HSBC SVNS series leaders Argentina lost twice on the opening day of the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, while Los Angeles champions France beat Australia in the final minute to take the lead in a fiercely competitive Pool A.

Los Pumas Sevens came into the weekend with the chance to become the men’s SVNS 2024 League Winners if they maintained their 20-point lead, but fell to a 14-10 loss to the USA and were shut out 22-0 at the hands of New Zealand. Currently bottom of Pool B, Argentina will need to beat Great Britain in their final game to keep their hopes alive.

France went top of Pool A after narrowly beating Australia 19-14 in the final game of the day, while Fiji made a statement with their 45-5 win over Canada after loss to Australia.

Meanwhile, a resurgent South Africa went two from two to go top of Pool C.

Pool A – France take early lead

Victories over Canada and Australia took France to the Pool A summit at the end of day one in Hong Kong, Nelson Epée finding space on the right wing in the dying moments of the game in a tight affair with Australia. Earlier in the day they beat Canada by 31-0 as Aaron Grandidier, who scored a record-equalling 11 tries in Hong Kong last year, crossed for a brace.

Fifth seed Australia had overcame third seed Fiji in a tight 12-0 win in their opening game as Michael Hooper made his HSBC SVNS series bow, James Turner and Henry Hutchison with the scores in an arm-wrestle contest.

But Fiji aren’t out of contention just yet, boosting their chance of quarter final rugby with a comprehensive 45-5 win over a young Canada side, with France to face tomorrow.

Pool B – Argentina falter

Argentina were stalled by a Perry Baker double in their Pool B opener as the USA held on in the second half to win 14-10. The speedster scored in the first minute, but it was his second where his pace was on full display, intercepting Argentina’s attack to go the full length of the pitch to take USA into the break 14-7 ahead, the American defence holding on for victory.

New Zealand’s Hong Kong title defence started with a comeback 12-7 win over LA finalists Great Britain, recovering from a seven-point deficit at the break. Ross McCann put GB ahead but couldn’t register a point in the second half as Brady Rush and Tepaea Cook Savage both scored.

Their form continued into their crucial clash with Argentina, holding the series leaders scoreless in a 22-0 victory. Fehi Fineanganofo opened the scoring, but a second was denied when Moses Leo opted to pass infield despite having crossed the try-line, Santiago Vera Feld impressively scrambling in defence.

Leo had another chance from the five-metre scrum but dropped a certain score as he dived over in the corner for a shaky end to the opening half. Argentina, however, couldn’t find they break they needed to get into the game, three second half scores from the All Blacks Sevens sealing their perfect record on the opening day.

Kevon Williams scored his 100th try on the sevens circuit as the USA beat Great Britain 26-14 to close out the day’s Pool B action. GB had the edge at the break with a two-point lead, but the US scored two unanswered tries to set up a pool decider with New Zealand in their final game.

Pool C - Blitzboks go two from two

Six-man South Africa held on to start their Hong Kong weekend with a statement 22-17 win over second-seed Ireland. With new man Philip Snyman in as head coach, the Blitzboks led 17-0 at half time, Ryan Oosthuizen’s try after the break extending their lead to 22, before Justin Geldud’s red reversed the momentum. Bryan Mollen and Niall Comerford both wasted no time in crossing for Ireland, but ran out of time to complete the comeback.

The Blitzboks made it two from two in their second game against Spain, substitute Shaun Williams scoring a brace in a 24-10 victory. Williams came on late in the first half but scored before the break to take South Africa into a 12-7 lead. Tobias Sainz-Trapaga hit back for Spain in the second to draw within two, but Williams, who intercepted a long Spanish pass, scored to help his side close in on a quarter-final spot.

Meanwhile, Spain continued their form from Los Angeles as they came back from seven points down at half time to beat Samoa 17-14. Ireland also got back to winning ways against the Pacific Islanders with a 12-7 win.