Hamilton Sevens: New Zealand's men on verge of semifinals after seeing off United States
New Zealand's men are on the verge of the semifinals of the Hamilton Sevens after seeing off the United States 26-5 in their pivotal pool match on Saturday.
The Kiwis gained revenge after last year's sloppy semifinal defeat to USA in Hamilton and only Scotland stand between the hosts and the top of Pool A on Sunday, where a win guarantees a place in the last four.
For the first time in the men's Sevens World Series' 179-round history, there were no quarterfinals, leaving the host nation under extra pressure to preserve their stunning record of having never missed the knockout stages.
As expected, New Zealand annihilated Wales in their opening match but a strong USA outfit posed a far greater challenge at Waikato Stadium before another decent crowd around 18,000 - a lower figure than the event's first two sold out years in Hamilton.
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Co-captain Scott Curry punctured USA's line for New Zealand's opener and Joe Webber dashed clear for their second try after speedster Perry Baker replied for the Americans.
New Zealand's 14-5 lead at half-time was handy, but not secure until fellow skipper Tim Mikkelson held off multiple tacklers before slamming down the match-winning score in the final minutes.
Sam Dickson's try on the hooter gave the win an emphatic look but it was a hard slog for New Zealand, who were clinical when it mattered and strong around the breakdown and in defence against the combative, quick Americans.
The new format meant no side could slip up on day one before Sunday's final round of pool matches, with only pool winners advancing straight to the semifinals in New Zealand's leg of the World Series.
The Americans previously dumped New Zealand out of the Hamilton tournament at the semifinal stage and were second only to Fiji in last year's series standings, finishing nine points behind the reigning Olympic champions and 15 ahead of the Kiwis in third.
Their clash with the Kiwis was effectively a pool A decider with neither Scotland nor Wales suggesting they could upset New Zealand or USA, who earlier beat the Scots 24-7.
The four-try victory over USA does not guarantee New Zealand a semifinal berth and Scotland would climb above them with a shock win, but that seems highly unlikely after Scotland's narrow 24-19 win over lowly Wales.
Crucially, New Zealand head to finals day with every chance of winning their first World Series at home since doing so in Wellington in 2016.
Earlier, the hosts thrashed Wales 47-0 for a perfect start as Mikkelson crossed twice, then Regan Ware and Webber touched down in a dominant first half.
Wales offered little resistance and the tries kept coming as Curry, Kurt Baker and Vilimoni Koroi went over after the break.
Meanwhile, Fijian blue and white again filled the stands with terrific colour and their beloved team lived up to the occasion, beating Samoa and Australia 19-12 in Pool D for a strong start in the defence of their Hamilton crown.
The crowd was lower than Hamilton's first two years of hosting the sevens after it shifted from Wellington, but Fiji's faithful made all the noise and created a terrific atmosphere on their own.
Tournament organisers would shudder at the mere thought of the New Zealand Sevens without Fiji. Hamilton has felt more like Suva or Nadi year by year after hosting since 2018.
Elsewhere, England lead Pool B after stunning South Africa 21-19 and Pool C is tight with Canada and France top together on five points after drawing 12-12.
New Zealand play Scotland in their final pool match on Sunday at 1:41pm.
AT A GLANCE
Day one of Hamilton Sevens
New Zealand men's results: Won 47-0 v Wales, won 26-5 v United States.
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