RIO DE JANEIRO – Japan’s incredible run at the men’s rugby sevens tournament at the Rio Olympics continued Wednesday with two more wins to reach the semifinals.
A majestic 31-7 victory over Kenya in their final pool game at Deodoro Stadium was followed by a gutsy 12-7 triumph over France as Tomohiro Segawa’s team moved to within one win of an Olympic medal.
“It feels like we are approaching our target step by step,” Segawa said. “The team have achieved momentum and I want us to preserve that in our preparations. Even in the rain we were able to play well in their half of the field.”
Standing in Japan’s way of a place in the final is Fiji, which remained unbeaten and in the hunt for its first-ever Olympic medal of any color, with a 12-7 win over New Zealand.
The other semifinal sees Britain take on South Africa, following two more thrilling games.
Team GB, which started the day with a 21-19 win over New Zealand, remained unbeaten as it topped Argentina 5-0 in a game that went into sudden death extra-time, while South Africa avenged a 12-5 loss earlier in the day in pool play by beating Australia 22-5.
Meanwhile, in the bowl semifinals to determine 9th to 12th places, the United States beat Brazil 24-12 and Spain edged Kenya 14-12.
“I felt the will from the players. I knew they would do it,” Segawa said after the win over Kenya. And that will power was very much evident in the semifinal against France.
Japan trailed 7-0 at the break after Damien Cler had been worked free by his teammates, Terry Bouhraoua adding the extras.
Japan needed to start the second stanza well and it did just that, forcing the French into a mistake, with Lote Tuqiri going over from a quick tapped penalty.
With time running out it looked like Katsuyuki Sakai’s missed conversion would be the difference between the two sides.
But Japan dug deep and Teruya Goto powered over 17 seconds before the hooter.
“We thought that if we kept running right to the end, we would win,” Goto said. “The try was our gift to everyone in Japan. Our goal is winning a medal and until we get there, we’re not going to feel exhaustion.”
Sakai used the remaining time to take the kick and banged it over to start the celebrations.
“We’ve made history,” Sakai said. “The chance to meet Fiji on a stage such as this is more than one could ask for. I want to give more than 100 percent.”