New Zealand kicked off day one of the Hamilton Sevens by flattening Japan 52-0 in the men’s tournament.
The last meeting between these two nations in sevens was Japan’s shock 14-12 win in the pool stages of the 2016 Rio Olympics, which led to New Zealand’s crushing exit in the quarter-finals and the departure of sevens coaching guru Sir Gordon Tietjens.
But the Kiwis were too good on home turf this time, gaining some revenge for that defeat in Rio as New Zealand’s leg of the World Sevens Series commenced on Saturday for its second year in Hamilton.
Sione Molia skipped through the line for New Zealand’s opening try within the first minute and Jona Nareki soon doubled their lead at FMG Stadium Waikato.
Japan are back on the sevens circuit this season with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, but the 2019 Rugby World Cup hosts have struggled in the two events prior to Hamilton and looked no match for New Zealand, who finished their first game with eight tries to no reply.
New Zealand later play Canada and Spain in their final pool games.
Meanwhile, Samoa sprung day one’s first surprise by beating England 12-10 in the opening round.
Tietjens’ side paid tribute by wearing black armbands for Samoan flanker Faiva Tagatauli, who died in hospital in Apia on Thursday after falling unconscious following a head injury in a club game in Samoa.
There was an early injury blow for Perry Baker after the American speedster suffered a broken jaw in a sickening clash of heads during the USA’s opening 29-7 win against tournament debutants Tonga.
Reigning tournament champions Fiji ran riot against Wales, scoring eight tries for a 54-7 triumph before their vibrant and adoring fans, who offered plenty of colour and noise.