NZ sevens team win fourth Games gold
BY GREG FORD AND TOBY ROBSON IN DELHI
The New Zealand sevens team created scenes of pandemonium in Delhi this morning after they won their fourth consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medal beating Australia in a pulsating final, 24-17.
The Kiwis were mobbed by hundreds of over enthusiastic Indian supporters and event volunteers after they performed their winning ritual: Ka Mate.
The haka, unlike previous Games, had been conspicuous by its absence until this morning.
But an expectant crowd – some had been practising the famous war dance before the final and spent at least 20 minutes chanting for it after the final whistle – got what they came for, and were whipped into a (friendly) frenzy.
None of the players were in danger. But several had to man-handle fans. Delhi police, Indian army and even New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens joined the fray and helped encircle the team to keep them safe.
It capped off what was an emotional night for the team, particularly DJ Forbes. The sevens skipper was considered a long shot to make the Games. He had battled a string of injuries and only recently made it back to full fitness.
"I have been injured for three months so I am just grateful to god for blessing the boys," he said.
"This is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life and I am grateful Tietjens had the faith to select me because I have not done much running.
"I have spent a lot of time on my knees praying instead."
The Kiwis needed a little divine intervention from above with star playmaker Tomasi Cama ruled out of the final and they did their best to throw away all the momentum they had built leading into the final.
Forbes admitted the pressure of defending their title had proved a burden.
Youngster Toby Arnold was thrust into the role of steering the ship and New Zealand lost their mojo till the injection of Stowers' pace guided them home in a frantic second half.
The crowd were behind the Kiwis but the bounce of the ball was not and a first half sinbinning of Liam Messam proved crucial.
Wallaby wing Lachie Turner scored immediately to close to 7-5, then Luke Morahan on the break for a 10-7 lead.
Things got even more tenuous after the break Australia up 17-7 when James Stannard scored.
But just when it looked as though Gordon Tietjens' men were out for the count, Stowers broke free, converted his own try and gave the Kiwis hope.
While Forbes put New Zealand ahead 19-17, Australia’s Liam Gill had a chance to snatch away the gold medal with a minute to go but knocked on and the Kurt Baker sealed the result with the last act of the game when he backed up a Stowers line break for the winner.
Lote Raikabula had put New Zealand up 7-0 after four minutes, but Aussies were giving nothing away and when Messam was sinbinned for a high tackle the Kiwis faced two tough minutes before the break.
The win gives Tietjens, 54, his fourth gold medal.
The mastermind coach changed his game plan to accommodate for Gear and Messam. The pull out, reset and use the width strategy was replaced by something closer to 'have a go Hosea' and like most things Tietjens comes up with, it worked a treat.
Tietjens tells his men to hunt in threes, one with the ball, one to protect it, one to play halfback.
For Gear and Messam he made it fours with one to run off their shoulder for the offload.
For Messam and Raikabula it was double gold after their success in Melbourne.
For the Gear family it was a different sort of double, with Hosea's older brother Rico part of the winning New Zealand team at Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
For Coach Tietjens, at the helm since 1994, World Cup winner and winner the first six IRB world series tournaments, it leaves just the Olympics in 2016.
The combined skill and power of All Blacks Gear, Zac Guildford, Ben Smith. and late call up Messam took a team already ahead of the pack to a new level again.
In pool play there barely broke out of a trot, scoring 23 tries in three matches and conceding just one while a man down against Canada in their 43-7 starter.
Guyana provided the main course at 52-0 and Scotland were dispatched 46-0 in little more than a canter.
Day two provided more of the same as they swept aside Wales in the quarterfinals then England in the semis.
New Zealand's task has been made easier by the absence of Fiji, silver medallists in 1998 and 2002 and third in Melbourne, but it is hard to imagine they would have challenged this Kiwi side.
Forbes, who scored New Zealand's vital third fiver pointer, which put them in front, said: "Now we can leave all the pressure of winning those three gold medals behind us."
It was sweet reward for Liam Messam, who was a late replacement for fellow All Black, Adam Thomson. Messam was sin binned just before half time for a high tackle. He said he was concerned it may cost his team gold.
"We were out on our feet," he said.
"The boys dug deep it was awesome we managed to take it out."
- © Fairfax NZ News