Rugby World Cup Sevens: New Zealand wins historic title
New Zealand became the first side to win back-to-back Rugby World Cup Sevens titles after defeating England 33-12 in San Francisco Sunday.
It capped a brilliant weekend for New Zealand rugby as the Black Ferns had the previous day taken the women's title with victory over France. Both teams celebrated in Kiwi style by performing the haka after the trophy lifts.
The All Blacks Sevens entered the competition seeded third behind Fiji and South Africa -- both of whom suffered semifinal defeats -- but came through with victories over Russia (29-5), France (12-7) and Fiji (17-22) en route to Sunday's showpiece.
Two tries from Sione Molia gave his side an early lead in the final before a score from Mike Ellery kept England in touch. But three further tries in the second period handed New Zealand the title, the first side to win the World Cup on three occasions.
"It's massive," said co-captain Tim Mikkelson. "We knew coming in it was going to be tough. We nearly got knocked out by France but raised it against Fiji. Credit to the coaching staff and the coach who brought the boys together.
"Both men and women train in same place and they put pressure on us by winning their final. Credit to England who played amazing this weekend and we're humbled to get the victory."
New Zealand's results in the Sevens World Series -- the sport's ten-tournament international competition -- have been mixed with their sole victory last season coming in Cape Town back in December.
But Clark Laidlaw's men have found another gear on the big stage by adding the World Cup title to the Commonwealth gold they won on Australia's Gold Coast in April.
Over 100,000 fans flocked to San Francisco's AT&T Park over the weekend, which had been converted from ballpark to rugby pitch for the event.
It was a record-breaking crowd for a rugby event in the US, a country no stranger to the sport given the longstanding popularity of the Las Vegas Sevens.
There were 84 games over the weekend, with 24 men's and 16 women's teams from five continents competing in the new knockout format.
Few would have predicted the men's final -- a repeat of the 2013 event in Moscow -- with Olympic champion Fiji and World Series winner South Africa in the semifinal lineup.
"A lot of people wrote us off coming into this, they didn't even give us a shout," said England captain Tom Mitchell, whose side defeated host USA and South Africa on the way to the final.
"To come away as world champions is what we so desperately wanted which means it hurts now.
"There were a couple of tries that were probably a bit soft. You've got to make teams like New Zealand work for their scores, which we didn't. We gave ourselves a little bit too much work to do."
There were at least two teams from five continents in the men's competition -- a testament to the global reach of rugby sevens -- with trophies being won by teams from Oceania, Europe, and South America.
The Chilean Condors overcame Hong Kong 20-7 to win the Bowl final, while Ireland continued its outstanding recent form by defeating Kenya, Wales and Australia en route to lifting the Challenge trophy.
Teams now take an extended break from the sevens circuit, which for the men resumes in Dubai at the end of November.