The All Blacks Sevens have hung on in a tightly-contested final to dispatch trans-Tasman rivals Australia and claim the Vancouver Sevens in Canada.
The 17-14 victory didn’t come easily for New Zealand, who have now extended their lead at the top of the World Sevens Series standings to 11 points.
A late yellow card to veteran Sam Dickson meant the Kiwis had to final the clash with just six men, but two earlier sin bins to Australian duo Maurice Longbottom and Lachie Miller proved to be too much for the runners-up to overcome.
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Demoted to five men for a short period in the second half, the Australians couldn’t hold out what eventuated to be the tournament-sealing try to Joe Ravouvou in the 10th minute as he strolled over the line in the left-hand corner unopposed.
His try was one of two that New Zealand nabbed to secure a second half comeback after Andrew Knewstubb fooled the opposition defence from close range with a sharp dummy to score near the posts.
Those two scores helped overturn a 14-5 half-time deficit as a pair of converted tries to Longbottom and Lachie Anderson offset Ravouvou’s first try in the opening half.
The tournament title is New Zealand’s third this season after having claimed winners’ medals in Cape Town and Hamilton.
Subsequently, a gap has opened up between them and the second-placed South Africa, who were stunned by a rampant Canadian side who beat the Bitzboks in front of their home fans in the bronze final, their first win over the South Africans in sevens years.
Canada went into the contest as the surprise package of the tournament after having defeated Fiji, Wales and France to top Pool B and then beating Spain in the quarter-finals to qualify for a rare Cup semi-final berth.
Despite being beaten 19-14 by Australia in the final four showdown, the hosts bounced back to run four tries past South Africa to chalk up a 26-19 win, which sent the home crowd into raptures once the referee blew his full-time whistle.
The defeat leaves South Africa on 104 World Series points, while New Zealand remain at the summit of the standings with 115 points to their name.
Australia, meanwhile, have leapfrogged France and England to move into fourth place, where they lie just two points shy of Fiji.
The next World Sevens Series tournament is scheduled to take place in London on May 23-24.
World Sevens Series Standings
1 – New Zealand (115 pts)
2 – South Africa (104)
3 – Fiji (83)
4 – Australia (81)
5 – England (77)
6 – France (74)
7 – USA (72)
8 – Canada (57)
9 – Argentina (56)
10 – Ireland (49)
11 – Scotland (37)
12 – Kenya (35)
13 – Samoa (33)
14 – Spain (33)
15 – Wales (13)
16 – Japan (10)*
17 – South Korea (1)*
* denotes non-core series member
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