NZ Sevens player handed nine-match ban

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 27/01/2014

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Sam Dickson's nine-match ban for eye-gouging has overshadowed New Zealand's sparkling form at the Las Vegas sevens where they are attempting to win the title for the first time.

The Canterbury loose forward was cited then suspended during the second day's play after being found guilty for contact with the eye area against an unnamed Fijian player during New Zealand's final pool match.

The Kiwis went on to win the match 12-7 to dump Fiji out of the tournament and later thrashed England in the quarterfinals at Sam Boyd Stadium.

They will play Canada today (NZ time) at 8:54am for a spot in the final, with South Africa and Samoa facing off in the other semifinal.

Dickson's ban was one of two handed down to the New Zealanders on day two of the Vegas tournament with former Tawa wing George Tilsley suspended for one match for a tip tackle, also during the match against Fiji.

New Zealand are understood to be considering an appeal of Dickson's suspension, one which will see him miss the Wellington round of the series on February 7-8.

They will be without both players for this morning's semifinal, though Manawatu's Tilsley, who sat out a 24-7 quarterfinal thumping of England, would be available for the final.

The distraction will be an unwelcome one for New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens who prides himself on his side's discipline.

He is also keen to end a long drought in America which extends back to 2008 when the tournament was hosted in San Diego. 

In four tries in Vegas, New Zealand are yet to win with South Africa and Samoa sharing the spoils two apiece.

However, they are are well-placed to reach the final regardless of their day-two dramas with Canada, a surprise opponent after reaching their first Cup semifinal since 2000.

''It's always motivation when we haven't won a tournament, but we know we have to be tip top for it. All teams come hunting for us so it will be no different with Canada,'' Tietjens said.

However, Canada only scraped into the top four via a 17-14 win over France and the Kiwis will be full of confidence after their quarterfinal demolition of England.

Former Blues wing Waisake Naholo the star with a hat-trick of tries and the Taranaki flyer also scored the crucial first half try which sealed Fiji's fate in the final pool match after some sublime handling and support play from his teammates.

Samoa advanced to the final four with a nail-biting 12-10 win over Australia, while South Africa were far too good for Argentina in a 36-0 whitewash.

It was a huge turnaround and a dose of revenge, considering New Zealand had lost 44-0 to Fiji last time the sides met in Dubai.

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Defending champions South Africa also look ominous. They knocked out Kenya with a 19-7 win in the final match in Pool A before making short work of Argentina.

Hosts USA's 31-10 win over Spain in Pool D wasn't enough to get them through to the Cup round and they lost narrowly, 12-7 to Wales in the bowl quarterfinal. 

Series leaders New Zealand beat Australia (31-7) and Scotland (26-5) on day one in what is the fourth tournament of the IRB's world series circuit.

- Fairfax Media

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