Top Two Reign Supreme, While USA Create Drama In Sizzling Dubai
Defending HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions Fiji, South Africa and England won all three of their matches on day one in Dubai as the iconic tournament got the new series underway.
Ben Ryan's side got off to an impressive start scoring nine converted tries through nine different scorers in their 63-14 victory over Canada in the opening match of the season, before victories over Japan and Argentina, which set the tone for an enthralling day one with lots of thrills and spills in the Dubai sunshine.
Reigning Dubai champions South Africa were another side in fine form with sevens player of the year Werner Kok picking up where he left off having collected his award in November with two tries in their opening win. Last year's leading try scorer Seabelo Senatla also impressed, ending the day as the top try scorer in Dubai with six tries in the Blitzboks' three victories over Russia, Samoa and Scotland.
But the day will be remembered for the late drama which saw Mike Friday's USA record a first-ever win over New Zealand. On the brink of heading into the Bowl after losing to France earlier on day one, the side that won the final Cup title of the last season in London created more drama at 7he Sevens Stadium.
Trailing 12-7 when the buzzer sounded Perry Baker popped up with his second of the match in the corner to draw the scores level before captain Madison Hughes stepped up to slot the conversion and knock France out in the process, with New Zealand topping Pool C.
England completed the top four heading into the quarter-finals, maintaining their 100 per cent record with a 21-5 victory over Australia in the 24th and final match of the day.
As the teams embarked on a new-look 10-round series heading to five new destinations in Cape Town, Sydney, Vancouver, Singapore and Paris, the opening day of the iconic Dubai Sevens did not disappoint with day two set for more fireworks as the Cup competition comes to life.
Searching for the first Cup title of the season Fiji will meet Australia in their quarter-final, USA await defending Dubai champions South Africa, New Zealand will play Samoa and England will challenge Los Pumas for a spot in the semi-finals.
Friday at The Sevens Stadium was also designated Keep Rugby Clean Day and the players and management from the 16 men's and 12 women's teams on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series all wore branded t-shirts to support World Rugby's anti-doping awareness campaign.
On day one of the men's series, the 16 teams and match officials all wore black armbands in memory of Beth Coalter, World Rugby's Sevens Operations Manager who passed away last month, which they will replicate on day two for New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu. There was also a minute's silence held before the annual parade of nations and climax to the women's competition to remember both Coalter and Lomu.