NZ settle for third in Paris sevens

DJ Forbes scores a try for New Zealand. Photo: Getty Images
DJ Forbes scores a try for New Zealand. Photo: Getty Images
South Africa have won their second World Series title, but the All Blacks Sevens were much improved in finishing third in Paris.

Gone, for the most part, were the unforced errors and discipline issues that had bedevilled much of New Zealand's 2016-17 campaign.

They were unbeaten on day one, playing some slick sevens in a very competitive pool, and then shut out the hosts France and the parochial crowd 14-0 in a tight Cup quarterfinal.

New Zealand had the misfortune to strike South Africa in the semifinal. Inspired by the news they had just won the title after England had fallen to Scotland in the other Cup semi, the Blitzbokke, less formidable now than in the first half of the series, still managed a classy display of sevens to repulse New Zealand.

Yet it was the underdogs who scored first, Regan Ware finishing a searing Joe Webber break. The brilliance of Rosko Specman, with two second half tries, put paid to any faint hopes of a New Zealand comeback.

In a physical bronze final, New Zealand equalled their best effort this season, clinching third position with a tightly contested 12-5 victory over England, whom they have lowered on four occasions this season. England led 5-0 at the half, but tries to Sam Dickson, via a Beauden Barrett-inspired kick-pass by Jamie Booth, and then a solo Sherwin Stowers sprint, allowed New Zealand to take the honours.

South Africa went on to defeat their day one conquerors Scotland 15-5 in the Cup final.

The upshot is that the Blitzbokke have an unassailable 34-point lead from England and then three points back to Fiji. New Zealand made up ground on both England and Fiji, but it will be too big a task to overhaul their rivals in the final tournament this weekend in London.

Coach Scott Waldrom will, however, be pleased with his charges, especially as they are missing several front-liners and then lost playmaker Rocky Khan to injury after day one, meaning Stowers was promoted. They conceded just 10 tries in six games, and four of those were against South Africa. They will still be disappointed not to have cracked their first Cup final, but the progress is clear, if not palpable.

Cup quarter-final: New Zealand 14 (DJ Forbes, Sione Molia tries; Joe Webber 2 con) France 0 HT: 14-0
Cup semifinal: South Africa 26 (Rosko Specman 2, Philip Snyman, Franco du Preez tries; du Preez 3 con) New Zealand 5 (Regan Ware try) HT: 12-5
Bronze final: New Zealand 12 (Sam Dickson, Sherwin Stowers tries; Joe Webber con) England 5 (Will Edwards try) HT: 5-0 England

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