World Seven series throws up more surprises | Pacific Beat

World Seven series throws up more surprises

World Seven series throws up more surprises

Updated 5 February 2013, 6:51 AEST

After four rounds of the IRB World Sevens Series, we have our fourth different winner.

England are the champions of New Zealand after ending Kenya's hopes of a first ever World Sevens final win in dramatic circumstances.

Watching the story unfold in Wellington for Pacific Beat was Nick Jordan.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Nick Jordan, rugby union pundit

JORDAN: Unbelievable, Kenya won the hearts of the crowd, Geraldine. Of course, England won the title, but it was unpredictable, it was high octane, and it was certainly entertaining here in Wellington, this weekend. As you say, four rounds gone now. New Zealand extend their lead at the top of the table, which is interesting. They've gone for 77 points ahead of Kenya now in second place on 56, Samoa third on 54, France, Fiji and South Africa in a real log jam on 51. But the most interesting thing really is that it was the fourth different winner in four tournaments this season showing just how exciting, unpredictable and thrilling this competition really has become.

COUTTS: Alright, just run through some of the matches now as you saw them Nick?

JORDAN: Well, day one was a day full of upsets. We were talking on Friday about how Fiji would cruise through the opening day. They didn't, of course. They lost to Scotland 12-14 and then had to win against Australia, and didn't, 21-12 they went down, meant the game against Portugal was immaterial, and Fiji were out of the cup competition for the first time in their history. New Zealand also lost to England 19-14, South Africa needed a 21-nil win over Wales to scrape through into the quarter finals, and with four teams like the USA, like Spain, like Canada and like Scotland, push the other teams really closely. Some of them didn't get through to the last eight ultimately, but it was a day of high drama there on Friday.

On the Saturday, a remarkable series of quarter finals Geraldine. England and Samoa easy at the top half of the draw. New Zealand played their best game against Australia and Kenya immediately won the hearts of the crowd by coming from behind to beat South Africa 21 points to 20. They kept that enthusiasm alive with a thrilling extra time win over New Zealand. Fourteen-nil they trailed, brought it back to 14-all. It went to sudden death extra time and Oscar Ouma scored the try to make it 19-14. It put Kenya into a final against England. Kenya's second ever final in the 113 tournaments of the World Series, so an historic moment for them. They had the whole crowd baying for them. Of course, the New Zealand crowd not wanting the English to win, but ultimately, I think the crowd did pay their respects to the twinkle toed steppers and the power of the England side.

COUTTS: And pre-tournament favourites, New Zealand and the Pacific pair, Fiji and Samoa. What kind of changes do they have to make now? Does this shake them up a bit?

JORDAN: It certainly shakes up Fiji. I would expect now that there is an inquisition almost ready to get underway in Fiji, because, of course, you remember they won the Gold Coast title with seven new players, completely changed the team around and bombed out in Dubai and South Africa in the next leg, and then went back to most, well not most of the Gold Coast players, three or four of the Gold Coast players and made another five changes. People are now saying you cannot keep making changes Fiji. You must find a team and stick to it and we thought given that they'd won a tournament in Fiji the other week, with their shadow side, that maybe this was the best selection. They looked to be playing as individuals, not playing as a team and not really willing to die for the cause. So perhaps something mentally is what's needed to work on. Not all is lost for Fiji Geraldine. They do have another tournament in Las Vegas, this weekend, as do the other sides, but they've now slipped down into that fourth equal position and it will be a struggle to take the title from here.

COUTTS: Alright, halfway through the series now, and New Zealand are 21 points ahead on the leaders table, on Kenya next. But the Kiwis won't be resting on their laurels, I don't think after this weekend?

JORDAN: Well, they've had to make a couple of changes Geraldine. Injury has forced out captain, D.J. Forbes and also Kurt Baker, who was a Super 15 player last year. Both of them have gone for at least three weeks. Mark Jackson and Milford Keresoma, two of Gordon Tietjens' contracted players will come in and they go to Las Vegas, yeah, comfortable at the top of the table, but really needing a win to cement that.

Samoa also had a very good tournament. They looked pretty good on day one and just faltered against England in the semi-final on day two. I don't expect too many changes for them as they head to Las Vegas and they've done well to move up into third place. So there's still some good form out there for some of the Pacific teams and an interesting tournament in store this weekend.

COUTTS: Well the top four, New Zealand on top with 77, 21 points ahead of Kenya 56, Samoa 54, Fiji 51, France 51. So there's not much really between the second and fourth. So the orders can change quite a bit, so it's still anyone's game?

JORDAN: Yes, it is and the draw that came out for Las Vegas, which sees England pooled with Fiji, Kenya with South Africa, New Zealand with France and Samoa with Australia means that there might also be some chance of some more movement on that table, as they head to Sin City this weekend. England go in as top seed by virtue of their win in Wellington and Kenya as second seed, because they came runner up. So there'll be some great match ups on day one. If we see anything like the matches we saw here in Wellington, it'll be certainly something worth watching if for that first day alone.

COUTTS: Well, after this weekend, when you thought New Zealand and Fiji would be playing up in the finals. Are you game to have a prediction for Los Vegas Round Five?

JORDAN: I'll make a prediction on Friday Geraldine. You might want to give me a bit of time to study the form, see who's in, see who's out, and how the teams travel. Of course, quite a long flight from New Zealand over to the States, not much of a time difference, which is a good thing, but there could be some changes in a couple of the line ups, so it's a different ball game this weekend. Let me have a think about that and we'll come back to you on Friday.

COUTTS: Alright. Fiji's pushing hard to host the World's Sevens Tournament, maybe as early as next year. They're pinning their hopes on a new national stadium due to open in March. So what are their chances do you reckon?

JORDAN: Yeah, their chances are very high. The stumbling block will be the finances. It costs a significant amount of money to bring the teams in, to put them in hotel accommodation and to look after them for the week. And you know, we may say that perhaps the Coral Coast Sevens, the Sigatoka area, the beautiful resorts on the Coral Coast, might be a better spot to host it than Suva. Suva, of course, has the national stadium. Lautoka has a pretty good stadium as well as we saw from the tournament a couple of weeks ago. There's a lot of elements that go into this tournament. It maybe that one of the other hosts has to fall off the ladder, so to speak, before Fiji can get a sniff at hosting rights. Then again the IRB and the IOC might be also saying this sport is growing at a rapid rate. It's time to add tournaments to the circuit and there's no better home than the spiritual home of Sevens.
 

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