Fiji has won the Sydney 7s for the first time ever, defeating old rivals South Africa in a thrilling match last night.
Both teams were out for redemption having not progressed past the pool stages last week.
It was a tough and fair encounter with both teams struggling to maintain possession of the ball in the wet conditions in Parramatta.
In the end the Fiji warriors managed to shrug off a dangerous green and gold Blitzbokke side who were always threatening to steal the win away from the Fijians.
Fiji won with 12 points to 10 with Napolioni Bolaca named as the HSBC Sydney 7s player of the final.
The win capped a better day for Pacific gladiators at the tournament.
The Fijianas were in absolute phenomenal form yesterday morning to beat newcomers to the sport, Brazil, by a whopping 31 – 0.
They then met England for the fifth place play-off.
The Fijianas proved to be worthy opponents, beating England by 17 points to 5. It was the second time in two weeks the English women had suffered defeat at the hands of the Fijianas.
The Fijianas have moved from 9th to 7th position overall in the series, and are looking very promising.
Back in the men’s competition, Samoa lost their last pool match against South Africa (36 – 0) but was able to snatch a win in the tournament against Kenya, and 15th place in the tournament.
Earlier on the way to the final , Fiji flattened a strong Welsh side with a 55 – 0 victory. Waisea Nacuqu was the key player for his side in that game.
They then beat the determined English side in the semi-finals 17 – 14 to secure their first Cup final appearance in the 2020 HSBC 7s series.
“To all the supporters who came out in numbers to support us, this win is for you too, ” Fiji captain Meli Derenalagi told the crowd.
New Zealand took home the women’s title beating Canada 33 – 7. The Black Ferns have won 4 titles in row this season.
The next leg of the HSBC 7s series will be held in Los Angeles, USA from the 29th February – 1st March.
Fiji is now ranked at 5th overall in the series with 53 points and Samoa is in 13th spot with 23 points.
New Zealand still lead the ladder with 76 points.
The Fiji 7s Men’s team was disappointed yesterday in Hamilton despite its strong performance in day one of the competition, but is now looking to the Sydney leg of the competition.
While disappointed with their performance, veteran halfback and co-captain Jerry Tuwai remains hopeful for the future: “To everyone back in Fiji, trust us we can come back. Fiji can rise again from this defeat.”
Although the side managed to meet the tough challenges issued by neighbours Samoa and Australia on Saturday, they couldn’t handle Argentina on Sunday, losing emphatically in its last pool match.
As a result, Fiji joined Samoa at the bottom of the pool.
Fiji later won against South Africa to finish 9th in Hamilton, maintaining its 7th spot on the overall World Rugby 7s series rankings.
Samoa sits at number 12 in the rankings.
The Fijiana (women's) side also lost their final pool match early Sunday morning to the New Zealand Black Ferns 38 – 21.
The game was all tied up 21 points a piece going into half-time.. The current world champs looked stunned for a while before edging the Fijianas in the second half.
The side also went down narrowly against Russia 21- 26 in their last game in Hamilton.
Captain Raijieli Daveua was badly injured against Russia; she needed to be carried from the field.
Despite these setbacks, things are looking very promising for the Fijian women’s side as the players showed signs of development and maturity in their games in Hamilton.
Pacific Women’s Rugby is still developing in our region. Hopefully more Pacific Island countries will join the Fijiana in the current 7s series before too long.
New Zealand won both the men's and women's competition in Hamilton.
The Fijiana 7s team created history by defeated England in their first pool match at the Hamilton 7s tournament yesterday. The English women were caught napping on most occasions as the Pacific Island players danced through and around the English defence.
Captain Raijieli Daveua and seasoned veteran Rusila Nagasau led from the front and were instrumental in guiding the team to a first-time ever victory over a well-balanced English women’s 7s team.
Despite the historic win, the Fijiana’s unfortunately lost their second match to China. It was a fairly even head-to-head but most rugby pundits would say that Fiji were robbed of an easy win in the game.
As if the early permanent send-off was not enough, controversial calls made by the referee in charge throughout the game did not favour the Fijiana’s cause despite their valiant efforts.
In the end, China were gifted the win and Fiji might just be bundled out of the Cup contention.
In the men’s competition, Fiji and Samoa clashed horns in their first pool match. Samoa was quick off the blocks, scoring in the first minute straight from the get go.
Though appearing startled, the Fiji boys quickly regathered composure and immediately struck back with tries of their own.
The Samoans fought hard till the very the last whistle but still came up short with 12 -19 defeat.
Samoa were handed their second loss of the afternoon from a walloping margin from Argentina.
For Fiji, young Meli Derenalagi battled hard and proved to be very dominant in the contact areas, securing rucks and making crucial tackles for his side.
Pressure will be mounting for the 21-year-old rookie this weekend as he captains his country for the very first time.
He and World Rugby’s player of the year Jerry Tuwai take over the role from Paula Dranisinikula who is out with an injury.
Fiji just managed to keep the hopes alive with a 19 – 12 victory over the Aussies. Fiji will need to beat Argentina in its last pool match then automatically head to straight into the semi-finals.
Samoa is to play its last pool game tomorrow against Australia.
