HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens: Day of upsets as Samoa stun Fiji
The reigning Singapore champions were on the receiving end of a rare defeat at the hands of their Pacific rivals on a day when the unpredictability of sevens left everyone guessing.
Samoa snapped a 15-game losing streak against reigning HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens champions Fiji with a 28-7 win on a brilliant opening day that showed sevens at its electrifying best.
No team has ever successfully defended their Singapore Cup title at consecutive events and Fiji’s bid to break the mould was made more difficult because of the defeat with a tough-looking quarter-final tie against France to come on Sunday.
It was not the only shock either. A good day one crowd saw Uruguay defeat the USA for the first time since 2006, to boost their hopes of retaining core team status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, and Canada enjoyed a first win in five attempts against another of the relegation-threatened teams, Spain.
Meanwhile, Japan, the overwhelming favourites to drop out of the World Series, put the disappointment of an agonising two-point defeat to Great Britain behind them to chalk up a first-ever win (12-7) against Ireland with a try in stoppage time.
Day one at #Singapore7s is in the books 📚— World Rugby 7s (@WorldRugby7s) April 8, 2023
All eyes on Sunday for some knockout sevens 👀#HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/gczJUWhq6y
It was business as usual, however, in Pool A, as World Series leaders New Zealand took another big stride towards qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games with a clean sweep of wins.
The All Blacks Sevens will secure their place in the line-up at the Olympics with two rounds to go if they lift the trophy in Singapore.
Samoa and Argentina also won three from three while France could afford to draw 26-26 with the USA to top their pool.
As pool runners-up, Australia, Fiji, surprise package Uruguay and ever-improving Great Britain are also still in with a chance of the Cup title.
A FULL LIST OF RESULTS AND SCORERS CAN BE FOUND HERE >>
Pool A: Molia makes his mark
With teams of the calibre of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa involved, Pool A was never going to be anything less than competitive.
And while New Zealand finished unbeaten, the All Blacks Sevens weren’t at their very best as they bid to win a first Singapore title since 2005.
Doubles from Moses Leo, on his return to the side, and Leroy Carter saw New Zealand ease past Hong Kong China in their first game, 47-0.
All that was missing was a try for captain Sione Molia on the occasion of his 50th tournament in the black jersey. But Molia wasted no time in the trans-Tasman encounter against Australia, crossing after just 13 seconds following a brilliant aerial claim from the kick-off by Dylan Collier. Molia scored again and Leo also crossed, but tries either side of the break from Nathan Lawson kept Australia in contention.
New Zealand made sure of the win, though, when Lewis Ormond started and finished off a fine move.
The All Blacks Sevens then faced South Africa, who defied a long injury list to take the lead through Mfundo Ndhlovu.
The inaccuracies that crept into New Zealand’s game against Australia were evident again in another far from flawless display against the Blitzboks, but a try from Collier at the end of the first half was followed by as second-half effort from Cody Vai as the World Series leaders did just enough to win 12-7.
Australia, playing in their 200th HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament, confirmed second place by scoring 67 points without reply in the games either side of their defeat to New Zealand.
The reigning World Series champions opened up with a 19-0 win against South Africa – the third time the Blitzboks had been kept scoreless this Series – and finished with a 48-0 victory against Hong Kong China, which included a 50th career try for Josh Turner and a fourth of the day for Nathan Lawson.
Pool B: Sensational Samoa stun Fiji
Having withstood a fierce fightback from Spain to win their opening match, 28-24, Samoa stunned Fiji in their second game.
A masterclass at the breakdown laid the foundation for the 28-7 win, which brought a couple of tries for Paul Scanlan and one apiece for Tuna Tuitama and Faafoi Falaniko.
Fiji were thoroughly outplayed and only had a try from Iowane Teba to show for their efforts.
Samoa rounded off a successful first day with a convincing 39-7 win against Canada, Malo Luteru and Owen Niue scoring a brace of tries apiece.
Fiji, who defeated Canada 21-12 before the loss to Samoa, needed to beat Spain in their final game to progress and they got the job with some ease.
The result was never in doubt from the moment Sevuloni Mocenacagi opened the scoring. Manueli Maisamoa added a second just before half-time and Terio Tamani’s quickfire second-half brace took the game further beyond Los Leones Sevens before Iowane Teba raced away in the last play of the game for a fine solo try.
Now this is why we LOVE sevens 😍— World Rugby 7s (@WorldRugby7s) April 8, 2023
It went down to the wire, but @FranceRugby have secured a place in the quarter-finals 👏#Singapore7s | #HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/MjhglIeOVx
Pool C: Uruguay down Eagles
A thrilling end to the pool saw the USA miss out on a place in the quarter-finals despite the best efforts of talisman, Perry Baker.
A 24-21 defeat to Uruguay in their first match left the Men’s Sevens Eagles on the back foot but a tight 21-19 win against a spirited Kenyan team handed them a lifeline going into their final fixture against France.
Mike Friday’s side needed to win by seven points to progress but even though Baker and Kevon Williams scored twice, they could only manage a 26-26 draw.
That meant France finished on top, on eight points, with Uruguay taking second place after picking up seven points.
Les Bleus Sevens kicked off with a 26-19 win over Kenya and then defeated Uruguay 26-12 with Paulin Riva crossing twice. But it was only after Joseph Jefferson Lee and World Series stalwart Jonathan Laugel scored late on, that the result was safe.
Uruguay moved into second place after following up their win over the USA with a 33-17 victory against Kenya.
The scores were level at 12-12 at half-time but three very different tries in the final four minutes sealed it. Felipe Arcos Perez’s second try of the game came from a blindside scrum move, Tomas Etcheverry then touched down from inches out after Uruguay won a counter ruck on Kenya’s line, and last but not least Los Teros Sevens’ masked man, Mateo Vinals, finished spectacularly in the corner.
As Cup quarter-finalists, Los Teros are now guaranteed a minimum of 10 points towards their battle to avoid the relegation play-offs.
Pool D: Moneta steals it for Los Pumas
Top spot was decided when the two unbeaten teams, Argentina and Great Britain, met in the final Pool D match.
Los Pumas Sevens went into the encounter having beaten Ireland 10-0 and Japan 42-7, while late tries from Max McFarland and Api Bavadra spared Great Britain from defeat against Japan (19-17) before Ireland were beaten 14-7 in another close encounter.
After Matías Osadczuk got Los Pumas Sevens on the board early, Great Britain hit back with a brace from Welshman Tom Williams, who had also scored in the earlier game against Ireland.
German Schultz’s try levelled it at 12-12 but Femi Sofolarin went over from a quick, tap penalty with 90 seconds to go and Great Britain looked to be heading to victory.
With Osadczuk in the sin-bin, Argentina were down to six men but they snatched victory when Marcus Moneta intercepted Robbie Fergusson’s looping pass and Gaston Revol knocked over the match-winning conversion to take the game, 19-17.
Third place in Pool D belonged to Japan, a just reward for a maiden Series victory over Ireland. Yoshihiro Noguchi was the hero with the match-winning try in stoppage time.
Finals day should be a belter
For two of the past five Singapore champions, this tournament has been their maiden Series Cup title, with Canada winning in 2016 and Kenya in 2017.
And that trend could continue on Sunday with Great Britain and Uruguay still in contention for the main prize as neither has won gold at this level before.
Both face tough quarter-finals, though, with Uruguay up against Samoa in the first of the four matches and Great Britain taking on New Zealand in the last.
Argentina play Australia and France face Fiji in the other Cup quarter-final ties.