It's all black for outclassed Kiwis
CUPFijians run amok in the first half and New Zealand's reign as kings of the IRB Series comes to an end
New Zealand were dethroned as champions of the IRB Sevens series when a crushing semi-final loss to Fiji ruled out any slim hopes of successfully defending the title they have held for the past six seasons.
Kiwi coach Gordon Tietjens admitted there won't be a seventh heaven waiting for the men in black when the 2005-06 season draws to an end in June with the last of the eight legs at Twickenham.
'It is just impossible to make a comeback now. We are out of the running,' said Tietjens after bogey side Fiji smashed through to a 35-10 victory in the first of the two semi-finals.
The defeat leaves New Zealand with a bridge too far to cross - languishing in fourth place in the standings without any mathematical chance of overhauling the leaders.
It was a drubbing. The young New Zealand team were shell-shocked as Fiji ran in four tries in the first half to lead 28-0. Mosese Volavola scored a brace and Filimono Bolavucu and Epeli Dranivasa added a try apiece as Fiji booked their berth in the final by half-time.
With Fijian forward Semisi Naevo dominating the restarts New Zealand didn't even breach the Fijian 22 in the first half.
Kiwi captain Tafai Ioasa and Nigel Hunt scored tries after the break, but by then the Pacific Islanders were content to stand back and soak up the pressure and test their defence. But they finished it off in style, Neumi Nanuku sealing victory with a breakaway try.
'We didn't touch the ball in the first half,' Tietjens said. 'We lost the scrums and lineouts. Set-piece are important in sevens rugby and they ruled there. It was impossible to come back from being 28-0 down.'
A strong advocate that a dynamic defence is the best form of winning matches, Tietjens was left deflated on the sidelines as he watched his novice side miss tackles and generally make a mess of things.
'We lacked the two most important ingredients today - possession and defence. Without these two ingredients, it was tough for us out there,' Tietjens said. 'We had to start well if we were to have a chance. But they just knocked us out.'
New Zealand wing sensation Cory Jane playing for the first time in Hong Kong, echoed Tietjens's view, saying poor defence cost his side. 'We missed too many tackles. Once they got the ball, they were unstoppable. There were a couple of big boys in that side.'
Fiji have been the bane of New Zealand this season. Waisale Serevi's men had eliminated New Zealand in all four previous legs of the IRB Sevens. They made it a full hand yesterday leaving Tietjens wondering what to do to break this dominance.
'It is a bit of a concern,' said Tietjens, a master of the under-statement. 'But our time will come.'
It has been a hard grind for him. Having lost almost eight players from last season to Super 14s, and star playmaker Amasio Valence to Japan, Tietjens has been forced to rebuild the side. They moved smoothly into the semi-finals with a flawless 35-7 win over Australia, but looked woefully underdone against the classy Fijians.