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‘Backs against the wall’: All Blacks Sevens move on with win over Fiji

By Finn Morton
New Zealand's Sam Dickson scores his 100th try while playing against Great Britain during the HSBC SVNS Vancouver tournament in Vancouver, Canada, on February 24, 2024. (Photo by Don MacKinnon / AFP) (Photo by DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images)

The All Blacks Sevens are through to the SVNS Vancouver semi-finals after hanging on for a hard-fought 21-19 win over traditional sevens rivals Fiji on Saturday evening.

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After losing their opening match of the three-day event to South Africa, the New Zealanders have bounced back with a few statement wins on the trot to book their spot in the final four.

New Zealand opened the scoring against Fiji at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium with Akuila Rokolisoa slipping over, but just managing to stay inside the field of play in the third minute.

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Fiji struck back with two quick tries to Pilipo Bukayaro and Rere Ropate but the All Blacks Sevens weren’t done. Joe Webber and Sam Dickson got on the scoresheet in the second half.

Fiji made it a two-point game with a late penalty try against the New Zealanders, and a yellow card to match, but the Kiwis held strong in the final 30 seconds to remain in the Cup final hunt.

“We talked about starting the tournament well and we didn’t, we lost to a really good South African team,” All Blacks Sevens’ Tim Mikkelson told RugbyPass.

“We talked a lot about starting out games well after that and pretty much every game after that we’ve started well and we’ve scored first.

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“It’s just about building momentum and it’s pretty tough these days with the pools so we’re extremely happy to get away with that win.”

New Zealand have only made one other semi-final during the opening few rounds of the 2023/24 season and that was the Series’ opening leg in Dubai.

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The All Blacks Sevens were knocked out by Ireland in the SVNS Cape Town quarter-finals, and they failed to make it out of the pool stage at last month’s event in Perth.

Looking to turn their season around at the Canadian venue this weekend, they were dealt a couple of tough blows with Leroy Carter (injury) ruled out ahead of the tournament.

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Roderick Solo has since been cited for head-on-head contact and will miss three matches. But the All Blacks Sevens have kept finding a way.

“It was sort of backs against the wall (after losing to South Africa), we had to win the next two games to go through,” Mikkelson said.

“A lot of young boys, they’re stepping up. We’ve got a guy out for a citing and a few niggles but the boys have played amazing.

“We’re starting the games well, we’re building momentum and then we’re hanging on at the end and that was an awesome win with six at the end there against an amazing Fijian team.”

The All Blacks Sevens will go head-to-head with Antoine Dupont’s France on Sunday in a battle for a spot in the SVNS Vancouver final.

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