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Sunday, 4 August, 2002, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK

Dominant Kiwis claim gold

By Charlie Henderson
BBC Sport Online in Manchester

New Zealand 33-15 Fiji

New Zealand have won Commonwealth gold in the sevens competition at the City of Manchester stadium.

In a free-flowing and open final they finally overcame a stubborn Fijian side that played a quarter of the match with six men.

The All Blacks were a single point in arrears with less than 30 seconds on the clock and in danger of losing the title they won in Kuala Lumpur four years ago.

But right on cue Craig de Goldi scored the decisive try before two more followed in injury-time.

Scores & scorers
New Zealand 33
Tries: Mils Muliaina, Craig Newby, Craig de Goldi, Bruce Reihana & Roger Randle
Cons: Reihana (4)

Fiji 15
Tries: Jope Tuikabe & Viliame Satala
Con: Waisale Serevi
Pen: Serevi

The tournament was a slow-burner that built to a sizzling climax.

After a day-and-a-half of lop-sided pool matches the quarter-finals lit the blue-touch paper.

And the final provided the fireworks as New Zealand faced their first real test. They passed with flying colours.

Having cruised through five matches they were finally forced to play to their potential.

Fiji took the game to New Zealand and, after gifting the defending champions an opening try through Mils Muliaina, took the lead.

Jope Tuikabe's try was the first the All Blacks had conceded in the first half since their opening match against Canada.

And when new Harlequins signing Viliame Satala pounced on a weak defensive hack from Amasio Valence it was the first time New Zealand had trailed since that opening match.

"We put a lot of hard work in and did it the hard way playing top sides"
Eric Rush

Playing without their inspirational captain Eric Rush, nursing bruised ribs from the semi-finals, New Zealand lacked composure and made uncharacteristic mistakes.

Valence's naive clearance was followed by a loose and directionless pass from de Goldi which placed his team-mates under undue pressure in defence.

However, de Goldi soon made amends and his surging run deep into Fijian territory won a penalty from which New Zealand drew level.

Chris Masoe's quick tap and pass sent Craig Newby in and his run round to the posts gave the opportunity for the favourites to re-take the lead.

"It was difficult with six men - if we'd had seven we'd have won"
Waisale Serevi

Bruce Reihana duly performed the honours, his conversion giving New Zealand a 14-12 half-time lead, and the match was primed for a spectacular second half.

Fiji still trailed by two points when Saisi Fuli was sent off for a late and reckless challenge on Brad Fleming.

It seemed as if the promise of the match would peter out, but Fiji, far from conceding, showed even greater imagination and flair.

And at the heart of their efforts was Waisale Serevi.

Other finals
Bronze medal p/o
SA 19-12 Samoa

Plate final
Eng 36-12 Aus

Bowl final
Sco 40-26 Tonga

The master of sevens orchestrated the match for a short period, probing at New Zealand's defence with cross-field kicks and goose-stepping their midfield into a standstill.

And when Fiji were awarded a penalty Serevi opted to kick at goal, the first penalty attempt of the tournament.

His effort gave the underdogs a narrow lead they so nearly held onto.

But at the death New Zealand forced home their advantage.

First de Goldi crossed before Reihana pierced the Fijian defence and ran through to score with a swallow dive under the posts.

Roger Randle added a third, New Zealand's fifth, as Fiji finally gave up the ghost in a move in which Tuikabe was sent to the sin bin for a late tackle.

Consolation prize

In the build-up to the final South Africa won the bronze medal play-off match against Samoa 19-12.

George Muller scored two first-half tries that helped the Springboks stay ahead of a resilient Samoan side through to the final whistle.

And the home crowd had something to warm their hearts on a dank and dismal Manchester day.

Scotland and England claimed wins in the minor tournaments, having been knocked out of the Cup earlier in the competition.

Scotland beat Tonga 40-26 to win the Bowl Final, and England delighted the crowd with a crushing 36-12 victory over Australia in the Plate Final.

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