By Ben Sheppard

Hong Kong - New Zealand led the charge early on day two of the Hong Kong Sevens on Saturday as the major contenders all progressed smoothly towards the final stages.

New Zealand crushed Russia 54-0, with Tomasi Cama collecting 22 points through two tries and six conversions.

Russia had no answers to the onslaught, but other minor teams were putting up more opposition as the pool games continued.

England, seeking to extend their record four successive titles into a fifth, came through 38-14 against a progressive South Korean side.

In perhaps the best play of the day, England captain Simon Amor casually launched a huge kick that speedster Charlie Amesbury chased down with inches to spare.

Amesbury, aged just 20, completed his hat-trick moments later as the half-time whistle blew, and scored another after the break to record four tries in eight minutes.

"In Sevens you can score so quick, and that was what we did today," said Amesbury, who plays for London's Harlequins.

"The English support in the crowd has been unreal, so what it will be like tomorrow (finals day) I can't imagine."

Tournament favourites Fiji stuttered against Portugal with the score 7-7 at half-time of the 14-minute game.

But they came through 28-7 at the final whistle, helped by two tries from Lepani Nabuliwaqa.

"Portugal kept the ball well, and we didn't. We expect hard games in the pool matches. We are looking good for tomorrow," said Fiji veteran Waisale Serevi.

"My team want to get this trophy this weekend."

In two popular upsets, China beat Canada 21-19, and Tunisia delighted the crowd by coming out 21-12 ahead of seeded France.

South Africa had a serious work-out in against Tonga but finished 31-12 ahead after three tries from playmaker Stefan Basson, man-of-the-tournament at this season's Dubai Sevens.

"It is always good to have a good contest. Yesterday was too easy against Taiwan," said South Africa coach Paul Treu.

"Tongo play a very physical game and are a difficult team to beat.

"Now we will chill before the Wales game later. This is a three-day tournament and it is important to remember to relax."

In earlier pool matches, minnows Sri Lanka showed some pluck against Scotland, scoring three tries before going down 53-21.

Wales, beaten by Tonga on Friday, overwhelmed Taiwan 61-0.

The United States, who overturned France on the opening day, nearly followed up on that success in a brave performance against Australia, but they lost 15-14 after a last-minute try by Josh Holmes.

Thousands of raucous fans packed the 40 000-capacity Hong Kong Stadium for the world Sevens series' showpiece event which attracts supporters from all over the world. - Sapa-AFP