Kiwis go down to Fiji at Wellington Sevens
TOBY ROBSON AT WESTPAC STADIUM
New Zealand have crashed to a 12-7 first up loss to Fiji at the Wellington Sevens.
The home side trailed 0-5 at halftime and couldn't recover with just one try in the match to wing Sherwin Stowers.
Fiji were fired up for what was a rematch of a testy match in Las Vegas last week and after sinbins to both sides scored first through Emosi Mulevoro on the stroke of halftime.
New Zealand started well after halftime and took the lead when Stowers capitalised on Bryce Heem's break to score under the posts.
But the IRB world series leading try scorer Samisoni Viriviri struck the killer blow with two minutes to play when he shot onto a short ball 50 metres out and scooted around New Zealand sweeper Gillies Kaka.
It is the second year running New Zealand have lost a pool match on the opening day in Wellington and, if they can't top Pool B, means they could be on a collision course for a semifinal against bogey team South Africa.
Coach Gordon Tietjens won't be impressed by the continuation of indiscipline that dogged the side in Las Vegas where they had two players suspended after their pool match against Fiji.
This time it was Scott Curry who cooled his heels after taking out a Fijian chaser on the stroke of halftime.
It proved costly with Mulevoro crossing for the opening try and a helping Fiji to a 5-0 lead going into the break.
The first half had the intensity if not the execution of a knock out match as the two sides ran each other ragged in drifting rain.
Curry had an early chance, but couldn't beat Levani Botia to a kick through, then Kaka brilliantly shut down Viriviri midway through the half as the home side scrambled desperately.
New Zealand failed to take advantage when Viriviri was sinbinned for failing to put the ball down near the mark after a penalty and were left instead to rue their own ill discipline.
Fiji tried to close the match down with a drop goal penalty attempt near the finish, but Mulevoro was wide of the mark.
Tietjens introduced teenager Akira Ioane for his debut and the 18-year-old made a promising start when he broke the line with his first touch, but his pass slipped away in the rain and so did New Zealand's last chance to win.
Earlier, Samoa beat Kenya 24-12, South Africa thrashed Wales 26-0 and England beat Portugal 36-7 as the tournament ran to form.
- © Fairfax NZ News