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NZ go down to South Africa in Sevens' final

World Rugby

Lynn McConnell     03 Dec 2017     World Rugby

Captain Scott Curry said he had been proud of the way the side played all weekend.

"It's probably the best, and most confident, we've felt in our game, in our playing squad for a long time. To make a final it is always disappointing to lose a Cup final but like I said, I am very proud of the boys," he said.
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The side benefited from their pre-season build-up and they had clarity on how they wanted to play.

"We've been putting in the hard yards and we're really fit so those two together give you a lot of confidence," he said.

"We made it pretty hard for ourselves, we came from behind basically in every game. Obviously to stumble at the final hurdle was a bit disappointing but for a pretty new squad I think we did really well," he said.

They had created opportunities to score in the final but failed to take them and they would be looking to learn from that, and to work on their composure, as they prepared for the next round in Cape Town next weekend, he said.

A yellow card against Joe Ravouvou for a high tackle as South Africa made their first effort to score set the All Blacks Sevens back and Rosko Specman took advantage to score.

Moments later a break by Werner Kok created a chance and Seabelo Senatla had too much speed and scored to see the Blitzbokke out to a 14-0 lead.

Then, with Ravouvou still off the field, Joe Webber attempted to make a clearing kick only to have player of the final Kwagga Smith charge it down and then somehow manage to ground the ball for a try before it went over the deadball line.

The order from the New Zealand huddle at the halftime break, when down 0-19, was to score first. They were helped by a yellow card to Specman for a deliberate knock-on with Andrew Knewstubb scoring from the penalty.

Captain Scott Curry managed to score another while South Africa were still down to six.

However, with time running down it was Tim Agaba, who took the ball at a lineout and then fired a dummy to charge his way over for the try that sealed the win for South Africa.

Veteran Tim Mikkelson said all the side's games had been tough during the series and they knew that hadn't been attacking particularly well but their defence had been impressive and they had to defend well to earn the right to attack.

The All Blacks Sevens qualified for the final after beating England 14-5 although it was England who scored first through Ruaridh McConnochie.

A feature of the contest was the battle on the flank between Ravouvou and Dan Norton. It was the New Zealander's try saving tackle on Norton that held the halftime score to 0-5 and then after the break it was Ravouvou who made the impact by beating Norton to score New Zealand's first try.

Both sides mounted attack after attack but the breakthrough came when Sam Dickson made the intercept and while unable to get to the line himself, he had Ravouvou in support and he scored his second to claim the win.

None of it may have been possible had it not been for Andrew Knewstubb's confidence to chip ahead and claim the bouncing ball to score the matchwinning try in the 14-12 quarterfinal win against Kenya.

The New Zealanders frittered away the ball during an untidy first half. They claimed a 7-0 lead through some outstanding play by Vilimoni Koroi who took the ball all the way to the line before passing to Dylan Collier to score.

However, failure to hold onto the ball saw Kenya run in two quick tries to go to a 12-7 lead. At one stage New Zealand's defence was desperate as the Kenyans sensed their change. The New Zealanders at one point had made 32 tackles to only three by Kenya.

Once securing the ball with time running out, Knewstubb opted to kick behind the Kenyan defence to the in-goal area and he won the race to the line, although his effort to get closer to the goalposts for the vital conversion almost saw him pushed over the deadball line. It took a TMO consultation to confirm he was safe.

South Africa qualified for the final by beating Samoa 26-10 in their quarter final and then Fiji 12-7 in their semifinal.