The London Sevens got off to a thirlling start at Twickenham, which was capped by England seeing off tournament favourites Fiji in their opening fixture.
All Fiji need to do to win the overall series is to reach the cup quarter-finals at Twickenham, and that task has become tougher following their opening defeat.
Their conquerers in last week's Paris final, Samoa also suffered defeat in their first fixture of the tournament, while their were handsome victories for South Africa and New Zealand.
Kenya take early command of Pool C following comeback win
The competition got underway early on Saturday morning, with a pair of European sides going head-to-head in Pool C. France’s Jeremy Aicardi scored the only try of the opening half to give Les Bleus a 7-0 lead after Nick McClennan had gone close for Scotland early on.
Aicardi then doubled his try scoring tally early in the second-half, before Jamie Farndale crossed for the Scots to slice the French lead in half, before captain James Johnstone spotted a gaping hole in the French defence to level the scores moments later. The French came closest to snatching a winner, but it wasn’t to be and both sides had to settle for the draw.
The second Pool C encounter saw Kenya take on Portugal, and it was the Europeans who forced their way into a surprise lead, when the most experienced member of their squad, Pedro Leal crossed for two early tries giving them a 10-0 lead.
Kenya’s Collins Injera then showed his blistering pace to score his side’s first try of the day, with the 29-year-old moving within two scores of Santiago Gomez-Cora’s all-time record in the process. A long break from Nuno Guedes got the Portugese back in position to strike, and moments later Vasco Mendes who struck for their third try, giving them a 17-5 lead at the break.
Kenya’s tournament victory in Singapore last month showed they mean business on the Sevens circuit, and the second half was played exclusively in Portugal’s half as he Africans secured the come-from-behind win. Oscar Ayodi scored twice to draw the teams level at 17-17, before Frank Wanyama crossed for the winning try in the dying seconds as Kenya gained early control of the pool.
Baker shines as Paris champions suffer opening defeat
After putting in one of the performances of the season last week in Paris to beat Fiji in a thrilling cup final at the Stade Jean Bouin, Samoa suffered early defeat six days later at Twickenham, going down 12-5 in their Pool A opener against the United States.
Perry Baker was the star of the show for the US, scoring and then assisting a try, either side of Belgium Tuatagaloa’s score for the Samoans. Damian McGrath’s side had their chances late on, but strong defence by the Americans saw them claim the three points.
The second game in Pool A saw South Africa beat Canada 21-7 thanks to a first-half brace from Ryan Kankowski. Worcester’s Francois Hougaard extended the lead from close range, before Canada got on the scoreboard after the full-time siren had sounded through skipper John Moonlight.
Returning Mikkelson scores try double as Kiwis make strong start
The favourites both claimed victories in the first set of Pool D fixtures, with Argentina continuing their fine form to see off Russia 22-12 in the opener and New Zealand easing past Brazil 31-0.
Argentina had to come from behind for their victory, with Santiago Cordero, Matias Moroni, Fernando Luna and Rodrigo Etchart all crossing for tries after the Russians had taken a 12-0 lead in the opening moments before Ramil Gaysin became the first man sent to the Twickenham sin-bin.
New Zealand then opened their account with a 31-0 victory over the Olympic hosts Brazil. In his return from injury, Tim Mikkelson scored twice for the Kiwis, as did Rieko Ioane, with Pita Akhi also scoring following fine work from Sonny Bill Williams.
Series leaders stunned by hosts as Pool B gets off to thrilling start
The morning session ended with the highly-anticipated Pool B, which got underway with Australia seeing off Wales 22-10. After soaking up early pressure, the Aussies took the lead through Henry Hutchinson, with the same man then scoring again at the end of the half for a ten-point lead at the break.
Sam Figg then dummied his way over to extend the lead to 17, before Wales got back into the game with a try by Owen Jenkins who just managed to reach over the line after being caught short of the line by Pama Fou. Fou then showed great pace once more to touch down after latching onto a long kick downfield, before Jenkins hit back once more for the Welsh, yet it was too late to mount a serious fight back.
In the final match of the morning, Dan Norton lit up Twickenham with two excellent tries, to help England see off the overall series leaders Fiji 31-10.
Norton's first saw him scorch down the touchline to beat his opposite winger before stepping the full back to give England the perfect start. After gathering the resulting restart, Alex Gray spotted a gap in the Fijian defence which he managed to break through, before holding off the closing defenders to score England’s second.
Alex Davis then put England 19-0 up following another break, before Fiji got themselves a try on the cusp of half-time through Waisea Nayacalevu to trail by 14 at the break.
The second-half started in similar fashion to the first with an breathtaking try by Norton. The speedster stepped past his opposite winger once more, before chipping the full-back and re-gaining his own kick to send the lead back out to 19.
Masivesi Dakuwaqa closed the gap after a break-away try, before an interception from Tom Bowen helped England finish with a flourish, giving them an excellent chance of reaching the cup quarter-finals in the process.