Text, Picture and Video: World Rugby
USA, Fiji and South Africa recorded three wins from three games on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in London on Saturday. For the former two, those results guaranteed them their place in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where they will be joined by a New Zealand outfit who earned two victories at Twickenham.
Australia, France, Canada and Ireland complete the Cup quarter-final line-up, those sides also claiming two wins in their respective sections.
The Cup quarter-finals, starting at 10:58 UK time on Sunday, will be as follows:
South Africa v Australia
New Zealand v France
USA v Canada
Fiji v Ireland
Two contrasting contests kicked this pool off with Canada producing a resolute display to beat Argentina 14-12 before South Africa strolled to a 49-0 success against Japan. Branco Du Preez scored one try and converted four on the day he became the most-capped Blitzboks player of all-time, reaching 70 tournaments. Los Pumas 7s got back on track by running in six tries against Japan while South Africa plundered five in the second half alone as they eased past Canada 45-14. Adam Zaruba came up trumps for Canada in their final game, scoring a first-half hat-trick in a 31-12 win over Japan, and that left them knowing a Blitzboks victory against Argentina would see them into the Cup quarter-finals. That transpired, with the scoreline of 40-21 ensuring that the relentless South Africans racked up at least 40 points in every game on day one.
Fiji's hopes of winning the series were nearly dented straight up as Kenya ran them all the way in their section opener. Paula Dranisinukula eventually edged them home 24-17 and they joined France in winning their first contest after the European hopefuls quelled Samoa 22-14. It was another close call, and defeat, for Samoa second time up as they missed a conversion for victory and succumbed 21-20 to Kenya, for whom Vincent Onyala scored a precious hat-trick. France performed admirably against Fiji and deserved better than a 31-10 reverse but Alasio Naduva, Jerry Tuwai and Livai Ikanikoda all went over to seal their place at the Olympic Games. That set up a shoot-out for a Cup quarter-final berth and, after an even first half, France claimed it with a 31-17 taming of Kenya with Remi Siega scoring twice. Samoa's hard-luck story continued with a third straight single-figure defeat in an end-to-end encounter with section winners Fiji.
New Zealand began their quest for glory in London with a 21-7 win against Scotland before the hosts made their bow. England captain Phil Burgess, taking part in his 50th series event, led them out and they looked set for victory when James Rodwell, playing in his last #London7s, went over late on. Ireland provided a twist though with debutant Mick McGrath giving the visitors a 21-17 triumph. They could not carry that form into their match against New Zealand, Andrew Knewstubb and Regan Ware both dotting down twice in an impressive 34-7 triumph. England were then involved in another thriller and seemingly set for more disappointment in front of their home fans until Tom Bowen flew over on the final play against Scotland to breathe life into their day. Jordan Conroy scored a hat-trick as Ireland's 31 unanswered second-half points sank Scotland and left England needing a ten-point win against New Zealand to deny them a Cup last-eight spot. Will Edwards gave the hosts just that advantage early in the second half but Tone Ng Shiu had the final say, ending England's hopes and sealing the All Blacks 7s spot in the Olympics.
Australia and title-chasing USA made good starts to their #London7s campaigns with comfortable wins over Wales and Spain respectively. Maurice Longbottom and Carlin Isles grabbed two tries each in those first games but the biggest news was the return of Perry Baker for the States, and he marked his comeback from injury with a score within 68 seconds of his reappearance. Longbottom was not to be outshone, however, and helped himself to a hat-trick against Spain (42-12). Back came Baker aided by Ben Pinkelman, with both grabbing two tries as they sealed their Olympic qualification by seeing off Wales 28-26. That left top spot on the line and Australia looked on course for it when Steve Tomasin went to the sin-bin and Longbottom and Simon Kennewell pounced. Tomasin produced a Lazarus act to see USA home, though, returning to the field and storming through for the decisive try in a 19-17 win.