SA lose but reach Dubai 7s quarters; NZ win women’s title

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Defending champion South Africa lost to Argentina 17-12 in a thriller and still progressed to the Dubai Sevens rugby quarterfinals on Friday.

South Africa blew a 12-0 lead, and conceded late penalties as Argentina rallied to trail by two. Conrado Roura appeared to score the match-winning try for Argentina with a minute left, but video showed he dropped the ball in Werner Kok’s try-saving tackle.

But play was called back for a high tackle by South Africa’s Siviwe Soyizwapi, who was sin-binned. Argentina restarted with possession and worked the man advantage to give Franco Sabato a huge overlap out right with 25 seconds left.

Only Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia finished pool play unbeaten.

Fiji had a lucky escape against Scotland. Sam Pecqueur scored a try with seconds left for Scotland to trail by only 21-19, then Jamie Farndale appeared to touch down the winner, but it was disallowed because he stepped out of bounds.

New Zealand’s toughest match was with the United States, and Andrew Knewstubb was in the thick of it.

Knewstubb was tackled in the air taking the opening kickoff, causing America’s Perry Baker to be sin-binned. New Zealand scored while he was away, and Knewstubb charged in try No. 2. While Knewstubb was sin-binned in the second half, America finally scored but New Zealand prevailed 24-7.

Dan Norton of England became the first player in world series history to score 300 tries, with a 70-meter screamer against Canada. By the end of the day he was on 302, but was a creator rather than a scorer in the pool decider with Australia.

In a match in which the lead changed four times, Australia made the last change count when Ben O’Donnell scored after England received a third yellow card, to Dan Bibby for failing to roll away. Australia won 21-19.

Australia will play Argentina in the quarterfinals on Sunday. England will face South Africa, Fiji meets the United States, and New Zealand plays Scotland.

Meanwhile in the women’s series, world champion New Zealand remained perfect by beating Canada 26-14 in the final for a second title in this series and fifth straight going back to last season.

The teams went back and forth in the first half, New Zealand going to halftime 12-7 up after possession was ripped from Canada and Tyla Nathan-Wong scored.

Gayle Broughton’s try after Canada was penalized put New Zealand further in front, but Canada cut the deficit to five again with four minutes left after Julia Greenshields broke away and scored.

The turning point came when Bianca Farella was sin-binned for a high tackle, and New Zealand took advantage with a scrappy run by Stacey Waaka and Nathan-Wong’s second, insurance try.

New Zealand has neatly alternated the Dubai title with Australia since winning the first final in 2012. Australia was third, after beating the United States 26-7.