

But France were not done and found a hole in New Zealand's defence to score their second try to come within arm's reach of their opponents with a minute remaining in the game.

The New Zealanders kept possession to wear down the clock before gratefully kicking the ball out to end the match.

Schooling for Samoa

In their opening pool game, New Zealand's captain Scott Curry scored two tries as Samoa were defeated 33-7.

In the first match against the team he controlled for 22 years, Samoa coach Sir Gordon Tietjens watched his new side go down five tries to one.

Scott Curry scores his first try by finger tip

Curry scores his first try against Samoa by finger tip. Photo: Photosport

Curry was awarded the first try two minutes into the first half before Samoa had touched the ball.

They were still starved of possession three minutes later when Stowers notched New Zealand's second in the left corner.

Curry grabbed his second and the All Blacks Sevens' third with a minute remaining in the first half following clever interchange with DJ Forbes on the left-hand flank.

Ahead 21-0 at the start of the second half, Mikkelson started proceedings with a try in the left corner that he had sparked with a turnover on half-way.

Samoa finally got on the board with three minutes gone in the second spell following two penalties conceded by New Zealand for offside and a head-high tackle.

The match concluded with a bullocking run from Forbes and a dive into the corner on the left side of the field where the old master had hovered for most of the game.

New Zealand coach Scott Waldrom said he was pleased his players were not overawed by the encounter with their former mentor.

"It was good to see the guys putting our practice out into the game. It wasn't perfect, there were still a few mistakes but I was happy with the first-up game ... I was more anxious about our guys getting a little bit too emotional and switching off," he said.

"But I was really pleased they just went out there and played the way we wanted to play and focused on that."

DJ Forbes

Curry scored his second try with the help of DJ Forbes, pictured. Photo: Photosport

In other matches today, series leaders South Africa enjoyed an easy 33-0 win in their opening game against Japan, before battering Australia 28-0 and Fiji 31-12.

Second placed England defeated Papua New Guinea 40-0, Argentina 26-7 and Kenya 31-12.

Third-placed Fiji overcame Australia 26-12 and then demolished Japan 56-0.

New Zealand, who are fifth in the series standings, topped their pool as did South Africa and Canada.

The tournament will be decided on Sunday.

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