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Blitzboks too slick for Fiji in Wellington

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/01/2017
Samisoni Viriviri of Fiji runs in for a try in the pool match between Australia and Fiji. Action and colour from the Wellington Sevens

South Africa have outgunned Olympic champions Fiji to win rugby's Wellington Sevens and extend their lead after three rounds of the world series.

The pace of record-breaking winger Seabelo Senatla helped the Blitzboks fight back from an early deficit to win 26-5 and claim their first title since 2002 in New Zealand.

The clash of the world's two premier teams swung when Senatla crossed just before halftime to put his team 7-5 ahead after winger Joeli Lutumailagi opened Fiji's account.

It was Senatla's 180th world series try, lifting the flyer one clear of Fabian Juries as the South African record-holder.

Rosco Specman extended the lead before replacement Ruhan Nel bagged a late double.

South Africa celebrate following the gold medal final match against Fiji. © Phil Walter/Getty Images/Getty Images South Africa celebrate following the gold medal final match against Fiji. South Africa, who were without experienced players Cecil Afrika and Kyle Brown this week because of injury, move 12 points clear of Fiji in the standings three rounds into the 10-leg series.

Next week's fourth round in Sydney will be the last this season for Senatla, who will play Super Rugby for the Stormers.

His team shape as obvious favourites, having scored 184 points and conceding just 22 across six games.

That included a first-day win over Fiji and straightforward Sunday knockout defeats of France (45-0) and Canada (21-5).

It was a rollercoaster day for New Zealand, who placed sixth, their hopes of a fourth-successive Wellington crown ending when they lost 26-10 to Fiji in the quarter-finals.

The All Blacks Sevens were guilty of errors in attacking positions against the clinical Fijians, who powered 19-0 clear.

Coach Scott Waldrom lamented the small crowd as his team failed to reach the semi-finals for the sixth time in their past seven tournaments.

The declining popularity of an event which used to sell out in minutes has continued, to the point where its future in the capital will come under question.

"It didn't feel like a home-town support - there were definitely more Fijians," Waldrom said.

New Zealand unearthed their best form in the subsequent classification match against England, with young playmaker Vilimoni Koroi having a hand in all four tries in their 24-0 win.

However, mistakes were again a problem in a 17-12 loss to Argentina in the playoff for fifth. Franco Sabato scored in the dying seconds to seal victory.

Scotland claimed the bronze medal when James Fleming bagged his second try in the final minute to beat Canada 28-22.

Earlier, Kenya pipped Australia 19-17 in the final of the Challenge Trophy for teams contesting positions 9-16.

The youthful Australians - who were unfortunate to draw South Africa and Fiji in pool play - beat Samoa 17-14 and Wales 24-10 earlier on Sunday.

They crossed after the hooter in the second-tier decider through Mick Adams, but James Stannard couldn't land the sideline conversion to send the game into extra time.

World series standings:

South Africa 63, Fiji 51, England 49, Scotland 44, New Zealand 39, Wales 30, France 28, Australia 25, Argentina 25, Kenya 25.

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