Day one of the Tokyo sevens was marred by weather conditions more suited to a battle at Welford Road than running seven-aside rugby. The sunshine that goes hand in hand with sevens, finally emerged on day two and with the sunshine came the Aussies, who grew stronger and stronger with every minute of rugby they played, as the youngsters took on and beat the best of them.
The quarter finals saw England dispense of South Africa in dramatic fashion, after Matt Turner broke through two tackles and turned on the after burners to score an 80 metre effort in the corner and give England a 21-17 win. QF 2 and Australia held on against a brave Welsh side who were denied at the last, going down 21-14. New Zealand stormed past an Argentinian team that have impressed this season but were no match for the powerful All Blacks with the final result being a thumping 40-5. However, the QF of the day saw the giant South Sea Islanders face off in a bruising contest that one has grown to expect when Samoa battled past Hong Kong winners Fiji, 24-21.
The Semi Final line-ups saw England play Australia whilst on the other side of the draw, New Zealand took on Samoa in a Las Vegas Final repeat.
The former saw Australia start the stronger after pressuring England straight from kick off and turning the ball over. They then worked the ball across the pitch and after a number of short offloads, 18-year-old Fa’alava’av burst through John Brakes tackle to open the scoring for the Wallabies. Australia dominated from start to finish, and on the few occasions that England did get possession, they kicked it away or seemed clueless as to what to do, favoring contact over conventional open rugby. This lack of a performance from England shouldn’t take away from what was an outstanding display by Australia who added to their early try by scoring two further tries giving them a comfortable 21-7 score line at the break. The second half saw much of the same as Australia dominated possession and forced turnovers in defense. They were rewarded for their efforts with two further tries just after the break to crush any remaining English hope and the Lime and blues ran out deserved 33-12 winners and a well earned final berth for 2012.
The second semi final was a much tighter affair as New Zealand and Samoa contested a bruising affair that needed golden point extra time to find a winner. After storming to a 12-0 lead, New Zealand fought back to tie things up late on. However, extra time saw Samoa work the ball in a similar fashion to the way they had in the first half and capitalized on an overlap to gain the crucial score and go through into the Final.
The big event of the day treated a considerable crowd in Tokyo to a fantastic contest between the two stand out sides of the weekend. Samoa had impressed through out and seemed to fair better in the second tournament of the double-legged weekends. A young Australian team grew in confidence as the weekend went on and started to peak in the semi final against England. The Pacific Islanders started the better and the formidable figure that is Faosoaliva who was seemingly unstoppable throughout the match. However, it was Australia who went into the break with a 14-5 lead.
Samoa hit back early after breaking out from their own 22 in a well worked series of phases that saw the ever dangerous Tupou go in under the posts. It was tit for tat for much of the second half, with neither side maintaining the lead for any substantial period of time, however it was Samoa who were on course for the win after a fantastic individual effort by centre Pisi who burst through two tackles before turning on the jets to go over giving them a lead of 5 points. Australia, had enough time to work themselves into position and following a considerable number of phases where the Samoan defense held strong, they finally worked an overlap for captain Ed Jenkins. Influential play maker and sweeper; Lucas slotted the conversion from out wide to give the Wallabies a narrow lead that they were able to hold onto and see out a fantastic win.
Overall IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset hailed the tournament a success, noting, “There is no doubt that the Tokyo Sevens has been a resounding success on and off the field of play… Despite the bad weather on day one, the sun shone on day two, the crowd was strong and the atmosphere electric. It was a wonderful event.”
The overall leader board now see’s New Zealand regain their top spot with 128 points, 6 points ahead of rivals Fiji, whilst South Africa are in third with 105 points only one point ahead of England on 104.
Shield Final – Scotland 26–12 Kenya
Bowl Final – France 17 – 12 USA
Plate Final – Fiji 14 – 10 South Africa
¾ Play-off – New Zealand 24- 17 England