NZ win Hong Kong Sevens opener despite losing sick captain

Impersonators of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, former U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. President Donald Trump, from left, Howard, Reggie Brown and Dennis Alan, pose with their fans on a street during an event to promote the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens in Hong Kong, Friday, April 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG — New Zealand overcame the disruption of losing captain Scott Curry for the entire Hong Kong Sevens to beat Wales 19-7 in their opening match on Friday.

Curry withdrew from the three-day event, the most prestigious in the sevens rugby world series, because of flu, forcing the team into a last-minute reshuffle.

Sam Dickson was promoted into the squad for the stricken Curry while DJ Forbes took over as captain, and marked his promotion by scoring one of his team's three tries in the Pool C match.

Fiji, which has beaten New Zealand in the last two Hong Kong finals, made an ominous start by thrashing Japan 36-0, spoiling a landmark day for Asian rugby after Japan's women pulled off a major upset by beating South Africa to win the women's final.

Fiji, the Olympic champion which has won a record 16 Hong Kong titles, opened the scoring after less than a minute when Jerry Tuwai scored the first of his two tries in another Pool C encounter.

England, winner of the last round of the series in Vancouver, was also impressive in crushing South Korea 52-0 in Pool A. Oliver Lindsay-Hague and Charlton Kerr bagged two tries apiece but they were outshone by Dan Norton, whose try lifted his career tally to 245, overtaking Kenya's Collins Injera as the all-time leading try-scorer in the world series.

Injera did not add to his tally of 244 as Kenya surprisingly lost to Canada in Pool B.

Kenya looked to have earned a late draw when Nelson Oyoo scored under the crossbar with less than a minute to go to tie the score at 14-14, but ill-discipline let them down as Canada stole the win 17-14 with a penalty from Nathan Hirayama after the siren.

World series leader South Africa defeated France 17-10 in Pool B, Australia edged Samoa 22-19 in Pool A, Argentina beat Scotland 22-14 in Pool D, and the United States beat Russia 14-7 in Pool D with speedster Perry Baker notching his 25th try of the season.

The remaining pool matches are on Saturday, with the knockout games on Sunday.

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