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England stuns Kiwis to take NZ Sevens title

ENGLAND scored 12 unanswered points in the second half to beat host New Zealand 19-17 yesterday and win the third leg of the International Rugby Board's sevens series in Wellington.

New Zealand took a 17-5 lead at halftime in the tournament final but England scored two second-half tries, converting the second in stoppage time, to win the New Zealand leg of the series for the first time in its 10-year history.

"What a fantastic game of football," said captain Ollie Phillips, who was one of England's three try scorers. "This is a massive win for us and I'm sure the crowd enjoyed it."

The crowd of 34,500 often reacted to the performance of Australian referee Andrew Lees, who seemed to ignore knock-ons and forward passes from both teams. In the second half, Lees simultaneously sin-binned a player from each side for no obvious reason.

New Zealand stumbled towards the final of its home tournament with wins in two of its three pool matches, losing to Wales, and with narrow wins in its quarterfinal and semifinal matches yesterday.

The Kiwis beat South Africa 7-0 in the quarters and Argentina 10-7 in the semis but seemed to have found form in the final as they raced to a 12-point halftime lead.

Paul Grant, Zar Lawrence and D.J. Forbes scored first-half tries for New Zealand, which opened a 17-0 lead before Phillips' try cut the margin to 17-5 at halftime.

England then closed the margin with an intercept try to Roger Vickerman and scored again close to fulltime, a converted try, which carried the side to a two-point victory as the final whistle sounded.

South Africa leads the overall standings with 48 points after three rounds of the seven-a-side series, ahead of New Zealand and England, both tied on 44. Fiji is next on 28 points. South Africa beat Wales to win the plate final, Cook Islands won the bowl and Scotland the shield.


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