HONG KONG (AP) — Defending champion Fiji and world series leader New Zealand enjoyed comfortable opening wins in Hong Kong Sevens rugby on Friday.
Fiji beat Asian champ Hong Kong 36-0, scoring even while Osea Kolinisau was in the sin-bin for a spear tackle to lead 26-0 at halftime.
New Zealand put away France 33-12, conceding tries to French all-time leading scorer Paul Albaladejo to begin each half, but replying twice from kickoffs, another time from a lineout, and a scrum tighthead.
Should the greatest winners of sevens' annual jewel event keep winning, however, 13-time champ Fiji and 10-time champ New Zealand are destined to meet in the semifinals on Sunday. They have met in 12 Hong Kong finals, many of them classics.
In a matchup of former champs, Samoa tore apart an error-prone England 28-7. Two tries to Fa'atoina Autagavaia and one to Reupena Levasa, all of them converted, lifted Samoa to 21-0 by the break, after which both sides began emptying their benches.
South Africa, winner of the last series stop in Las Vegas last month, was tied up in a scoreless first half with Argentina, which went on to win 21-0 thanks to two tries by Nicolas Bruzzone and the last by Juan Ignacio Brex and likely condemn the South Africans' chances of a first Hong Kong title.
Wales beat Australia 19-14 for the first time in 15 months and for only the fifth time ever. Wales blew a 12-0 lead, Australia went ahead 14-12 then Cory Allen scored a converted try with 30 seconds to go. But replacement Shannon Walker had a chance to win it for Australia with the last move as he dribbled the ball to the tryline, only to see his last kick go over the deadball line before his despairing dive.
Portugal also won a thriller in beating Scotland 27-21 in Hong Kong for the first time in 11 years. Portugal scored four tries in the first half, but a failure to convert any of them almost cost it. Scotland converted their three tries to lead 21-20 with 90 seconds left. But after Scotland's Russell Weir was yellow-carded, Pedro Leal set up Duarte Moreira, who fended off Colin Shaw, to score his fourth try of the match after the full-time hooter.
"I just had luck to have the ball," Moreira said. "I took the chance and the luck came with me."
Carlin Isles, rugby's fastest man, scored for the United States but Kenya won their match 17-14, and Canada defeated Spain 31-7.