Auckland, April 8, 2019
Fiji created history by winning its fifth consecutive title in Hong Kong with a 21-7 victory over France in the Cup final at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
USA claimed the third place to maintain their lead in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with three rounds remaining.
A rare feat
Over the course of three scintillating days of action played out in front of over 100,000 fans at the Hong Kong Stadium, Gareth Baber’s side enthralled the crowd as they achieved something that no other nation has ever done.
In the Cup final, Jerry Tuwai, who is the only star who has played in all the five finals, pulled the strings majestically while Aminiasi Tuimaba scored a brace and Vilimoni Botitu also crossed for a try.
France in Final
After their Silver Medal in Vancouver, France continued their fine form by reaching their second successive Cup final in a season, something that they hadn’t achieved before.
They started at pace, however an early knock-on handed Fiji possession back and Baber’s outfit didn’t need a second invitation to fly.
The rest of the half belonged to them as the HSBC Player of the Final Tuimaba, and Botitu, combined to cross twice with each setting the other up.
Penalty and after
After the break, Fiji’s 14-0 lead was tested when they went down to six players and France were awarded a penalty try. However, from 14-7, Fiji rallied and Tuimaba’s second try ultimately ensured that history would be created in front of a sold-out crowd.
“It’s a fantastic feeling and I’m sure that it will sink in over the next two or three days,” Fiji’s Head Coach said after the full-time whistle.
“I think that all of this has been in the backdrop of what happened in Christchurch, obviously our hearts and our thoughts go out to all of those families and this is a dedication to them.”
With just three full rounds to go on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2019, victory at the Tournament means that Fiji will be ahead of New Zealand in the second place.
Americans on top
The USA are on top with 130 points while South Africa are fourth on 99 points, nine ahead of their chasers England in fifth.
At the end of all ten rounds of this year’s world series, the top four teams will qualify their places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Japan are the only side currently qualified due to automatic qualification as the host nation.
The USA ensured a complete set of medals on the world series this year with a 22-10 victory over Samoa in the Bronze Final.
After four Silvers and a Gold, this third-place finish secured Mike Friday’s side another 17 world series points and puts them in a position to potentially secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 next weekend in Singapore.
In an absorbing fifth place final, Santiago Gómez Cora’s Argentina overturned a series of three successive losses to New Zealand in order to take the spoils by 21-14.
Earlier in the day, Argentina toppled the back-to-back world series champions South Africa 19-17 in the fifth-place semi-final.
In the other Semi-Final, New Zealand got the better of England 17-10 and, at the end of the day, the UL Mark of Excellence was handed to the All Blacks Sevens Co-Captain Scott Curry.
The Award marked the solidarity shown to the side from a number of teams over the three days in response to the recent events that have affected the country.
Scotland beat Japan by 26-24 in a thrilling match in order to clinch the Challenge Trophy awarded to the team placing ninth.
Tough for Japan
The manner of the narrow loss will have been tough for Japan to take, however their run to that point does have a positive outcome for them.
The side’s ability to reach that stage means that they move above Wales into 14th place in the world series standings.
In three rounds’ time, at the end of the world series, the side that finish in 15th position will be relegated with their place being taken by newly-promoted Ireland, who clinched their place on the 2020 series with victory over hosts Hong Kong earlier in the day.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series moves on to Singapore next weekend for the eighth round of the men’s series.
With the series approaching its climax and those all-important ranking points at stake in the race for Olympic qualification fans, can look forward to a hotly contested competition in Singapore.
Sheevas Dayal is our Rugby Correspondent. He lives in Auckland.