Canada Sevens: New Zealand win inaugural Vancouver competition

Story highlights

  • New Zealand win inaugural Canada Sevens
  • All Blacks Sevens beat South Africa in final
  • Top three all separated by just two points
  • Host nation Canada win Bowl final on home soil

(CNN)As we pass the halfway mark, the HSBC Sevens World Series is really starting to heat up -- at least for Southern Hemisphere sides.

Victory for New Zealand Sunday in the inaugural Canada Sevens leg of the competition helped the Kiwis close the gap on tournament leaders Fiji at the top of the standings.
With South Africa's Blitzbok side on the wrong end of a 19-14 scoreline in the final, it leaves the top three sides separated by a mere two points.
    Of the traditional Northern Hemisphere powerhouses, England is best placed back in seventh, prompting former England coach Clive Woodward to tweet: "N Hem no-where ! Rio2016 ? real waste for N Hem rugby - Habana in SA side says much !"
    This was New Zealand's third win of the series, following back-to-back victories in Wellington and Sydney earlier in the season.
    "We struggled last week in Vegas with the new team, getting our combinations together but this week we really wanted to go better and I am just so pleased we won the final because it has been a hard week," New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson said after the final.
    "We let ourselves down last week and dropped down the table and we really wanted to finish strong in this tournament. It's amazing to win this in this amazing venue in Canada, it's just been awesome."
    However, New Zealand got off to the worst possible start after South Africa's Rosco Speckman was awarded a controversial opening try.
    Blitzbok's rapid winger raced clear of the New Zealand defense, gathered a kick ahead and went over the line. The video referee gave the five points to South Africa, despite the ball appearing to not make contact with the ground.
    But an exquisite catch from Sam Dickson straight from the restart provided the prelude to back-to-back tries, with New Zealand then maintaining its narrow lead until the final whistle.
    "An outstanding result," coach Gordon Tietjens said. "We started slowly in the tournament, to be fair, but we got better and better as the tournament went on.
    "The experienced players really played well and led the younger guys, and with all respect I was really concerned with how we were going to hold South Africa with the pace they had.
    "They'd won all their games convincingly, which was a real concern, but sometimes you need some tough [games] as well, and they'd only had one tough one against Fiji."
    The Fijian team was unable to carry its momentum from last weekend's victory in Las Vegas and ended up losing to Australia in the third-place playoff.

    The Best of the Rest

    More than 60,400 fans were in attendance over the course of the weekend and host nation Canada had some silverware to cheer on home soil thanks to a last-gasp 19-17 win over France in the Bowl final.
    Samoa ran out 31-19 winner in the Plate final against a U.S. side that was missing "rugby's fastest man" Carlin Isles, who was away competing at an athletics meet in Portland.
    In the Shield final, Russia proved too strong for Portugal and triumphed 17-10.