New Zealand win Las Vegas Sevens plate final against plucky Japan
New Zealand have made the most of their Las Vegas Sevens tournament, finishing fifth after being relegated to the plate competition.
Gordon Tietjens' men defeated Japan 27-7 in the plate final, after earlier edging Argentina 24-19 in extra time.
Following their disappointing exit from the Cup in Las Vegas on Sunday, New Zealand wanted to secure as many competition points as possible and keep pace with their world series opponents.
Fiji defeated Australia in the Cup final, winning 21-15.
"Getting two wins today was obviously pleasing, but always disappointing not to be in the cup final, to have a crack to win this championship here in Vegas," Tietjens said.
"When you look at confidence, you get that from winning, and we won our last two games today which we'll take into Vancouver."
DJ Forbes opened the scoring for New Zealand after his team ran the length of the field over several phases.
Their efforts at the breakdown had been mixed against Argentina, but they started well against Japan.
Kurt Baker extended the lead soon after as New Zealand dominated territory, pegging Japan deep inside their own half, then Lewis Ormond added another on halftime.
Nothing changed for New Zealand following the break. Forbes was in for his second of the match and looked re-energised after being rested for Wellington and Sydney.
Kameli Soejima got a try back for Japan with a minute remaining as the Asian side had their first meaningful attack.
Beaudein Waaka then scored a stunning individual try to seal the victory, spinning out of a tackle on his own 22m before running home in the corner.
New Zealand fought back from 19-0 down at halftime to level things at the final hooter against Argentina in the plate semifinal.
But some questionable refereeing decisions, particularly a potential forward pass in the lead up to the match winning try, appeared to go New Zealand's way.
Axel Muller opened the scoring for Argentina, finishing off a long spell of possession or the South Americans after forcing an early turnover.
New Zealand's defence was strong, but they lack the power at the breakdown of Wellington and Sydney with Super Rugby talent currently representing their franchises.
Fernando Luna then extended Argentina's lead after a Tim Mikkelson knock-on, powering through Sam Dickson to score under the posts.
With a minute remaining in the first half, New Zealand had yet to leave their own half.
When New Zealand did eventually penetrate Argentina's half of the field, superior work at the breakdown saw Argentina win the ball back and streak clear for a third try though German Schulz.
Regan Ware struck back for New Zealand in the second half with his team's first meaningful possession, and Argentina had a man in the bin soon after as the Kiwis turned up their intensity.
Beaudein Waaka put Dickson across the line using that man advantage, reducing the deficit to five points with three minutes to play.
Waaka crossed himself with a minute remaining to level the scores, then had a penalty shot at goal with time expired to get the win which missed to the left.
Gillies Kaka scored the winner in extra time to push New Zealand into the plate final, where they'll face Japan.