Raikabula strike gets NZ past S Africa

BY MARC HINTON
Last updated 16:18 07/02/2009

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Lote Raikabula was the hero as New Zealand won a titanic defensive quarterfinal over IRB series leaders South Africa to progress through to the semifinals of the Wellington Sevens today.

In a thrilling contest Gordon Tietjens' New Zealanders prevailed 7-0 in a monumental clash that was locked 0-0 at the break and decided only by Raikabula's try late in the second spell.

It came in dramatic circumstances, too, with South Africa's Mpho Mbiyozo sinbinned nearly five minutes into the second spell for a foot-trip that halted a promising New Zealand movement.

Up a man, the New Zealanders sensed they had to strike, and so they did less than a minute later when Nafi Tuitavake created an opening on the flank and found Raikabula on the angle for an excruciating run to the line.

The big Fijian looked short of gas, but came up with a massive fend on Paul Delport to grab the decisive touchdown. Tomasi Cama added a wide conversion for good measure.

The first half finished scoreless, with both sides showing strong defence to absorb pressure and get up and make the tackles when they were required.

The Kiwis did lose big Ed Coker to injury midway through the spell, but that only offet the losses of South African starters Gio Aplon and Mzwandile Stick who were both ruled out of the second day's action with knocks.

New Zealand were buoyed, though, by the presence of skipper DJ Forbes who shook off his first-day foot injury to play the entire quarterfinal.

Itw as a decisive win for the Kiwis, too, as they look to make up the deficit on the South Africans in the IRB series after they had won the first two tournaments of the season.

The New Zealanders will meet Argentina in the second semifinal later tonight, after the South Anmericans took care of the dangerous Americans 24-14 in the third quarterfinal.

Thje USA scored first with Kevin Swiryn's try taking them out to 7-0, but Argentina replied twice before the break through Martin Rodriguez and Agustin Figuerola to lead 10-7 at the break.

Veteran Santiago Gomez Cora then added a double -- taking his IRB series try tally to 206 -- to put the Argentinians safely out to 24-7, before James Gillenwater grabbed a late consolation for the Americans. 

The popular Kenyans won the opening quarterfinal 10-7 over Wales in a tight contest that was probably a lot closer than it should have been.

The Kenyans scored an unconverted try in each half, to Collins Injera (his fifth of the tournament) and Humphrey Kayange, to lead 10-0. But Wales replied with a seven-pointer to Aled Thomas, and finished the match a little annoyed they weren't quite able to secure ball for one final thrust.

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For all that the athletic Kenyans, who dominated possession and looked the far likelier side, deserved the win to continue their rapid emergence as a genuine force on the international sevens scene.

They were to meet England in the semifinals after the northerners caused somewhat of an upset when they ran down Fiji with a huge second-half charge to prevail 31-10.

The Fijians sprung out the blocks to lead 10-0 early, with tries to Peni Rokodiva and Rupeni Nasifga, though there were ominous signs as the English finished the spell stronger, getting one try to Tom Biggs and squandering another when Ben Gollings had the ball knocked out from him diving for the score.

It was all England in the second half as the Fijians hardly fired a shot. They crossed for four tries, to Rob Vickerman, Ollie Phillips, Chris Cracknell and Gollings, leaving the inquests to begin back in Suva over another failed campaign. Gollings' late score was his 163rd in the IRB series.

Results, day 2:

Cup quarterfinals: Kenya 10 Wales 7; England 31 Fiji 10; Argentina 24 USA 14; New Zealand 7 South Africa 0.

Semifinal draw: Kenya v England; Argentina v New Zealand.

Bowl quarterfinals: Tonga 19 Niue 0; France 24 Samoa 7; Cook Islands 33 Canada 12; Australia 22 Scotland 12. 

- Rugbyheaven

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