HONG KONG – Fiji produced a trademark flair-filled display to beat holders New Zealand 33-19 and win the 40th edition of the Hong Kong Sevens in front of a packed celebratory crowd on Sunday.
The Pacific Islanders’ brute force and extreme pace, coupled with eye-catching goose steps and deft offloads in the tackle, proved too much for the Kiwis, with the impressive Savenaca Rawaca scoring two of the Fijian’s five tries in the final.
The victory, their third in Hong Kong in four years, moved the Fijians up to second in the standings on 108 points with three legs to go in the campaign. The top four after the final legs in Scotland and Twickenham, London, in May will qualify for the sport’s Olympic return at the Rio de Janeiro Games next year.
“Tactically we were really astute, defending at the right pace, and scored when we needed to. Outstanding by the team,” Fiji’s English coach Ben Ryan said in a pitchside interview as his side joined together in a singsong.
Fijian skipper Osea Kolinisau dedicated the victory to compatriot and 15-a-side prop Bele Tabalala, who died in his sleep last week.
South Africa still leads the way on 110 points after thrashing Samoa to take third having lost to the impressive Fijians 21-15 in the semifinals.
New Zealand, held to a humbling 24-24 draw by Portugal in the pool phase, dropped to third on 107 after collecting 19 points in Hong Kong in its pursuit of a 13th overall title in 16 years.
Australia, edged out by South Africa 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the main Cup competition, is fourth on 84 after winning the second tier Plate tournament which stretched its lead over fifth-placed England to six points.
The English, beaten 14-12 by Fiji in the Cup, suffered a disappointing showing in Hong Kong after falling 12-7 to the Australians in the semifinals of the Plate.
Scotland took the third-tier Bowl by beating France 26-5 and Kenya claimed the Shield after easing past Japan 26-7.
Russia qualified for next season’s 15-team series by edging Zimbabwe 22-19 in a dramatic final qualifier with Vladimir Ostroushko scoring the match-winning, length-of-the-field try on the buzzer.
Russia is likely to replace struggling Japan, which hosts the seventh leg of the series next week.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5