Rio gold medalists Fiji injected life into the HSBC Sevens World Series on Sunday by doing what the islanders do best.
They came to the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, and they walked away winners after rolling over South Africa 22-0 in the final.
It was the 17th time Fiji have won in Hong Kong – and the third time in a row. What had worried their legions of fans all over the world was the fact they had not won a tournament since their victory in Rio last August, as the sport of rugby sevens made its Olympic debut.
There were even rumors of dissent among the ranks after one-time Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber was handed the reigns in January. But the men in white set the record straight at Hong Kong Stadium.
“There’s been a lot of pressure,” said skipper Osea Kolinisau as he was sprayed in champagne after the trophy presentation. “We told ourselves we’re going to gun for it like it was our first Hong Kong title. I’m stoked for Gareth,” he said.
“I know that he’s been under the pump with people questioning his credentials. I’m happy that he’s got his first win, and it was here in Hong Kong.”
Fiji’s four tries came from Kalione Nasoko (two), Sevuloni Mocenacagi and Mesulame Kunavula and they were delivered with signature Fijian flair, relying on lightning-quick passing and continuity to leave their South African opponents grasping at air.
The victory moved Fiji into second spot in front of England in the World Series standings – on 122 points behind South Africa’s 145. It gives them a slim hope of pegging back the Blitzboks, given that the circuit has three tournament remaining (Singapore next weekend then to Paris and London).
But the South Africans have won four of the seven tournaments played, and made the final of the remaining three. They’ll take some catching.
They’d gone unbeaten in the pool stages in Hong Kong and survived an inspired USA – and extra time – to win their semi-final 29-24.
Coach Neil Powell conceded his side were outplayed in the final. “Credit to Fiji. They played really well, kept pressure on us when we had ball in hand and we made too many basic errors. You can never give Fiji so much possession as they will always punish you – and they did just that.”