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04 Feb 2012 12:06
A withering burst of 24 unanswered points in five minutes set New Zealand up for a 24-7 win over Fiji in the final of the fourth leg in the IRB Sevens World Series on Saturday.
The triumph gave New Zealand a clear lead in the series with 73 points, ahead of Fiji on 70 with five rounds remaining after both sides went into the tournament as co-leaders on 51 points.
New Zealand, who were defending their home title, took five minutes to get their first points on the board but thereafter they never looked like losing.
After finding the Fijian defence impenetrable in the opening stages, Tomasi Cama set the game alight with a delicate chip kick which Tim Mikkelson latched on to and took play up to the line, where DJ Forbes finished the move.
Frank Halai then scored twice and Cama touched down on the stroke of half-time to give New Zealand a solid 24-0 lead at the turn.
The loss of the inspirational captain Forbes with a cheek injury saw New Zealand take a more defensive role in the second half and they were able to hold Fiji out until the final minute when Waisea Nayacalevu scored.
Earlier, it had looked as if the tournament favourites New Zealand would not make the final when they were 0-12 down at half-time in their semi-final against England who had put Tonga out in the quarter-finals 26-7.
But a try to Charlie Piutau and one to Hosea Gear, when England were reduced to six men with James Rodwell in the sin bin, levelled the score at 12-12 and Halai settled the outcome with a try 86 seconds into extra time.
Fiji, surprisingly beaten by Tonga in pool play, had to come from behind to beat South Africa in the quarter-final.
They trailed 0-5 early in the second half before finding form with tries to Nemani Negusa, Osea Kolinisau and Emosi Vucago in a late scoring burst for a 21-5 win, which they followed with a 28-5 semi-final demolition of Samoa.
In the play off for third, a late try by Isoa Damu sealed a 21-12 win for England over Samoa.
England are now third on the points table with 64, ahead of South Africa on 61 and France on 49.
The fifth leg of the series will be played in Las Vegas next weekend.—AFP
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