Fiji, US, South Africa and NZ top pools at rugby sevens

HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) — Fiji, the United States, South Africa and New Zealand topped their pools with unbeaten records Saturday after the first day of the New Zealand leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Defending world champions South Africa will play Samoa, World Series leaders the United States will play Scotland, Fiji will play Canada and New Zealand will play Australia in Sunday’s quarterfinals.

Of the pool winners, hosts New Zealand were most impressive, beating Japan 52-0, Canada 49-10 and Spain 24-0.

New Zealand scored two late tries in its final match against Spain to cost the Spanish team a place in the quarterfinals, sending Canada through to the last eight in the Cup competition on points difference.

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Spain and New Zealand came into the final match of the day with two wins, along with Canada who had also had two wins in Pool D, leaving both quarterfinal places from that pool up in the air.

New Zealand took 8 1/2 minutes to break the Spanish defense for its first try. It led 12-0 close to fulltime, keeping Spain’s hopes of a quarterfinal place alive as it could lose by 17 points and still advance ahead of Canada on differential.

But late tries to Sione Molia and Kurt Baker handed the last quarterfinal place to Canada.

“We knew whoever won would top the pool,” New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson said. “We’ve played (Spain) a couple of times and we knew it would be a tough game.

“We needed to be a bit more decisive out there. We had a different team for the first and second games and we wanted to keep on building. We’ve got a lot of people who can come off the bench and it really doesn’t matter who starts. If we can start well tomorrow then we can take it into the quarterfinal.”

Fiji took first place in Pool A when it beat Australia 26-19 in its final match after previously beating Wales 54-7 and Argentina 33-24.

The shock of the day came in Pool B as England lost twice to miss out on the quarterfinals. England went down 29-10 to Samoa and 19-7 to the United States, managing only a 36-7 win over Tonga. The United States beat Samoa 34-14 in the match that decided first place.

South Africa topped Pool C, beating Kenya 29-21, France 17-5 and Scotland 26-7.

The United States leads the World Series after two rounds. New Zealand won the first tournament at Dubai and Fiji won the second at Cape Town but the United States was runner-up at both stops.

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