07 December 2019 06:35

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Sport: Fiji miss Dubai Sevens quarters for first time

Fiji have missed out on the Cup quarter-finals for the first time in the 21-year history of the Dubai Rugby Sevens men's tournament. The Fijians had needed to beat France by 18 points in their final pool match but fell short, eventually winning 24-14. Earlier Fiji suffered a tight 24-21 loss to Argentina after Vilimoni Botitu received a yellow card opening the way for the South Americans to score late to secure the win. Fiji will now face Canada in the 9th place play-off. There is better news however for Samoa who will meet Australia in the Cup quarter-finals.

An emotional Samoa, who paid tribute to the victims of the deadly measles epidemic the country is going through, finished second in their pool to an impressive New Zealand. In the women's draw the Fijiana will meet New Zealand in the quarterfinals despite dropping their opening match of the tournament to Australia. A shock loss to France in pool play has arguably left the Black Ferns Sevens an easier road to defend their Dubai Sevens women's crown this weekend. The 19-14 defeat on Saturday morning (NZ time) left New Zealand second in their pool and a showdown with Fiji in the quarter-finals. For their troubles, the French face Canada, who lost to the Black Ferns in last year's tournament final.

Of course, history means little and form everything, and the Kiwis will need to lift their game if they are to resurrect their world series title defence, after finishing third at Glendale, USA, in October. New Zealand thrashed Samoa 40-7 at the Dubai Sevens. Dubai: Argentina's shock win against World Series champions Fiji and the sheer dominance of defending champions New Zealand were the standout moments of the second day as the Pumas were joined by the superpowers of world men's rugby sevens including Australia, England and South Africa at the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Friday. In what was a historic moment for the Argentinians as they broke world champions Fiji's nine-year winning run in Dubai, the Pumas just hung in and eventually prevailed in the last few seconds against the World Series champions. Trailing the world No. 1 team — who are the defending Olympic champions after winning in Rio de Janeiro three years back — Argentina got the deciding all-important try through Marcos Moroni to win 24-21 and qualify for the knockout quarter-finals alongside the other perennial favourites.

Going into their eighth head-to-head match, Argentina never looked like posing any sort of challenge. The Fijians led and were cruising till a crucial moment in the very last minute as Vilimoni Botitu got a two-minute sin-bin allowing the Pumas one last play with Moroni moving in from the right for a try. New Zealand, the six-time Dubai champions, who have figured in 10 finals here, meanwhile remained the team to beat as they secured top spot in Pool C ahead of neighbours Samoa. The important thing is that we work hard every time we are on the pitch," Ngarohi McGarvey-Black told Gulf News. New Zealand have already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and that's one major thing out of the way.

"We've got to try some new things here whether we use these or not during competitions," he added. The women's competition also had its own bit of stutter as France dug in deep for a 19-14 win over defending champions New Zealand. However, both qualified for the quarter-finals with France scheduled to take on Canada, while the Black Ferns will be up against Fiji. That result turned things on its head in Pool C with the Black Ferns ending in second place with seven points as France topped with nine. The US — champions of the opening round of the 2019 season in Glendale — topped Pool A with nine followed by neighbours Canada with seven, while Russia and Brazil ended with five and three points.

Pool B was perhaps the closest with Australia at the top with nine points followed by Fiji and Spain with an identical six points as Ireland remained at the bottom with three points. Emerging as one of the tough opponents here, Australia will take on Spain as Russia face the USA in the other two quarter-finals. Samoa 31 Wales 12; New Zealand 31 Canada 7; Australia 45 Ireland 21; USA 31 Scotland 21; France 41 Japan 5; Argentina 24 Fiji 21; England 12 Kenya 5; South Africa 35 Spain 5; Canada 31 Wales 14; New Zealand 40 Samoa 7; Scotland 29 Ireland 31; USA 12 Australia 24; Argentina 33 Japan 7; Fiji 24 France 14; Spain 22 Kenya 19; South Africa 19 England 14 Quarter-finals: (11.14am) France v England; (11.36am) New Zealand v USA; (11.58am) South Africa v Argentina; (12.20pm) Australia v Samoa Spain 19 Fiji 19; Australia 38 Ireland 5; Canada 43 Brazil 0; USA 33 Russia 14; France 21 Japan 7; New Zealand 40 England 12; Ireland 12 Fiji 28; Australia 38 Spain 5; Russia 22 Brazil 7; USA 34 Canada 10; England 31 Japan 14; New Zealand 14 France 19 Photo: Kamran Jebreili/AP Photo While Springbok Sevens assistant coach Renfred Dazel says quarter-final matches are always tough when a tournament is played over three days, he says they have a good idea of what to expect from Argentina, who they'll meet in the last-eight battle in Dubai on Saturday. The Blitzboks secured their play-off spot after going through the pool stages of the opening leg of the 2019/20 World Sevens Series unbeaten. They went top of Pool D after scoring 19 unanswered points against England in their final pool game on Friday – an encounter the South Africans won 19-14. The Blitzboks were down 14-0 against England halfway through the first half but managed to fight back, despite being one man down after Ruhan Nel was yellow-carded, which saw Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Dan Norton score converted tries. "The time between matches are match longer now that we share the tournament with the women's series and that is something new for us," said Dazel. "Quarter-finals are always tough in a three-day tournament, so we need to recover well tonight to be ready for Argentina in the morning. On the opening day of the Dubai Sevens, they didn't respect the ball, said Blitzboks chief Neil Powell after somewhat of a scare against Kenya. The Blitzboks put up a determined show against Spain in their first match of the day on Friday, before going up against England, schooling them 35-5 after tries by captain Siviwe Soyizwapi, Chris Dry, JC Pretorius and a brace by Rosko Specman. Although they started on the back foot as the Spaniards did a lot of the playing in the early minutes, the Blitzboks made sure to show their class as the game progressed, converting a 14-0 half-time lead into a 30-point winning margin. Spain managed to cross the line later in the game when Pol Pla pulling scored the kind of try we've come to see quite often from the Spanish, but the Blitzboks hit back twice after that to deservingly have the last say. Meanwhile, the Academy side will face the Apache, an invitational team from England, in the quarter-finals of the International Invitational Tournament on Saturday. In their final pool game, they dismantled the Russia Development side on Friday, whipping them 47-0, after also outperforming the Rambling Jesters and French Military on Thursday. South Africa 19 (5), England 14 (14) South Africa – Tries: Justin Geduld (2), Ryan Oosthuizen. England – Tries: Ollie Lindsay-Hague, Dan Norton. South Africa 35 (14), Spain 5 (0) South Africa – Tries: Rosko Specman (2), Chris Dry, Siviwe Soyizwapi, JC Pretorius. Quarter-final Fixtures (SA times): 09.36: New Zealand v USA 09.58: South Africa v Argentina The best that Fiji can hope for now at the 2019 Dubai 7s is ninth place and a maximum of eight points. As the 2018 Dubai 7s champions, Fiji has missed out on the Cup quarter-finals for the first time in the 21-year history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series round in Dubai. The national side finished third in Pool A behind France and Argentina on points difference. The three teams all won two matches and lost one to finish on seven points, but France's points difference was one better than Argentina at +28 with Fiji's only +14. This defeat was also Fiji's first pool defeat in Dubai since England beat them back in 2010.