New Zealand’s sevens teams marched into finals day unbeaten and poised to finish with a flourish for the swansong of the Hamilton Sevens.
The All Blacks sevens and Black Ferns sevens are this weekend playing their last World Series tournament at home for the foreseeable future and finished day one with respective wins over Great Britain.
Still, the show must go on and both New Zealand teams will be confident of lifting the trophy in Hamilton, as they did in their last home tournament in 2020.
* All Blacks sevens advance to Hamilton quarterfinals after wins over Tonga, Australia
* ‘Absolutely gutted’: Black Ferns star laments NZ’s World Sevens Series snubbing
* Black Ferns sevens score century of points without conceding on day one of Hamilton Sevens
* Black Ferns sevens overcome Fiji test to ease into Hamilton quarterfinals with two wins
* Bittersweet week as New Zealand welcomes back sevens before waving goodbye in Hamilton
* Four world champion Black Ferns named for Hamilton Sevens, Stacey Fluhler recovers from ankle injury
More than 17,000 attended Saturday’s opening day at FMG Stadium Waikato, with many in Fijian colors creating a marvelous atmosphere while watching their sides reach Sunday’s quarterfinals with the Kiwis.
The second round of pool matches, when the All Blacks sevens pipped Australia and the Black Ferns sevens overcame a stern test from Fijiwere the high point in contests which felt like knockout fixtures.
Those are to come in Sunday’s quarterfinals – the Black Ferns sevens face Japan at 10:36am and the All Blacks sevens play Ireland at 12:04pm.
Stacey Fluhler and Michaela Blyde were in superb form for the Black Ferns sevens, who didn’t concede a point while scoring 105 of their own on Saturday.
Blyde was excellent in attack but also made a wonderful try-saving tackle against Fiji, as did Jazmin Felix-Hotham when Great Britain looked certain to score.
Fittingly, Fluhler brought up their century of points with another try and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe had the final say in their 20-0 success.
Conditions were sweltering in the afternoon but cooled for the evening’s matches when both New Zealand teams were safely through to the last eight.
After a long, hot day, the intensity had simmered somewhat. Neither of the New Zealand matches against the British were of great significance in the quarterfinal equation and most of the crowd had gone home.
The All Blacks sevens were up first and regained possession from kick-off, winning a scrum after pinning Great Britain inside their in-goal.
The impressive Roderick Solo finished the first half with two effortless tries. He was their player of the day and is an outstanding prospect.
The Brits responded in the second half with Ross McCann and Will Homer’s tries, but Joe Webber’s score ensured the All Blacks sevens won 19-12.
Earlier, they survived a late scare against Australia in their second match, holding on to win 21-19 when Aussie speedster Henry Hutchison dropped the ball when he appeared to be dashing away for the winning try.
The All Blacks sevens thumped Tonga 45-0 in their opener. Webber and Regan Ware both marked the occasion of their 50th World Series tournament with tries.
The men’s standings are tight ahead of finals day, with the Kiwis third and trailing joint leaders Samoa and South Africa by three points.
The hosts won their second match of the Hamilton Sevens, but only just against their trans-Tasman rivals.
The Black Ferns sevens recorded big wins, against Papua New Guinea (58-0) and Fiji (27-0)before taking the field for Saturday’s finale against Great Britain.
The rapid Blyde finished in trademark style down the left and right flanks for a magnificent double in the first half.
Her second, after New Zealand had spent much of the half defending their line, was tough on the British, who had repelled several promising attacks.
The Black Ferns sevens started the weekend tied first in the women’s standings with Australia.
Hamilton Sevens, New Zealand’s results on day one
All Blacks sevens in pool B: Won 27-0 v Tonga, won 21-19 v Australia, won 19-12 v Great Britain.
Sunday’s men’s quarterfinals: South Africa v France at 10:58am, Fiji v Argentina at 11:20am, United States v Australia at 11:42am, New Zealand v Ireland at 12:04pm.
Black Ferns sevens in pool A: Won 58-0 v Papua New Guinea, won 27-0 v Fiji, won 20-0 v Great Britain.
Sunday’s women’s quarterfinals: Australia v Great Britain at 9:30am, United States v Fiji at 9:52am, France v Ireland at 10:14am, New Zealand v Japan at 10:36am.