England down Kenya in pulsating final
If ever there was victory in defeat it belonged to Kenya after they finally succumbed to England in extra-time of a gripping final at the Wellington Sevens.
The scoreboard read England 24, Kenya 19 after Sam Edgerley ended a battle of wills to grab his country's second New Zealand title.
England were worthy champions, but the hearts of the crowd will long belong to Kenya who had the 30,000-strong throng riding every pass, tackle and fumble of the final.
Even when twice reduced to six men due to yellow cards, the Kenyans managed somehow to will themselves to make tackles during regular time as they clung to a 19-12 lead.
The fairytale seemed it would come true when an English player fumbled the ball as he lunged for the line near fulltime.
It wasn't to be as Andrew Amonde and Oscar Ouma were sinbinned during the second half armwrestle to keep Kenya undermanned.
Christian Lewis-Pratt, one of the players of the tournament, scored to force the match into golden point extra time to the boos of the crowd.
It was England's first title in Wellington since they beat New Zealand 19-17 in 2009 and in Mat Turner, Lewis-Pratt, Dan Norton and Macus Watson they had an impressive roster in 2013.
At the final whistle Kenyan defenders lay scattered across the park like the debris blown out of the stands by the Wellington wind.
They had given everything and so had a tournament that gets criticised for being too heavy on the party in the stands, but in reality mirrors its enjoyment and drama on the field almost every year.
The final delivered in spades - Norton and Lewis-Pratt opening up a 12-0 lead before Horace Otieno, then respective quarter-final and semifinal heroes Ouma and Willy Ambaka, scored to make it 19-12 at halftime.
The next 25 minutes will live long in the memory and went a long way to erasing any disappointment in the stands at New Zealand's earlier exit at the hands of Kenya in the semifinal.
Earlier, New Zealand beat Samoa to claim third place.
Belgium Tuatagloa scored the only try in the first half of the playoff to give New Zealand a 5-0 halftime lead.
They then made sure of a third place finish in the second-half thanks to two tries from Hawke's Bay flier Gillies Kaka.
Samoa could only manage one try of their own to give New Zealand a comfortable 17-7 win.
In semifinals New Zealand were dumped out of their home tournament by a jubilant Kenya in a dramatic 19-14 extra time semifinal loss.
Ouma was the hero for the popular African minnows when he shrugged off local boy Tuatagaloa to score a try that momentarily silenced the capacity crowd.
The defending champions showed signs of shaking their first day malaise when they beat Australia 26-5 in their quarterfinal, but never really looked convincing.
Errors and a lack of effectiveness at the breakdown continued to haunt New Zealand, but they looked to have advanced to the final after leading Kenya 14-0 at halftime.
The lead was halved when Ouma scored his first after the break and then disappeared when veteran Collins Injera ran in under the posts on the stroke of full time, Biko Adema's conversion tying the scores.
There was the hint of a knock on, but Kenya didn't care and seized their chance when they gained possession at a ruck and broke free.
New Zealand scrambled desperately but couldn't stop Ouma, who was swamped by his ecstatic teammates as though he had won the World Cup.
Kenya could not be more deserving finalists having earlier come from behind to beat South Africa 21-20 in a pulsating quarterfinal.
Tietjens trusted his senior men to deliver in both the quarter and semifinals with Gillies Kaka, who replaced the injured Kurt Baker (hamstring), the only starting change from day one.
And against Kenya, Tuatagaloa was the only substitute in regulation time. Luke Masirewa and David Raikuna came on for the golden point, but it was too little too late.
There are sure to be questions asked about the form of New Zealand's senior players although Tomasi Cama who looked to be coming into form.
He scored the first try of the semifinal, then kicked the wide conversion, repeating the feat when Tim Mikkelson crossed for the second.
It seemed unfortunate the capacity crowd had finally taken their seats en-masse 40 matches into the tournament only to see their heroes bow out, ending their hopes of a three-peat of titles.
The English advanced to the final in a dramatic 21-19 win over Samoa in the first semifinal.
Australian referee Matt O'Brien was a central figure after sending influential play maker Alatasi Tupou to the sin bin for a no arms charge two minutes into the second half.
At that stage the match was poised at 14-12 in England's favour and though Samoa did what they could to hold possession, they eventually buckled with Marcus Watson diving over to make it 21-12.
Samoa struck back through Lio Lolo who quickly converted his own try to set up what turned out to be a tense and slightly confusing finish.
The match appeared to end after England had delayed a tap penalty in order to run out the clock and kicked the ball to touch, but O'Brien decided to play the lineout.
England breathed a sigh of relief when Samoa lost the restart and the ball was kicked into the stands.
Earlier, New Zealand advanced to the semifinals with a 24-5 win over Australia.
The Kiwis ran in four tries including a brace to Hawke's Bay wing Gillies Kaka to earn a place in the top four.
New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens asked his senior players for more energy and got just that as they swarmed into the breakdown with greater numbers than on opening night.
The home side's cause gained a major boost just before halftime when Ben Adams was sin binned for taking out Tim Mikkelson without the ball after he had chipped ahead.
New Zealand took their opportunity scoring two tries against their six-man opponents as a 7-0 lead blew out to 19-0 before the Australians were restored to seven men.
Kaka had opened the scoring with an 80-metre run after a Ben Lam intercept and a Mikkelson assist to settle the Kiwi's nerves.
Adams' was shown his yellow card just before halftime and Lam pounced, skipping through his defender to make it 14-0 at the break.
Sam Dickson effectively decided the result when he crossed shortly after the restart and when Kaka got his second the rout was complete.
Tom Cusack grabbed a consolation try for Australia, but it wasn't enough to stop New Zealand extending their trans-Tasman domination in Wellington to six matches dating back to 2000.
Though there were still the odd fumble, notably from Lote Raikabula and Luke Masirewa, Tietjens can be satisfied things are on the up for the defending champions.
After opening the scoring through Collins Injera, Kenya fell behind 15-7 at halftime in their quarter-final against South Africa after two tries to Cornel Hendricks and one to Stephan Dippenaar.
Willy Ambaka skipped through to make it 15-14 before Chris Dry replied in a see-saw second half.
Ambaka brought the house down with his second try with Biko Adema's conversion putting Kenya ahead with two minutes to play, a lead they held till full time.
In the first quarter-final England cruised past Scotland with Dan Norton and Marcus Watson grabbing two tries each after John Brake had opened the scoring.
Samoa continued their day one form with a pleasing win over Argentina in a complete team effort that saw five tries to five different players.
Day Two Results
Spain 26 Portugal 19
Canada 28 Tonga 5
Fiji 29 USA 12
France 33 Wales 12
England 31 Scotland 7
Samoa 31 Argentina 7
New Zealand 24 Australia 5
Kenya 21 South Africa 20
Tonga 17 Portugal 7
Wales 17 USA 15
Canada 31 Spain 7
Fiji 19 France 17
Scotland 35 Argentina 5
Australia 14 South Africa 5
England 21 Samoa 19
Kenya 19 New Zealand 14
Wales 26 Tonga 21
Canada 28 Fiji 19
Australia 22 Scotland 7
New Zealand 17 Samoa 7
England 24 Kenya 19