Cometh the hour, cometh the Kiwis
Tietjens praises ‘outstanding’ skipper DJ Forbes as New Zealand demolish England
It was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man for New Zealand on Sunday as their inspirational captain DJ Forbes lifted his side to their 11th Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens title with a crunching 26-7 victory over England.
The 31-year-old was here, there and everywhere all at once, setting up tries, chipping in with one of his own, and getting down and dirty as the rain came and conditions deteriorated. And the big guy wouldn’t have things any other way.
“That’s what I am there for – all the horse work,” said Forbes after lifting the Cup in front of a Hong Kong Stadium that was packed to its rafters.
“There are a couple of us out there putting our heads in dark places. There’s a place for that and I am glad I am still able to do my job. We’ve got all the flair and the fast guys out wide. But this was definitely a 12-man performance.”
That was certainly the case all weekend for the All Blacks Sevens who recaptured the lead in the HSBC Sevens World Series from South Africa with the win. But it was telling that coach Gordon Tietjens – who values the team ethic above all else – was moved to single out his on-field leader for special praise.
“It was a great, great victory in challenging conditions against a good England team,” said Tietjens.
“I had a captain in DJ Forbes who was just simply outstanding throughout the tournament and especially in the final. Without singling out individuals he was just amazing. I can’t say enough about the guy.”
Watch: Dress up, drink up, and party: The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens 2014
England had fought their way back to 12-7 at the half after falling behind to a barnstorming Ben Lam try and some magic from Tim Mikkelson, and as the heavens threatened to open Tietjens knew his charges had to hit the ground running in the second half.
“There was a bit of a concern because England are very quick and dangerous. Scoring first in the second half was important to us,” he said.
They did – and they did it through that man Forbes who crossed after a looping pass found him out wide and very much alone.
There was some hope for the English when Lam was sin-binned for an off-the-ball tackle with around five minutes left. Soon after Marcus Watson danced into space and crossed the line only to hear the referee call for a forward pass.
Then the rain upped its intensity. And then New Zealand shut up shop.
“We were probably a bit fortunate there, but you’ve got to take the breaks,” said Tietjens. “Sometimes they fall for you and sometimes they don’t. They fell for us today and to win by the margin we did was a great result.
“We can adapt to those conditions pretty well. They’re like New Zealand conditions. I’ve got some forwards who can adapt and thrive in those conditions.”
New Zealand now take a seven-point World Series lead over South Africa as the circuit heads to Glasgow, and Tietjens suggests they might be hoping for more help from above there, too, after heavy rain at last year’s RWC Sevens in Moscow and at the Wellington Sevens saw them raise their game and go on to win.
“Every time the heavens open up we’ve been successful so maybe it adds an element to our game,” said Forbes, who was named Best and Fairest Player of the tournament.
“We’re happy to do the contact stuff so maybe the conditions fell into our hands a little bit.”
England coach Simon Amor was a picture of grace in defeat. His side had faced three of the global circuits’ big guns in South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand in one day, and only came up short at the end.
“I was just really pleased with the effort from our guys,” he said. “We had seven new guys here and to play the big three today was a tough ask. New Zealand are obviously such a good side so maybe the final was just one game too far for us. But overall I am really happy for the guys.”