Teenager Declan O’Donnell bagged a hat-trick of tries as New Zealand beat England 29-14 in the Wellington final of the IRB Sevens World Series.
The win put New Zealand level with England at the head of the table after three rounds with 64 points, 12 clear of defending champions Samoa.
England, who beat Samoa in the semifinals, scored first and last in the final but in between had no answer to the speed of New Zealand teenager O’Donnell, who finished as the top try scorer in the tournament with 10.
“If I see a star in the making I see one there,” New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens said of O’Donnell, as his side won their home tournament for the fifth time.
England, who won the Dubai round of the World Series and were beaten by New Zealand in the South Africa final, scored first when Isoa Damu crossed by the posts with veteran skipper Ben Gollings adding the extra two points.
The home side suffered the loss of their captain DJ Forbes to injury but veteran Tomasi Cama stepped up to lead them home, setting up two tries, scoring one himself and landing two conversions.
New Zealand’s first try came when Cama cleaned up broken play to put Toby Arnold through, and he was instrumental in getting O’Donnell across the line on half-time for New Zealand to lead 12-7 at the break.
New Zealand won the ball from the kick-off in the second half and Cama broke free to score to push the lead out to 19-7.
With five minutes remaining England’s James Rodwell spilled the ball in a tackle close to the New Zealand line and O’Donnell ran the length of the field to score his second try.
He completed his hat-trick in the final minute when he came inside Frank Halai, who had found room down the left wing, before England came back for Simon Hunt to score.
New Zealand had looked the most commanding side in the quarter- and semifinals, where they put aside first Wales 26-5 and then Australia 17-0 in a repeat of last year’s Commonwealth Games final.
England struggled to beat Argentina 14-7 in their quarter-final and then had to come from behind to beat reigning World Series champions Samoa 7-5 in the semis.
Ofisa Treviranus gave the Samoans an early lead which they held until John Brake scored for England with less than three minutes to go and Gollings added the extra two points.
Fiji, the winners of the New Zealand tournament last year, had to be content with the Plate trophy this time, beating South Africa 26-12 in the final.
The next round of the Sevens World Series is in Las Vegas on February 12-13. – Sapa-AFP