CAPE TOWN: Ireland and Samoa eliminated seeded teams to reach the quarter-finals on the first day of the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament at the Cape Town Stadium on Friday. Ireland beat England, runners-up in the two previous World Cups, 17-5, while Samoa trounced the United States 40-12. Although seedings were based on the 2018 World Cup, neither result was a major shock because both Ireland and Samoa were coming off solid results in the World Rugby Sevens Series which ended last month. England, winners of the inaugural World Cup Sevens in 1993 and runners-up in 2013 and 2018, were starved of the ball as Ireland dominated the first half.
But Ireland had to wait until a minute before half-time to turn their surfeit of possession into points through a converted try by Harry McNulty. Ireland increased their lead almost immediately after half-time with a try by Mark Roche. They put the match beyond reach when Jordan Conroy scored while England were down to six men after Alex Davis was handed a yellow card. The England players wore black armbands following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday.
Paul Scanlon scored two of Samoa’s six tries as the islanders outplayed their American opponents, scoring four tries in the second half after leading 14-5 at half-time. Defending champions New Zealand overpowered Scotland 43-5, running in seven tries, with Akuila Rokolisoa and Amanaki Nicole both scoring twice.
New Zealand have won three of the seven previous World Cups in the seven-man format. Newly-crowned World Series champions Australia had a comfortable 35-0 win against Uruguay, while hosts South Africa beat Chile 32-5. It is the last tournament in charge for South African coach Neil Powell, who will take up a post with the Durban-based Sharks in 15-man rugby after the World Cup.
Powell has coached the Blitzboks to two Commonwealth Games gold medals and three World Series titles but the closest his team has come to a World Cup was a bronze medal in San Francisco in 2018. Fiji, who won the title in 1997 and 2005, were 29-5 victors over Wales. Also through to the quarter-finals were France, who won a tight match 19-12 against Canada, and Argentina, who beat Kenya 22-17. The World Cup is played as a straight knock-out competition, with losing teams relegated to competing for the minor placings.
New Zealand met Argentina in the quarter-finals on Saturday night. They are in the same half of the draw as South Africa, who play against Ireland. The other match-ups are Australia against France and Fiji against Samoa. In the women’s championship, strongly-fancied Australia and New Zealand both had big wins, against Madagascar and Colombia respectively, to qualify for the quarter-finals. They were joined by the United States, Canada, Fiji, Ireland, England and France. The women’s quarter-final line-up is: Australia v England, United States v Canada, New Zealand v Ireland, France v Fiji. – AFP