Sevens: Dubai – Samoa Outgun New Zealand To Claim Title

Back to winning ways: Samoa lifted their first HSBC Sevens World Series title since 2010

by Paul Cook –

Samoa’s Sevens program has received a significant boost with Cup Final victory over New Zealand at the Dubai leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series last weekend. It is the Samoan’s first Cup title since February 2010 in Las Vegas and the comprehension of their victory should send a warning shot to everyone else in the competition that they are a team to be feared in 2012/13.

Power, pace and execution were all to the fore as they despatched the reigning Series holders 26-15 in a brutal and exciting showdown in the sun in front of an enthusiastic 40,000 crowd. Having lost captain Afa Aiono for the game due to a three match ban incurred in a spiteful semi-final clash with France, the odds were against a Samoan victory but a record of 13 wins from 41 clashes with the All Blacks Sevens certainly gave them some cause for belief.

Any lingering doubts were banished within 9 seconds of the opening whistle as Paul Perez pounced on some hesitant defence to streak down the line and over. He was at it again shortly after for his second as New Zealand struggled to contain the Samoans’ desire and intensity, their determined and physical effort forcing uncharacteristic errors.

They led 19-10 at the break and wary of a 2nd half backlash from a team not used to being on the backfoot, set about choking the Kiwis with a disciplined drift defence. Eventually, player of the tournament Kurt Baker found space to plunder his sixth try of the weekend to reduce arrears but poor handling from New Zealand shortly after gave Tulolo Tulolo the chance to kick ahead and outpace Tomasi Cama for the crucial score. Samoa were out on their feet at the end, players dropping with cramp from their exertions but they held firm for a famous victory.

Kenya impressed again with a third place finish

Coach Faamoni Llalomilo was thrilled with his side’s achievement. “It’s amazing. I’m very happy today. I take my hat off to the boys for their performances yesterday and today and hopefully, we can keep this [going] for next week. We give this win to our people back home.”

New Zealand have now been the beaten finalists at both events in this year’s series, far from a crisis in their world of course, but there may be a few concerns within camp at their inability to close out a tournament thus far. However, they’re still purring along nicely enough to lead the overall standings by 6pts.

Samoa’s win nestle’s them into a chasing pack of three behind New Zealand, alongside Fiji – winners on the Gold Coast in Round One but disappointing here – and Kenya, who are a picture of improvement and consistency after adding a 3rd place finish to the 4th try achieved in Australia.

The ‘Shujaa’ were smashed by New Zealand in the semi-final but recovered to edge another big improver in 2012 – France – for that all important 3rd place and are looking well set under coach Mike Friday to reach their first Cup Final since 2009 at some point this year.

It was a tournament of many surprises. Fiji were competent on Day One but beaten by France and blasted away by Wales at the start of Day Two; Scotland continued their resurgence with victory over an inconsistent Australia while South Africa were cruelled by injuries and were probably grateful to pick-up the points they did for finishing runner-up in the Bowl final. But the shock of the weekend was the defeat of England by a gallant and ecstatic Portugal.

That loss condemned England to a place amongst the lower reaches of Sunday’s denouement and although they eventually went on to lift the Shield trophy – avenging their Bowl Final loss to Spain on the Gold Coast – it was a hollow victory painfully reflected by their body language on the winners’ dais.

Wales’ win over Fiji propelled them onto a showdown with Canada in the Plate Final, pitting coach Paul John against fellow countryman and Canadian head honcho Geraint John and it was Paul who claimed bragging rights in a hard fought contest. Both sides were keen to run the other off their feet but Wales’ young guns came through to win 21-14 and things are looking promising for the 2009 Sevens World Cup winners.

Argentina captured their second title of the 2012/13 series by lifting the Bowl trophy

Argentina made it two trophies from two starts, adding the Bowl trophy to the Plate they won in Australia. They were simply too good for South Africa, leaving little room for the injury ravaged Blitz Bokke to utilise and they ran out 14-10 winners. Watch these guys go.

In the personal tally stakes, the Cup Final double from Paul Perez left him as the joint top try scorer over the weekend, tied on 6 with Collins Injera of Kenya, England’s Dan Norton and the aforementioned Kurt Baker. The pacy Norton holds the overall lead with 11 and England will be looking for a few more in Round Three in South Africa this weekend as they attempt to snap out of their early season malaise.

Last but by no means least, Dubai also saw the inaugural women’s World Series event, the first of four to be held in 2012. On a weekend where the All Blacks lost their unbeaten status at Twickenham and their male compatriots fell at the final hurdle to Samoa, it was left to the girls to fly the Kiwi flag as they smashed South Africa 41-0 to leave their own little mark on the history of the game.

Further rounds in Houston, Guangzhou and Amsterdam will follow and on this form and with the likes of Carla Hohepa and Lavinia Gould running riot, New Zealand will be hard to stop. No change there then!

World Series Standings after Round 2

1. NEW ZEALAND  38pts

2. FIJI                        32pts

    KENYA                  32pts

    SAMOA                32pts

5. FRANCE               27pts

Round 3 takes place this weekend in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.



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