For only the second time this season, New Zealand has failed to reach the cup semifinal. Winner in Cape Town and runner-up in Dubai, New Zealand has had a resurgent season after failing to win a cup in the 2016–17 campaign. While that may be an unremarkable occurrence for most nations, it is only the third time that has happened in the All Black Sevens’ history, with the last such occurrence coming in 2008–09.
England, on the other hand, was coming off a two-cup season, which followed a single cup victory in the three seasons prior. This year, however, England has taken a major step backward. A bronze medal in Dubai marked the only wins for England in the cup round on the season. The next three tournaments saw England make the quarterfinal but drop both matches to finish tied for seventh. With Argentina advancing to the semifinal, England cannot move up in the season standings no matter what the outcome, but a loss to New Zealand and a USA cup victory would mean the United States overtaking England for the sixth spot on the table.
New Zealand kicked to the England five-meter line to start the match. Tom Mitchell was able to get back and cover for England, giving his squad a chance to set up an attack from the poor starting position. England did just that for the next seventy seconds, but surrendered a penalty to New Zealand twenty-five meters from the All Blacks Sevens try line. That possession ended with Ngaorhi McGarvey Black touching down following the excellent carry of Joe Webber. Andrew Knewstubb chipped over the two-pointer for the full-score lead.
In the fourth minute, England answered back with a great move and score by Ruaridh McConnochie. Tom Mitchell leveled the score with his conversion. The score fueled England to come out firing on all cylinders on defense, hammering New Zealand at every opportunity. Thrice, England appeared to force a turnover but the ball was given back to New Zealand with a whistle. As the hooter went, New Zealand had a penalty. The All Blacks could do nothing with the penalty and turned the ball over to England. But, like New Zealand moments before, England did nothing with it, knocking the ball on in the first attempt at an offload and ending the half in the process.
The second half started with about as much excitement as imaginable. New Zealand took the kick, tried to run down the left touchline, but ran out of space. The runner threw back inside, but an England defender tapped it back to his captain in the middle of the pitch. England then looked like it had become Fiji with one-handed carries and quick offloads trying to crack the All Blacks defense quickly. It did not work, and New Zealand was able to force a turnover and score with Black’s second try of the match to take the lead. Knewstubb added the points to make it 14–7, New Zealand.
England came charging back with a big run by Dan Norton on England’s left wing. Although he did not succeed in scoring directly from the run, a yellow card against New Zealand inside the twenty-two soon led to a try for Norton back on the right wing. Mitchell’s conversion attempt was perfect and the score was once more level.
Continuing up a body, England won the restart. But New Zealand did just enough in defense to win a turnover and mount an impressive attack, winning a penalty at the England twenty-two to end the yellow card. New Zealand kicked for touch ten meters from the England line. England held off the attack and had a penalty at its own twenty-two. The All Blacks were able to avoid conceding a score and held the ball as the hooter roared out. In the end, it was a try in the right corner for Dylan Collier that saw New Zealand through to the fifth-place match as the 19–14 victor.