WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Former world champion Fiji was relegated to the second-tier bowl for the first time in its history as upsets abounded on the first day of the Wellington Rugby Sevens on Friday.

The top four teams in the world standings all suffered shock losses in a day of turmoil at the fourth stop on the world circuit.

First-placed New Zealand was beaten 19-14 by England in its opening match before posting unconvincing wins over Spain and the United States to scrape into the top-tier cup quarterfinals.

But second-placed France and third-placed Fiji both failed to qualify for the cup and will play in the consolation bowl on Saturday.

Fiji was beaten 14-12 by Scotland in its opening match and 21-12 by Australia before rallying to win its final pool match 24-7 over Portugal. That amounted to one of its worst-ever opening days at a world series tournament.

France lost 24-12 to Kenya in its first match of the day, beat Tonga 33-7 but lost any hope of remaining in the cup when it was beaten 17-14 by Argentina.

Crowd favorite Kenya emerged unbeaten from Pool B with wins over France, Argentina and Tonga to earn a quarterfinal on Saturday against South Africa.

New Zealand was shaken by its opening loss to England but was able to grind out a 36-5 win over Spain and 17-10 win over the United States to retain the hope of defending its tournament title.

England qualified at the top of New Zealand's Pool A and will play Scotland in the quarterfinals while New Zealand will play Australia. Argentina will meet Samoa, which finished atop Pool C, while Australia finished first in Pool D ahead of Scotland.

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens said some of the top teams may not have worked hard enough since the last round of the series in South Africa and became vulnerable to their lower-ranked opponents.

"There was a big gap since Port Elizabeth (South Africa) and maybe some teams haven't worked as hard as they should," he said. "Those other teams stepped up today and put a lot of pressure on the top teams.

"You can see the result: No. two and three in the standings (France and Fiji) are both in the bowl."

The American speedster Carlin Isles, reputedly the fastest man in rugby with a best 100 meters time of 10.24 seconds, saw little play on the opening day. He took the field late in the match against New Zealand but wasn't able to alter the outcome.

 

Advertisement