RWC Sevens 09: Wales claim Melrose Cup
By Mick Donohoe
In a final day of massive upsets at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai, Wales overcame Argentina in the men's Cup final to inscribe their name on the Melrose Cup.
They follow England (1993), Fiji (1997), New Zealand (2001) and Fiji (2005) in landing Sevens rugby's most coveted prize.
Wales scored three tries to Argentina's two in the final, turning the tables on their more fancied opponents who had beaten them 14-0 in the Pool F decider on Friday. Coach Paul John worked wonders with his side after that loss, ably led by Richie Pugh, Tom Isaacs, Tal Selley and Aled Brew.
It was a confident start to the final by Wales in front of a boisterous crowd, with Pugh crossing for the opening try inside two minutes. Argentina's Martin Rodriguez then pounced on a Wales mistake, racing 50 metres to score in the corner.
Selley continued his great form in the tournament, reclaiming the lead for the Welsh with a smart individual try to make it 12-7 at half time. After the break, Argentina's Gonzalo Camacho chased down a perfectly placed cross field kick to score in the corner and level the scores.
Just when it looked as if the match was heading into sudden death extra time - just as the women's final had - Aled Thomas found a way through a tiring Argentina defence to break the deadlock and ensure his side wrote their names into the RWC Sevens history books.
Upsets aplenty on path to finals
While upsets can usually be expected in Sevens, few could have anticipated the fall of defending champions Fiji, New Zealand, England and South Africa in the Cup quarter finals with all four of them touted as possible champions coming into the tournament.
Earlier in the day, Wales sent the crowd at 'The Sevens' into a frenzy with a one-point win over New Zealand in the quarter finals, before accounting for Samoa 19-12 in the semi final, becoming the first side through to the Cup final.
The Pacific islanders had themselves produced a mistake-free first half to lead England 21-7 in their quarter final. England fought back well to send the match into sudden death extra time at 26-26, but Samoa had one more challenge up their sleeve for a well deserved five-point win.
The win clearly delighted Samoa coach Rudi Moors, who had struggled to contain his emotions through the match, the final whistle prompting a cartwheel onto the pitch in celebration.
South American hero
Meanwhile, Argentina continued their methodical path to the final with a come-from-behind win over South Africa. Trailing 5-0 at the break, the hero for the Pumas was Martin Bustos Moyano with two second half tries.
Kenya booked a meeting with Argentina in the semi finals after the Africans had arguably caused the biggest upset of the day over Fiji 26-7, giving their fanatical supporters plenty to cheer about and ending the islanders' reign as world champions.
Coach Benjamin Ayimba had predicted six months ago that Kenya would win this Rugby World Cup Sevens and his team were living up to his word. However the win may have left the Kenyans a little flat, unable to repeat their earlier heroics in the semi final, going down 12-0 to Duncan Forrester's men.
Plate and Bowl finals go down to the wire
Two closely contested finals saw Scotland defeat Australia 21-17 in the Plate, while Zimbabwe are the only African nation to take home a trophy from RWC Sevens 2009 with a hard fought 17-14 win over Ireland in the Bowl.
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