New Zealand unbeaten on opening day of Vegas Sevens

Los Angeles (AFP) –


New Zealand, aiming to separate themselves from the United States atop the World Rugby Sevens Series standings, swept to two victories Friday on the opening day of the Las Vegas Sevens.

New Zealand are safely through to the Cup quarter-finals with one game remaining in pool play thanks to victories over Samoa and Canada.

Neither Canada nor Spain can match New Zealand's two wins after battling to a 12-12 draw, but either could still snatch second in the group from Samoa.

Regan Ware's two converted tries within 30 seconds helped the Kiwis to 33--0 victory over Samoa. Sione Molia added a third before the break and Kurt Baker and Molia extended the final score.

Leading Canada just 14-12 at halftime, New Zealand had two tries from Tim Mikkelson and one from Jona Nareki for a 33-19 victory.

"Feels pretty good," said Kiwi captain Mikkelson. "We started really well with Samoa and played a really good Canada team that likes to hold onto the ball -- they pushed us there and we really had to have good defense."

Australia, Fiji, Argentina and England also made it two from two on Friday, but the United States, level with New Zealand atop the series standings with 76 points, were upset 26-24 by Argentina -- who seized the win with a late try and conversion after the siren sounded.

Argentina also edged France 17-15.

Australia booked a quarter-final berth with a convincing 26-0 win over Wales and a 24-12 victory over Scotland.

The Aussies will play Fiji in their final pool match on Saturday with top spot up for grabs after Fiji beat Scotland 36-12 and Wales 33-14.

England emerged from day one unbeaten, thumping Chile 22-0 and beating Japan 31-12. South Africa started off strong with a 26-0 victory over Japan, but were held to a stunning 5-5 draw by Chile.

The remaining pool matches and Cup quarter-finals are scheduled for Saturday with the semi-finals and final on Sunday.

The Vegas event is the fifth round of the 10-tournament series. The Americans are seeking a first victory after four runner-up finishes, most recently their loss to New Zealand in the Sydney Sevens final.