The Fijiana will play New Zealand. The Black Ferns have been in phenomenal form, which will make it an absolute cracker of a match today.
Pacific Island teams hope to make the crowd go wild again at the Hamilton 7s this weekend.
It's that time of the year when New Zealand rugby fans, especially Pacific Islanders, cram the stands of FMG Stadium and the busy city streets of the Waikato region.
The Fiji 7s men's side is looking to once again defend its 7s title in Hamilton. The side is usually the biggest draw in any tournament they enter and so happens to attract many rugby fans from near and far.
They’ve made a good start, beating Samoa 19-12, although the Samoans put up a strong fight.
The Fiji team has won in Hamilton for the past two years and hopes to lift the trophy for the third consecutive time.
This year's tournament will again host both men and women's competition, as it did last year.
Fiji and Samoa will feature in the men's competition, while the Fijiana side will be the lone South Pacific team in the women's competition.
Tonga is not on the current HSBC 7s series roster and needs to win the qualifying tournaments to be promoted back to the top level.
Interestingly, this year's tournament will not feature any quarterfinal games. The whole quarterfinal stage is being omitted from the layout.
The new format was introduced by World Rugby in the belief that it will lessen the confusion in the finals day for fans, and create better opportunities and balance for women's rugby.
The Sydney 7s tournament will follow the same format, despite opposition from some teams and fans, including Fiji coach Gareth Baber.
The Hamilton 7s started today and will finish tomorrow.
New Zealand currently leads the World 7s series rankings for the men competition with 41 points. Fiji is ranked at 6th place with 23 points and Samoa at 7th place with 19 points. The Fijiana are currently in 8th spot in the women's category with 20 points trailing the New Zealand Black Ferns at number 1 spot with 56 points.
The Pacific nations are set to jet off to Japan with less than a month to go till the opening of the Rugby World Cup 2019. The entertainers of rugby, the South Sea Islanders are looking to once again set the Rugby World Cup stage ablaze.
Tonga, Samoa and Fiji were part of the Pasifika Challenge Event held at New Zealand rugby’s sacred ground, Eden Park last weekend.
Samoa and NZ team, the Heartland XV faced off in the first thrilling encounter, ending with a 36-19 victory to Manu Samoa. The Samoans dictated most of the passages in the game and a strong finish in the second half saw them scoring a total of five tries compared to 3 from their counterparts.
As coach Steve Jackson had mentioned ahead of the match: "We've named an exciting team and there's some guys out there that are going to be playing their first games so it's going to be great for them."
There were three debutants for Samoa, Crusaders tighthead prop Michael Alaalatoa and Southern Tornadoes Number eight Tofatuimoana Solia started in the line-up while Queensland Reds halfback Scott Malolua was among the reserves.
Seasoned at first five eight, Tusi Pisi proved to be decisive as always with Ed Fidow and Ahsee Tuala causing havoc on the wings. Tim Nanai Williams made a timely return to the side at fullback in the hopes of making the World Cup squad selection. He was also a huge factor in Samoa’s attacking game.
Captain and openside flanker Jack Lam led his troops from the get-go and put on a man of the match level performance. The 6.1 ft tall, 103 kg no.7 will be one of the players to watch during the Japan RWC 2019.
The second Pasifika Challenge clash was a tight contest between Tonga and Fiji at first, until the Fijians finally found their rhythm to finish the game 29-19 on top at full time.
Tonga started brilliantly with a tremendous try in the corner to Captain and outside center Siale Piutau to open the exchange, but Fiji immediately struck back with one of their own from Josua Tuisova.
The Tongan forwards were utilising the size and strength up front and the maul was working well for them as they scored one from a lineout drive. A try was awarded to hooker Paula Nagauamo, and was followed by another free-flowing passage and ridiculously good pass and support play by the Flying Fijians giving Vereniki Goneva a taste of the white chalk.
Fiji head coach John Mckee was particularly happy with his boy’s performance but still feel they still have a lot more to offer: “We worked very hard in our phase defence and at goal line defence at times. I think the players also made some good individual tackling in the game. We need to brush up on few areas; when executing the ball which was evident in the first-half.”
Other Fijians to score tries were Semi Kunatani, Captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu and Sam Matavesi. Tonga manage to get one back, but it was too little too late, as the deficit was too much with time running out.
The Tongans were awarded many penalties in the first stanza but fail to capitalise and convert those opportunities into points. They opted to kick for touch in all occasions. It was obvious that Tonga were not concerned in making easy points in the test match but were rather playing to find the right combination and improve their set pieces as they build up for Japan.
The test match was a stepping-stone to fine tune and brush up on team tactics despite the comments made by head coach Toutai Kefu earlier in the week. "We have our best team on the park, so we want to win. That's our goal”, he said. However, a change in tactics was very evident last Saturday in Auckland.
Tonga has one last test match against the All Blacks this coming weekend with Samoa also taking on the Wallabies to complete their RWC preparations.
Fiji issued their traditional farewell to President Hon. Joiji Konrote at the State House Conservatory today followed by a Sayonara Gala dinner at Sofitel, Denarau before departing for Japan on Friday.