30 Jan 2016

SBW sets up crucial win in Wellington Sevens

9:23 pm on 30 January 2016

New Zealand have beaten South Africa 19-14 to win their pool at the Wellington Sevens, with Sonny Bill Williams turning from villain to hero in the space of two offloads.

Sonny Bill Williams scores with his first touch as an All Blacks Sevens player

Sonny Bill Williams scores with his first touch as an All Blacks Sevens player Photo: Photosport

Down by two points and with time up on the scoreboard after the Blitz Bokke read a trademark Williams offload to score the go-ahead try, somehow the All Blacks Sevens scored the match-winner from another Williams offload for Joe Weber to touch down and book a Cup quarter-final against Kenya on Sunday.

Trailing 7-5 at half-time with Sam Dixon scoring after an Akira Ioane break, the hosts took the lead with Ioane's third try of the tournament, racing away after some desperate defence in their own half.

The South Africans hit back following the first failed Williams offload, but the two-time World Cup winner then showed his value with the assist for Weber to scamper away and seal the match.

The three-tries-to-two defeat means the South Africans go on to face Australia in the Cup knockouts, and they're now on the same side of the draw as World Series front-runners and reigning champions Fiji.

Both teams had already reached the quarter-finals with two wins from two.

Three from three for New Zealand

The hosts dominated Russia to win their opening match 38-7.

Akira Ioane scored twice in their Wellington opener against Russia, while his brother Rieko Ioane also got a try in their first tournament together.

It was also the first time New Zealand's had two brothers in the same national sevens team.

Tim Mikkelson and Kurt Baker got a try each against the Russians - and also on the scoresheet was Williams, who got on the field late and scored a try with his first touch on debut, after fellow All Black Augustine Pulu broke the line.

The All Blacks Sevens then dished out a slightly less lopsided 27-7 hiding of Scotland, with Rieko Ioane again on the scoresheet, as was returning sevens star Ardie Savea with the team's fifth and final try.

Fiji, South Africa show why they're on top

World Series champions and front-runners Fiji posted three emphatic victories, the in-form Fijians thrashing the Japanese 45-7, then thumping the Welsh 33-7 and rounding out the day with a 31-10 defeat of Argentina to top their pool.

Fiji go on to face the USA in the Cup quarter-finals, after the Americans edged France 29-21 to seal the other spot in their pool behind England.

Fiji celebrate during their opening demolition of Japan at the Wellington Sevens, Saturday, 30 January, 2016. Copyright photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz

Fiji celebrate during their opening demolition of Japan at the Wellington Sevens Photo: Photosport

The Argentinians won both their opening games to make the Cup quarter-finals too, where they'll play the English.

South Africa also put on a heavyweight display with the day's biggest scoreline, a 54-0 hiding dished out to Russia, after the Blitz Bokke also dealt to Scotland 28-5.

But the All Blacks Sevens had the final say in their pool.

The English got the day underway by edging France 17-14 in the first match, then they beat the USA 19-5 before falling to Samoa 17-14 in their last pool game.

The Samoans were playing for pride and a place in the lower trophy finals by then, after a 24-12 loss to the USA then going down 28-12 to the French.

Australia and Kenya round out the Cup quarter-final draw, with the Australians beating the Africans 17-12 to top their pool with three victories.

Australia began with a 19-12 comeback victory over Portugal, before scraping past Canada 26-22.

The Kenyans opened their account with a 31-7 thumping of Canada and added a 26-5 rout of Portugal.

So Wales, Scotland, Samoa, Russia, Portugal, Japan, France and Canada are all out of Cup contention after two losses, and they'll play off for either the Shield or the Plate.

Low turnout in Wellington

Turnout remained low at the once-popular tournament, with only half the seats in Westpac Stadium occupied.

On Friday, Wellington Sevens organisers said only 13,000 tickets had been sold, well below the stadium's 35,000 seat capacity.

Bloodied surgeons prepare for carnage on (and off) the field.

Bloodied surgeons prepare for carnage on (and off) the field. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

The organisers would not provide an update on Saturday, saying it was too soon to know whether door sales were going to make a difference.

However, it's now been reported that another 2000 came through the gate for a Saturday crowd of around 15,000.

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