Sun, Dec 05, 2004 - Page 24 News List

England defeats Fiji 26-21 in final of Dubai Sevens


England beat an ill-disciplined Fiji 26-21 in a thrilling final of the rugby Dubai Sevens on Friday and made a strong start to finally ending New Zealand domination of the world circuit.

Fiji had two players sinbinned, and the handicap of playing four minutes with six men proved too difficult to overcome an England which took full advantage.

The first-half sinbinning of Saiasi Fuli for a late tackle on Simon Amor turned the game, as England scored unanswered tries by Neil Starling and Mathew Tait. Starling replaced skipper Amor, who was angry to be led off the field with a shoulder injury.

England's halftime lead of 19-7 turned into 26-7 soon after when Rob Thirlby started and finished a long break.

Fiji rallied with tries from Marika Vakacegu and Neumi Nanuku to reduce the deficit to five points, but the comeback collapsed when Tuidriva Bainivalu was yellow-carded for tripping Geoff Appleford in his 22.

England won a series-high three tournaments last season, but failed by only six points to stop New Zealand from winning a fifth straight series championship, because the Kiwis reached seven of the eight finals.

Fiji overcame a 7-0 deficit to beat Samoa 14-7 in the quarterfinals, then beat New Zealand 22-12 in the semis.

Samoa held off a strong finish from Argentina for a 21-19 victory in the plate final, while Portugal needed extra time to defeat France in the bowl final 10-5, Diego Mateus claiming the decisive touchdown.

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