Kurt Baker scored three tries as New Zealand slipped and slid their way into the Hong Kong Sevens semifinals and a date with South Africa.
New Zealand won the first quarterfinal 19-7 in awful conditions as rain tumbled down throughout and handling was a real challenge for both sides. South Africa then dispatched United States in impressive fashion, 28-0, to set up a meeting between the two rugby giants at 7.45pm (NZT).
Baker sealed the deal with his third try just seconds before fulltime, powering over next to the posts after Wales gave the New Zealanders a big fright to draw level 7-7 early in the second half.
New Zealand scored first via Baker who produced a powerful left-hand fend and converted sustained pressure, with Sonny Bill Williams delivering the final pass and having a big influence on their attack.
An early tackle from Sione Molia with Wales heading for the try-line saw him yellow carded just before the break as New Zealand were reduced to six. Molia returned but couldn’t stop Wales drawing level via Ben Roach as New Zealand were outmuscled at the breakdown, not for the first time.
A cracking long range effort put New Zealand back in front as Regan Ware delivered a pinpoint one-handed pass from the sideline and Baker charged down the left wing to slide over with three minutes left. He sealed the deal by pouncing on loose ball which was neatly flicked towards him by Williams who again showed his immense value in the key moments.
New Zealand’s unbeaten ride through two days of pool play was hardly smooth.
Captain Tim Mikkelson was ruled out of the tournament with an ankle sprain suffered while scoring a try against France. New Zealand certainly needed his intervention as they came back from 17-0 down to win 19-17.
They also made hard work of Kenya, winning 5-0 before finishing pool play with a 28-10 win over Samoa. The win was iced by a Williams try that killed off any hope of a Samoa comeback.