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Kitiona Vai scores twice as New Zealand sneak past Canada in golden point

By Finn Morton
New Zealand's Kitiona Vai is tackled during the semi-final rugby union match between New Zealand and Fiji on the second day of the London 2022 World Rugby Sevens Series event at Twickenham Stadium in west London on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

When the All Blacks Sevens needed a hero, Kitiona Vai stepped up and answered that call not once but twice, as the New Zealanders snuck by Canada 22-17 in a golden point thriller at Singapore’s National Stadium.

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Vai, who is playing on the now-called SVNS Series for the first time since 2022, was injected into the Pool A clash in the 11th minute and ended up having a substantial impact.

New Zealand got off to an idyllic start after being awarded a penalty try in the first minute, but the Canadians hit back with Phil Berna and a double David Richard seeing the underdogs run in 17 unanswered points with time running out.

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On a hot, sweaty and humid Friday afternoon in Southeast Asia, Tone Ng Shiu helped the Kiwis cut the deficit down to just five points, and they came close to levelling it in the handful of minutes that remained but Canada looked set to hang on.

The All Blacks Sevens had one last attacking opportunity with time practically up on the clock, and after spreading the ball wide, Kitiona Vai ensured the match would at least go to golden point after scoring in the corner.

Vai scored in extra-time with, as commentator Rickki Swannell exclaimed, “One of the worst dives you’ll ever see” to see the New Zealanders home in a nervy start to their quest for Cup final glory in Singapore.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh does the game end here when I score?’ I was like stuff it, I might as well try,” Vai told RugbyPass. “I haven’t been playing for a while so that one meant a lot for me.

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“Bit of both. Injury and in the black jersey you’ve got to earn the right, effort is a big part of our game,” he added when asked about the reason behind his absence.

“Just felt that I wasn’t quite there yet in terms of the effort part of the game.

“If you take a look at the Series now, 12 teams now, they’re all competitive.

“We’re just happy that we get the dub and get out of there.”

Kitiona and Codemeru took the field together at the prestigious Marist 7s in Fiji a couple of months ago. They’re the sixth pair of brothers to both wear the All Blacks Sevens jersey.

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But the talented family has another milestone to celebrate with the two taking the field together for the first time in a SVNS Series contest in that nail-biting win over Canada.

‘Cody’ Vai put in a noticeable shift in defence during the first half, and as well as stepping up as the go-to option at the lineout, also appeared the most threatening with the ball in hand.

For the two brothers to take the field together and have a telling impact on the contest is something that “means a lot” to Kitiona.

“I grew up doing anything with him,” Vai said.

“To do it on the biggest stage in the world, it’s a testament to the hard work that the people behind us have put in and the thanks are to them.”

Catch up on all the latest SVNS Series action from the 2023/24 season on RugbyPass TV. SVNS Singapore is live and free to watch, all you need to do is sign up HERE.

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Tim 5 hours ago
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