Blitzbokke clinch Paris Sevens as Aussies struggle
SEVENS: South Africa were crowned winners of this season's World Rugby Sevens Series on Sunday, beating Scotland 15-5 in the final of the penultimate leg in Paris.
The Blitzboks arrived in the French capital 25 points ahead of closest rivals Fiji in the standings on the back of four tournament wins and seven consecutive finals.
With 22 points on offer for a tournament victory and just one round remaining, in London on May 20-21, South Africa clinched the title after third-placed England lost 19-17 to Scotland before comfortably seeing off New Zealand 26-5 in their own semi-final.
South Africa coach Neil Powell said the series win was one three years in the making.
"We are extremely grateful and blessed, the team worked for this for three seasons," said Powell, who became the first person to win the World Rugby Sevens Series as a player and as a coach, having played in the title-winning 'Bok team in 2008/09.
"Last year we came close, but this time we managed to do it. I have to give the guys credit, they are an incredible group that never feared hard work and they deserve this."
Powell added: "We are not finished though, we want to finish the series strong next week in London and keep chasing that perfect game. We have high standards and keep pushing to improve as a squad."
Scotland's run of form saw them snap a 13-match losing run to stun Olympic champions Fiji 24-0 in the quarter-finals, having also edged South Africa in pool play on Saturday.
But the Blitzbokke had their revenge at a packed Jean Bouin stadium in western Paris, dominating a Scottish side that had gelled well but looked tired.
South Africa dominated the opening minutes, and it didn't take long for them to work the ball into some space wide on the right.
A long pass from skipper Philip Snyman and Werner Kok danced away from the defence for the opening try.
The Scots struggled to get out of their own half, the Blitzboks' hard-nosed defence keeping them pegged back.
Jamie Farndale had the first real break for Scotland, but he didn't back himself against the covering Branco Du Preez.
With no support to hand, the defence quickly turned over possession and Cecil Afrika linked up with Chris Dry to spin the ball wide for Dylan Sage to cross in the corner for a 10-0 lead at half-time.
Scotland were not done, however, James Fleming breaking and linking with Glenn Bryce, whose offload back inside found Scott Wight, who went over the whitewash to reduce the lead.
But the 'Boks hit back, replacement Rosko Specman brilliantly evading a tackle to race away down the touchline.
He was brought down by George Horne as he grubbered ahead, but Snyman was on hand to touch down the ball for South Africa's third try to seal a comfortable victory.
New Zealand won the bronze medal match, tries from Sam Dickson and Sherwin Stowers cancelling out an early Will Edwards five-pointer for England in the 12-5 victory.
United States, for whom speedster Perry Baker had been outstanding over the two days of competition, claimed fifth spot with a 24-19 victory over last season's winners in Paris, Samoa.
Argentina won the Trophy final, beating Australia 33-12 to bag ninth spot.
The overall performance for the tournament left Australian coach Andy Friend searching for answers as to how to improve.
"We battled through two wins against Japan and Wales and then in the third game we were totally outplayed by Argentina. We weren't cohesive and we paid the penalty there," Friend said.
"Injuries had an impact but we can't blame that. At the end of the day we need to look at how we prepared and came into the tournament. We'll work on our ability as a team to communicate both in attack and defence. The talk wasn't out there, and that's just an attitude thing."