NZ end four-year drought
The Borneo Post - Sun, 9 February 2003

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New Zealand beat England to win international rugby sevens tournament

WELLINGTON: New Zealand broke a four-year drought when they beat England 38-26 to win the Wellington international rugby sevens tournament here yesterday.

After failing to win the event in each of the last three years, the world champions sent a crowd of 32,000 into raptures by winning a thrilling final to cap a dramatic 24-22 semifinal win over Fiji.

England, who toppled Australia 21-15 in the semis, were chasing their second title in a week after winning the Brisbane leg of the International Rugby Board (IRB) world series last week.

WE'VE DONE IT ... New Zealand's captain Eric Rush being lifted by Roy Kinikilau (left) and Liam Messam. - Reuters

However, they couldn't match the experience of the New Zealanders, who scored six tries to four and led 17-14 at half-time.

New Zealand dominated the early possession and led 10-0 inside four minutes with well-worked tries down the left to Roy Kinikinilau and Tafai Ioasa.

Henry Paul, the former New Zealand rugby league international, was outstanding for England and opened their scoring with a fine individual try.

England took the lead for the first time when Ben Gollings scored just 30 seconds after half-time.

The lead changed three more times in a thrilling end to the tournament.

But England's hopes dived when Simon Amor was sinbinned for a late tackle.

CELEBRATION ... New Zealand's captain Eric Rush (second left) leads a haka after beating England 38-26 in the final of the international rugby sevens tournament in Wellington, New Zealand. -- Reuters

The New Zealanders made the game safe when Anthony Tuitavake broke a tired tackle to score on the stroke of full-time.

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens described the victory as "magnificent" and said the result was a testament to his players' desire to perform in front of their home crowd.

"We've won a lot overseas but there's lots and lots of pressure here. There was so much expectation, it's unbelievable," he said.

"That final try of Anthony Tuitavake really sealed it. " Tietjens praised his entire team but was especially, delighted with the performance of the more recent additions to his squad such as 18 year-old Liam Messam, Nathaniel Walker and Kinikinilau.

He also singled out 38-year-old captain Eric Rush for praise.

A beaming Rush said he would play out the rest of this year's world series before deciding whether to continue next year.

New Zealand extended their lead after four rounds of the 11-leg series.

They have 68 points, with Fiji on 56 and England leapfrogging Australia into third place on 46. - AFP