Fiji make history with magnificent sevens triumph
Fiji produced a breathtaking performance that epitomised the pace, power and skill of their distinctive brand of rugby to become the first men’s Olympic sevens champions on 11 August, giving the Pacific island nation its first-ever Games medal.
Facing Great Britain in the final of the inaugural tournament, the Fijians ran rampant with five tries in the first half before taking their collective foot of the gas and adding only two more after the break to seal a 43-7 victory.
Skipper Osea Kolinisau, Jerry Tuwai, Jasa Veremalua, Leone Nakarawa, Vatemo Ravouvou, Josua Tuisova and Viliame Mata all scored tries as Fiji collected its first Olympic title at its 14th Games. The fact that all seven tries were scored by different players illustrated the open, attacking game that the Fijians played throughout the final.
Their mission complete, the Fijian players, many of them in tears, linked arms in a circle on the halfway line and sang together with eyes raised up to the dark skies above.
Fiji’s capital Suva ground to a standstill during the final as crowds gathered in bars, shopping centres and at the national stadium to watch the match at 10am local time. Once victory was sealed there were cheers, pandemonium and a cacophony of car horns as people poured on to the streets to celebrate. The team’s performances have been followed so closely back home that the country’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has declared a public holiday next week to mark the occasion.
“I’m a little bit lost for words. The boys were on another scale of phenomenal. They were brilliant,” said Fiji’s British coach Ben Ryan. “We wanted to show people the way we play, the Fijian way, and we were lucky enough to pull it off in such spectacular fashion. The players played some high-risk rugby and hopefully everybody who was watching, maybe even the British supporters, can have a smile. That was the way we wanted to play the game.”
One of several players that performed brilliantly on the night, Kolinisau revealed what his final words to the team had been before going out for the match, saying: “I told the boys we needed to have fire in our heart but ice in our minds and stay cool-headed. Then after the match, I said to the boys on the podium, ‘Is this really happening? Did we finish our game and win a gold medal?’”
The shellshocked British failed to even get out of their own half in the opening period and when Dan Norton finally touched down for their only score it was only ever going to be a consolation.
“They just attacked everything, they went for everything and it all paid off,” said Britain’s James Rodwell. “They’re one of the best there is. They’ve won the world series for the last two years and now they’ve added an Olympic gold medal so credit to them, they had an absolute blinder.”
Earlier in the day Japan’s remarkable run at the tournament, which included victories over New Zealand and France, came to an end with defeat to the Fijians in the semi-finals. Their hopes of having a bronze medal to show for their giant-killing exploits were crushed by South Africa, who claimed the final podium place when they ran out 54-14 winners in a similarly one-sided third-place decider.