South Africa successfully defended their Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens title after beating New Zealand 24-12 in the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018.
The reigning world series champions unleashed all their attacking firepower in what was a breathtaking display of sevens rugby across the two days. With his most experienced side ever, head coach Neil Powell notched up his fifth tournament win of 2017 and continued South Africa's dominance on the global stage.
First-half tries from captain Philip Snyman, former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Seabelo Senatla and HSBC Player of the Final Kwagga Smith put the Blitzboks 19-0 up against New Zealand, who were chasing their first tournament win since Vancouver in 2016. Scott Curry and Andrew Knewstubb got the All Blacks Sevens back into the match, but at 19-12 it was the powerful Tim Agaba who closed the game out.
"It was a great performance from the guys," said Senatla, who scored seven tries in Dubai, "It's been a while since we all played together but it's so great to win again in Dubai."
England pipped Fiji 28-21 to win the Bronze final, while France beat Spain 21-12 to win the Challenge Trophy. The next round of the series takes place in Cape Town on 9-10 December, where England will be looking to retain their crown.
RSA 12-7 FIJ
South Africa faced their sternest test of the tournament against 2015 Dubai winners Fiji in the semi-final. Kwagga Smith, fresh from his venture into 15s with the Lions in Super Rugby, showed pure power to shrug off three defenders and rumble towards the Fiji line, only to be held up short. Cecil Afrika managed to scoop up the ball out the back of the breakdown and dot it down.
It was the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year 2016 Seabelo Senatla who showed his tactical awareness for the Blitzboks second, ripping the ball out of a ruck on the Fiji 10 metre line and slipping through the defence untouched. With the conversion good, Fiji mounted their comeback through Jerry Tuwai, the quick footed playmaker running in an easy score after multiple phases of play stretched the defence thin. The Pacific Islanders got the conversion and won the restart, but knocked on to thwart their chances of Dubai glory.
NZL 14-5 ENG
England captain Tom Mitchell was instrumental in his side's first try, setting up Ruaridh McConnochie off a set piece line out on the New Zealand 10 metre line. The England star dotted down in the corner and left the All Blacks Sevens trailing 0-5 at half-time.
With just over four minutes left, Joey Ravouvou stormed down the left wing, shrugging off the tackle of winger Dan Norton to score. The conversion sailed over to put New Zealand 7-5 up, while England lost Mitchell with an injury. After an interception in their own half, New Zealand stormed forward through Sam Dickson but he got scragged short. The ball eventually found its way out to Joe Ravouvou who went over for his second of the game and secured Clark Laidlaw's side a place in the final.