Series leaders New Zealand and closest rivals Fiji both got off to strong starts as the sixth leg of the Sevens World Series got underway in Hong Kong on Friday.
Defending champions the Kiwis cruised through 29-5 against the United States, enjoying an explosive start with an early try by Mark Jackman, followed-up quickly by another from Solomon King who capitalised on careless fumbling by the Americans.
"We're pretty happy, pretty satisfied," said New Zealand's coaching supremo Gordon Tietjens, at the helm for 18 successful years.
"It's the first game, we're finding our feet and getting used to playing together because we haven't been together since Vegas," Tietjens said, referring to last month's leg in the US when the Kiwis lost in the final after a stunning late try by Samoa.
"It's a really tough town to do well in and we have two tough games that will go right down to the wire," the Kiwis coach said as he looked to his next matches in the pool against other traditional powerhouses South Africa and Wales.
The Welsh looked out of sorts in their opener, failing to score a try against South Africa to go down 10-0 - thanks to tries from Boom Prinsloo and Cecil Afrika.
The two teams fought a tough, physical battle and South Africa coach, Paul Treu, will now look forward to more of the same in their remaining Pool B matches - against the US and Kiwis on Saturday.
According to Treu, Wales gave his side a few problems in the first half, but they were able to realign their defensive pattern after the break.
“This was our first competitive match since we played in Las Vegas, and we also managed a lot of injuries during our preparations for this tournament. So with that in mind, I am pleased that we came through this game without conceding any points against a very strong and physical Welsh team,” explained Treu.
This year's tournament, which runs until Sunday, doubles as a qualification event to identify three new teams to participate in an expanded 15 core team world series next season, meaning the 12 core teams have been bunched into three tough Pools A to C.
"It's the hardest tournament to win and they've made it even tougher by splitting the pools," said Fiji's new coach Alifereti Dere after his side romped to victory 39-5 in their opener against a feisty but eventually fruitless Scotland.
The new format, and the special intensity of the Hong Kong atmosphere, were all factors to take into consideration, Dere said, after his side overwhelmed the Scottish defence.
"It's a tough day from day one. We can witness the crowd is already here. From day one it is full... it puts a lot of pressure on the players."
It was an especially proud day for the coach, who captained the Fiji side to victory in Hong Kong in 1990, beating New Zealand in the final.
"It's my first experience [as coach]. I'm a bit nervous and I think I am about to go forward," he said, looking around at the multi-coloured, fan-filled stands of the 40,000-capacity stadium.
Fiji's next opponents France struggled in their opener against Australia, buckling under the attacking pressure to lose 31-10.
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