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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
New Zealand finish in style
New Zealand rounded off this season's IRB World Sevens Series in style by claiming their seventh tournament title in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
But the Kiwis, who had claimed the overall championship a week ago at Twickenham, were pushed all the way by a dogged England before running out 24-12 winners.
England confirmed their staggering progress on this season's sevens circuit by giving it everything in a thrilling final.
No other team tested the Kiwis over the two days of competition like England did.
And England coach Joe Lydon was delighted with the progress made by his team.
"This has just proved that we have a massive amount of potential in this game," he said.
"We went out there in the final to put the pressure on New Zealand - we wanted to put in a performance.
"We wanted to finish third in the overall rankings, and we have now done that which is good in terms of succeeding for the Commonwealth Games."
Saturday night's final could well have been a dress rehearsal for the rugby sevens gold medal showdown in Manchester later this summer.
England made an impressive start, Paul Sampson chasing back to catch New Zealand speedster Joe Rokocoko when he looked clear.
Then Ben Gollings ran majestically deep into Kiwi territory, only for Sampson to knock on at the vital moment.
New Zealand were rattled by England's opening, but it was the men in black who struck midway through a fast and furious first half.
This time, Sampson could not make up enough ground on Rokocoko, who just managed to evade the Wasps player's despairing lunge and to score.
England hit back when Rob Thirlby tied things up through a 30-metre sprint, yet New Zealand carved them open right on half-time through Craig De Goldi, Amasio Valence converting for a 12-5 interval lead.
Chris Masoe and Brad Fleming darted over for two more touchdowns to virtually ensure the Cup for New Zealand.
Gollings raced over for a consolation England try, which he also converted, but once again the silverware belonged to New Zealand.
England finish their season in third place in the overall standings courtesy of their 26-0 semi-final win over closest rivals Fiji, having already disposed of Scotland in the quarters.
New Zealand had conceded just seven points in brushing aside challenges during the knockout stages from France and Australia.
Quarter-final opponents France were crushed 47-7, while arch-rivals Australia also finished a distant second best, losing 33-0.
The gulf between world rugby's leading sevens exponents was obvious to see for a second day Millennium Stadium crowd of around 5,000.
At various stages of the 44-game tournament, there were encouraging contributions from countries such as Ireland, Russia, Portugal and Canada.
But the Commonwealth Games medal shake-up this summer looks as though it will be a five-horse race between New Zealand, England, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.
Wales at least ended a disappointing weekend's work by winning the Shield and avenging their pool defeat against Russia.
Matthew Robinson and Ben Breeze both scored two tries and there was also a touchdown for Emyr Lewis, while Arwel Thomas kicked three conversions as Wales triumphed 31-22.
But there was no joy for Ireland in the Bowl final, as Argentina atoned for their surprise failure to reach the main competition last-eight by winning 40-24.
In the plate final, South Africa overwhelmed France 40-0.
IRB World Sevens Series results from Cardiff:
Cup Final: England 12-24 New Zealand. Semi-finals: New Zealand 33-0 Australia; Fiji 0-26 England 26. Quarter-finals: New Zealand 47-7 France; Australia 14-12 Samoa; South Africa 21-26 Fiji; England 17-0 Scotland.
Plate final: France 0-40 South Africa. Semi-finals: France 19-10 Samoa; South Africa 36-7 Scotland.
Bowl final: Argentina 40-24 Ireland 24. Semi-finals: Argentina 47-0 Canada; Portugal 17-26 Ireland. Quarter-finals: Argentina 29-0 Wales; Canada 14-7 Spain; Georgia 5-7 Portugal; Russia 5-26 Ireland.
Shield final: Wales 31-22 Russia 22. Semi-finals: Wales 26-14 Spain; Georgia 5-15 Russia.
Pool A: New Zealand 48-0 Scotland; Argentina 14-12 Ireland; New Zealand 50-14 Ireland; Argentina 14-26 Scotland; New Zealand 19-12 Argentina; Scotland 19-17 Ireland.
31 May 02 | International
25 May 02 | International
25 May 02 | Wales
25 May 02 | European
20 May 02 | Commonwealth Games 2002
30 Apr 02 | International
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