IRB Sevens World Series 2006/07
New Zealand snatch back series in thriller
The most competitive of all the IRB Sevens World Series went right down to the wire with three nations arriving at the season-ending Emirates Airline Edinburgh Sevens with their dreams of lifting the coveted trophy still alive.
Fiji were the favourites to retain the crown with their 10-point lead meaning Waisale Serevi’s men only needed to reach the semi-finals – something they hadn’t failed to do all Series – to taste success, regardless of what New Zealand or Samoa achieved at Murrayfield.
However the unpredictability of Sevens is part of its appeal and Wales stunned the champions with a 21-14 victory in the quarterfinals, opening the door for New Zealand to claim a seventh crown. Gordon Tietjens’ men duly did with a 34-5 defeat of Samoa in the final to pip Fiji by two points.
New Zealand were deserved winners, never having failed to reach the semi finals and won three of their four finals – the 31-12 loss to South Africa in the opening tournament of the 2006/07 Series in Dubai the exception.
South Africa scored 31 unanswered points in the second half in Dubai – a tournament that saw Argentina’s Santiago Gomez Cora become the Series’ leading try scorer of all time – to take an early lead in the standings, but the following weekend New Zealand hit back in George with a 24-17 win.
Two months later more history was created in Wellington when Samoa stunned Fiji 17-14 in the final of the NZI Sevens to claim their first ever IRB Sevens World Series Cup title, coach Dicky Tafua’s decision to play home-based players reaping rewards with Mikalele Pesamino an inspirational figure.
Fiji only had to wait a week to gain revenge at the USA Sevens in San Diego, their 38-24 victory meaning they joined New Zealand at the top of the standings with 60 points, four more than South Africa with Samoa a further eight points adrift at the halfway point.
Samoa, though, reaffirmed their credentials as a genuine title contender with victory in Hong Kong – becoming the first nation to win two events in 2006/07. Tietjens labelled their performance outstanding and a 27-22 defeat of Fiji was rewarded with a national holiday declared back home.
The inaugural Adelaide Sevens at the city’s famous cricket oval produced the fourth straight final involving Samoa and Fiji, the latter triumphing 21-7 this time to lead Samoa by 10 points and New Zealand by 14 with only two events remaining in London and Edinburgh.
New Zealand, though, never doubted their ability to snatch the Series crown and 11 tries by Afeleke Pelenise – who was later named IRB Sevens Player of the Year – across two days at a wet Twickenham helped keep them on course with a 29-7 defeat of Fiji in the final.
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