Minnows Portugal light up George Sevens

Rugby minnows Portugal enjoyed a memorable first day at the South African leg of the World Sevens Series in George on Friday.

Portugal surprised not only their opponents, but probably themselves when they qualified for Saturday’s Cup quarterfinals after winning all three their matches in Pool D.

With a team made up largely of players who specialise in the 15-man code, they kicked off their day with a 14-12 win over African giant-killers Kenya and followed that up with a first-ever triumph over Sevens powerhouse Samoa 19-17.

They then beat Wales 19-17 to top Pool D.

Despite finishing second in their pool, it wasn’t the best of days for the Samoans, who not only lost to Portugal, but were made to fight all the way in downing Kenya 17-12.

Portugal were not the only side to cause an upset on the day. The United States shocked all by beating the more-fancied Australia 28-26, while Zimbabwe recorded an emphatic 17-7 win against Scotland.

Fiji, with a three from three record, topped Pool C, followed by Argentina, Zimbabwe and Scotland.

World Sevens series title holders and defending champions here, New Zealand, made up for their slip-up in the semifinals against England in Dubai a week ago by beating them in their final Pool A match of the day, 19-7.

New Zealand also picked up comfortable victories against France (40-5) and Tunisia (36-0), and DJ Forbes’s team finished top of their pool with England second.

Hosts and champions from Dubai last week, South Africa, in their quest to win their first home tournament, advanced to the Cup quarterfinals after a perfect record on day one.

They started with a 24-0 win over the US and followed that up with an even better display in beating Georgia 31-5, but were made to sweat in the last match of the day against Australia, eventually running out 17-7 winners.

The US, with two wins from their three matches, finished second in the pool and advanced to the Cup quarterfinals.

Saturday’s action will see the sides competing in the knockout phase of the competition with the four Cup quarterfinals seeing New Zealand tackle the US, Portugal facing Argentina, Fiji clashing with Samoa and arguably the biggest of the matches, South Africa coming up against the team they beat in the final in Dubai last weekend, England.—AFP

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