Early season strugglers New Zealand and South Africa waltzed into the IRB Sevens World Series quarter-finals on Friday with three convincing victories each.
England, winners of the second leg of the nine-round championship in Dubai last weekend, fell to Samoa before overcoming Argentina to make the last eight at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the Indian Ocean city.
France never recaptured the form that took them to the final a week ago and were ruthlessly picked apart by New Zealand, who have won nine of 12 championships in the seven-a-side version of rugby union.
New Zealand toyed with France in the second half en route to a 41-0 triumph in a clash of the Pool B qualifiers as Tomasi Cama scored two tries and Joe Webber, Toby Arnold, Frank Halai, Charles Piutau and Tim Mikkelsen one each.
South Africa had won twice and lost once against great sporting rivals Australia during the opening legs, and the first half of the big Pool C clash featured more kicking than the other 23 matches put together.
There were also an unusually high number of scraps for possession among the forwards and the first try did not arrive until first-half stoppage-time, when Port Elizabeth-born Cecil Afrika charged over.
Abandoning their traditional gold for a lime-green outfit, Australia were on the back foot throughout the second half and Mark Richards (twice) and Steven Hunt crossed the tryline to complete a 26-0 success.
“I am happier that we did not concede a try in our three games than at topping the table,” South Africa coach Paul Treu said. “Now we must learn a lesson from Dubai last week and realize this is not a one-day tournament.”
England coach Ben Ryan predicted a New Zealand and South Africa backlash this weekend, but what he probably did not expect was a struggle to get his own team into the last eight.
A 10-point loss to Samoa left them needing to overcome Argentina and they were lucky to be 7-0 ahead at half-time against opponents who had plenty of possession, but lacked a “gas man.”
Dan Norton broke the deadlock with a try in stoppage-time and his late try completed a 19-0 win, after Simon Hunt also dotted down for a team playing in a bold mix of orange, yellow and red instead of white.
Fiji, table toppers after the win in Australia and a third-place Dubai finish, overcame an early 14-point deficit against Wales to score 29 unanswered points and set up a quarter-finals showdown with England.