NZ repels Fiji to reach Vegas semis

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Campbell Burnes     03 Mar 2019     Getty Images

New Zealand won 19-14, having to draw deeply on its reserves of resilience to overcome a nine-point, 14-5 deficit against their Pacific rivals. Tries in the space of three minutes to the prolific co-captain Sione Molia and veteran Kurt Baker saw New Zealand grab the lead in the second spell. But the contest was far from over and it needed a titanic defensive effort, led by the likes of Baker, Scott Gregory and Trael Joass, to subdue several waves of Fijian attack as the clock wound down.

In the early exchanges, Molia scored after a patient build-up that started with a quick tap by Regan Ware. The irrepressible Jerry Tuwai then struck twice in as many minutes, his step and bolt slicing up the New Zealand defence.

Molia pulled the margin back with a try as he darted from a ruck. Baker gave New Zealand its second lead of the clash, running a gap from a short Sam Dickson ball for the five-point lead. New Zealand never saw the ball after that, but showed that sevens can be won with accurate and telling defence.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand completed a spotless Pool A record, doing enough to beat Spain 19-7.

Joe Ravouvou slipped his marker and showed his pace for the opening try before Vilimoni Koroi scored by placing the ball at the foot of the goalposts after an intercept. Dickson completed the scoring, slick passing from a turnover creating space for him.

New Zealand has now won all five of its Cup quarter-finals this season, but will need to be on its game to head joint series leader USA, which was in superb form to defeat South Africa 29-10 in its quarter-final. South Africa’s erratic recent form was highlighted with a 5-5 draw with Chile yesterday.
New Zealand will face USA at 10.12am Monday (NZT) for a place in another Cup final. The winner of that game will have a prime chance to extend the World Series lead.

Sir Gordon Tietjens’ Samoa edged Australia 21-20 to win through to a rare Cup semifinal, and will now face Argentina, which scored in extra time to defeat England 26-21.

Pool A:
New Zealand 19
(Joe Ravouvou, Vilimoni Koroi, Sam Dickson tries; Koroi 2 con) Spain 7 (Inoki Mateu try, con) HT: 14-0 New Zealand

Cup quarter-final:
New Zealand 19
(Sione Molia 2, Kurt Baker tries; Baker 2 con) Fiji 14 (Jerry Tuwai 2 tries; Vilimoni Botitu 2 con) HT: 7-5 Fiji