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RUGBY'S BIG FOUR GO FOR GOLD

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 Sept 98 (Bernama):

BY Ian Telford

New Zealand ran in the biggest load of tries, 22 in all, to crush the Bahamas 91-0 and Tonga 41-12 to claim top place on the second day of competition for tomorrow's knockout quarter-finals.

Australia was almost as devastating, running in a total of 21 touchdowns as it swept aside Sri Lanka 68-5 and its northern neighbour Papua New Guinea 59-14.

Reigning sevens world champion Fiji finished the qualifying rounds in third spot after two more bewildering displays -- piling on 20 tries to demolish host Malaysia 63-5 and Kenya 71-0.

South Africa's 19-try haul -- in thumping Swaziland 77-0 and the Cook Islands 38-0 -- booked it the fourth place.

New Zealand's top billing earned it an easy quarter-final clash with Wales, which only scraped into the medal round with a 62-0 thrashing of the Cayman Islands after suffering a humiliating 7-45 loss to Canada, which qualified in sixth place.

The other quarter-finalists -- Samoa, Canada and England --also cut loose today to force their way into the medal round.

Samoa was the most impressive of this group with an upset 19-12 win over England before handing a 13-try whipping to Trinidad and Tobago which conceded 85 points without reply.

Canada also burst into contention to claim sixth place with a nine-try, 47-0 drubbing of Cayman Islands after having earlier demolished the Welsh.

England rallied from its early setback against Samoa to trounce Trinidad and Tobago 50-7 and secure the seventh berth.

Wales took the remaining eighth spot when it scored 10 tries to dump Cayman Islands 62-0.

Fiji and New Zealand, the joint gold medal favourites, continued to spar today for psychological points.

Fiji prop Rauqe Senirusi isn't losing any sleep over the likely prospect of facing Kiwi giant Johah Lomu in the final.

"I'll see what I can do for him," said Senirusi, grinning broadly when asked how he'd handle the winger that most opponents find unstoppable.

"To bring down Lomu doesn't mean that you need strength but the most important thing is that you must have the guts to do it," he said.

Meanwhile, Australian captain David Campese reckons his young squad was much more composed today.

"We actually panicked against the Cayman Islands yesterday, but when we had to score tries today the boys did extremely well," he said.

Campese was referring to the 12 tries against Sri Lanka tonight that enabled the Australians to pip Fiji for second place.

Australian coach Mark Ella remains optimistic that his squad has the ability to make it into the final, even though it would almost certainly have to beat Fiji in the second semi-final.

"The boys played a lot better today and with a little bit of luck we might just make it to the final," he said.

-- BERNAMA



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