Only Fiji, Samoa and England enjoyed 100% records on day one of the South Africa Sevens in George, 24 fine matches that paved the way for an enthralling set of Cup quarter finals on day two.
Last weekend’s Dubai champions New Zealand went down 24-22 against Samoa, the team they beat to claim the first Cup title of the new IRB Sevens World Series and South Africa drew with Kenya 12-12 in the last match of the day, Mzwandile Stick’s fine conversion from the touchline denying the Kenyans a famous victory.
Even without five of the star backs who helped them to the title here last year, South Africa started in George with two impressive wins. Cecil Afrika scored a hat trick as they beat France in their opener, before they overwhelmed neighbours Zimbabwe.
Elsewhere in the pool, Kenya also kicked off their campaign in impressive style, Innocent Simiyu scoring three in their win against Zimbabwe before they also raced to victory against France.
In the third-fourth match in the pool Zimbabwe were too strong for lacklustre France.
Fiji tops Pool B
Dubai Cup semi-finalists Fiji were unbeaten and relatively untroubled at the end of the first day. They kicked off their tournament in South Africa with a 50-7 win against Portugal, were then were made to work hard by the ever-improving Russians, who scored first through Igor Galinovskiy and then trailed by just two points one minute into the second half before William Ryder hit top form with three tries to propel the Fijians to victory.
Fiji then improved again in the day’s penultimate match to outclass Australia 31-0, Osea Kolinisau scoring two of their five unanswered tries.
Earlier, the Russians provided something of a shock by drawing a fine match with Australia, who recovered to put in a better performance and beat Portugal three tries to one.
Samoa boss Pool C
Last weekend’s winners in Dubai, New Zealand, were beaten in their opening match by table-topping Samoa, the same team they beat to take the first title of the season.
Sherwin Stowers scored two of his six tries in the day – the leading mark – as the kiwis started well in both halves, but the Samoans hit back quickly, Reupena Levasa outstanding and captain Lolo Lui slotting a drop goal that proved crucial to the outcome.
Wales’ new young team then came from behind to edge USA in a fine game, but had no answer to the impressive Samoans in their next match.
New Zealand recovered from their opening loss to see off the young USA side in their second match, and then scraped past Wales in unconvincing fashion to reach the Cup quarters.
Samoa topped the group by beating the USA 10-7 with a try in the dying seconds by Afa Aiono.
England unbeaten in Pool D
England went unbeaten on day one with victories over Tunisia, Argentina and Scotland. Ben Ryan’s side was impressive in its first match against Tunisia, newcomer Christian Wade and Jake Abbott both scoring two to help the Dubai semi-finalists romp to victory.
In the first match of the day Argentina ground out an impressive win against much-improved Scotland, but they then got their tournament back on track with a win against Tunisia, while England got the better of Argentina.
In the final match of the pool England had Dan Norton to thank, the speedy centre crossing for two tries as they beat Scotland 29-19.