NZ sevens lose Games gold medal match

MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Last updated 11:34 28/07/2014
DJ Forbes
ROBERT KITCHIN/ Fairfax NZ
IF ONLY IT WERE US: NZ sevens skipper DJ Forbes looks on as South Africa celebrate their gold medal.

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Sevens heaven eluded New Zealand at Ibrox as captain DJ Forbes rued errors and inexperience which cost his side Commonwealth Games rugby gold.

New Zealand's remarkable run of 30 victories, stretching back to sevens' inaugural appearance at the 1998 Games, ended before a packed house of nearly 50,000 at the hands of old foes South Africa.

The South Africans were too quick and too clinical in their 17-12 win, deservedly climbing the podium as the best team on show in Glasgow.

New Zealand, who had just Forbes, Tim Mikkelson and Sherwin Stowers back from Delhi four years ago, had patchy moments throughout the tournament in their drive for five successive gold medals.

Then, in the final, ill-discipline crept in and they were punished by Australian referee Matthew O'Brien, crucially when Bryce Heem was yellow carded for kicking the ball away before halftime.

South Africa struck either side of the break via the flying Seabelo Senatla, and New Zealand were on the back foot. Their final attack from a scrum ended when Akira Ioane knocked on a low pass with 30sec remaining.

"I guess we're beatable. Just little errors, we had nine guys who were never in this environment before; it's a massive learning curve and they will get a lot out of it," said Forbes, with an eye to sevens' first appearance at the Olympics in two years' time.

"We've got some schoolboys who are pretty hurt so this will really test the character."

New Zealand made initial inroads at the breakdown but South Africa began to muscle up, and had more pace out wide.

Coach Gordon Tietjens stuck almost entirely with the squad who won another world series this year and overlooked veterans Lote Raikabula and Tomasi Cama due to lack of game time.

The one current Super Rugby player he picked, Pita Ahki, blew a hamstring in the opening game against Canada and wasn't sighted again. Forbes rolled up his sleeves and tried to lift the men in black but he felt New Zealand were off the pace for 12 minutes of the 20 in the final and missed some experience.

"You can look that far into it. You'd assume that maybe a few more cool heads could have helped in the pressure situations. In saying that the guys that were brought here have x factor."

Forbes was glum but philosophical as he wandered around with his silver medal, forcing a smile and posing for selfies with an array of sideline fans. He even believed the defeat could be a good thing.

"I'm human, I'm pretty disappointed. But if we're keeping things in perspective moving forward it's all about the Olympics now and I guess the monkey's off the back and we can go into next qualification series aiming to qualify and put pressure on everyone else.

"We know when we play any team they lift their game, they go off and play another country and they'll probably slip off a little bit but as far as we're concerned we're still the benchmark and teams always are out to get us."

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New Zealand made the final with 19-7 victories over both Kenya and Australia. The semifinal win over Australia was sweet after what Forbes described as "a bit of banter" from Australia media about the black jersey losing its aura.

South Africa looked the form team after smashing a useful Scotland side 35-12 in the quarterfinals, to silence the deafening roars from the home faithful, then sweeping aside Samoa 35-7.

Australia won the bronze medal match 24-0 over Samoa, having snuck into the final four with a last-ditch 21-19 victory over Wales.

- Stuff

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