All Blacks Sevens' second half flourish not enough as Blitzboks claim Dubai title

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NZN

New Zealand have been punished for a slow start, beaten 24-12 by defending champions South Africa at the world sevens series opening tournament in Dubai.

The Kiwis had remained unbeaten in pool play and through the quarter and semi-finals at the season-opening Dubai Sevens, but never really recovered from a storming South African start in the final.

Rosko Specman, Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith crossed to give the Blitzboks a 19-0 half-time lead before the All Blacks Sevens staged a valiant second-half rally.

Chasing their first tournament win since Vancouver in 2016, the New Zealanders clawed their way back with tries to Scott Curry and Andrew Knewstubb after Specman was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock on.

But at 19-12, and with 13 seconds left on the clock, Tim Agaba closed the game out with South Africa's fourth try of the night.

The Kiwis had earned a spot in the final after downing England 14-5 in the semis, battling back from a 5-0 half-time deficit

A Joey Ravouvou double secured the win for the All Blacks Sevens, who had earlier edged Kenya 14-12 in the quarter-finals.

The Kiwis went unbeaten in pool play, downing Samoa 24-12, Argentina 21-19 and the United States 22-12.

The second world series tournament begins next weekend in Cape Town.

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