Fiji, Samoa, France, Ireland top pools at Hong Kong Sevens

HONG KONG (AP) — Five-time defending champion Fiji completed a clean sweep of its pool matches at the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens on Saturday to head into the quarterfinal stage as a dominating favorite.

Fiji topped Pool C by beating Japan 59-12, Spain 35-21 and the United States 24-0 and heads confidently into the quarterfinals to face South Africa in a blockbuster matchup.

Samoa, France and Ireland also topped their pools with unbeaten records. France will play the United States, Samoa will play Argentina and Ireland will play Australia in the quarterfinals.

The major casualty of the group round was New Zealand, managing only third place in Pool A. New Zealand lost 24-0 to Samoa in the first round of pool matches Friday and completed the pool stage Saturday with a 24-17 loss to Australia. It will now play Kenya in the playoffs for ninth place.

Samoa was the surprise packet in pool play, beating New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong to top Pool A. Its win over New Zealand ended a five-match losing streak against the All Blacks Sevens.

“We have played New Zealand a few times and we haven’t beaten them,” Samoa coach Brian Lima said. “For 11 of the boys it is their first Hong Kong tournament and they were looking forward to playing New Zealand. It was a good start for the boys.”

Ireland beat Argentina, Canada and Kenya in Pool D and France beat South Africa, Great Britain and Uruguay in Pool B.

Uruguay, playing for the first time as one of 15 core teams in the Sevens World Series, made a strong impression, though it finished with only one win in a strong pool.

Great Britain beat South Africa 12-10, scoring two early tries then holding on as South Africa replied with two tries of its own in one of the best matches in the pool rounds. A conversion from Freddie Roddick made the difference between the teams.

Fiji beat the United States 24-0, thanks to a hat trick of tries by Viwa Naduvalo. The two-time Olympic champion seems hard to stop as it seeks to claim the Hong Kong title for the sixth straight time.

Australia sealed its quarterfinal place in the Cup round when it held out New Zealand 24-17. The Australians opened a 24-7 win at the start of the second half but New Zealand finished strongly, too late, with tries to Sione Molia and Leroy Carter.

The Hong Kong tournament is being played for the first time in three years after being suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the first of 11 tournaments on the 2022-23 World Series.

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