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Fiji class shines through as New Zealand crash out of Rugby 7s in Rio

Fiji’s dream of a first ever gold medal lives on.

Semi Kunatani in action earlier today.
Semi Kunatani in action earlier today.
Image: Themba Hadebe

NEW ZEALAND’S STUTTERING run in the men’s Olympic Rugby 7s tournament came to a halt this evening as Fiji kept their cool to advance to the semi-finals with a 12 – 7 win over their larger neighbours in the Pacific.

New Zealand, back-to-back world champions in the 15-a-side game, lost to Japan and Team GB in the pool stages while losing Sonny Bill Williams to injury.

As if all that wasn’t enough to cement their underdog status, Fiji took an early lead with Osea Kolinisau going over in the corner after the black jerseys struggled to deal with the ball-carrying power of Tuisova.

With officials heavily punishing high tackles and messy rucks, Rieko Ioane was sent to the sin-bin to steepen New Zealand’s uphill battle. Yet they went in to the half-time break leading 7 – 5 as Gilies Kaka chased down his own chip-through to touch down a try behind the posts.

After the half-time break though, Fiji’s confidence shone through and they put on a masterclass of ball movement to keep the pill alive and away from defenders until Jerry Tuwai took advantage of an overlap and finished behind the posts to give the small Pacific nation a 12 – 7 lead.

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It was only in the final two minutes when the result looked in doubt. A penalty gave New Zealand possession with time still on the clock. However, after making it beyond halfway, they were pinged for holding on in the tackle and tensions flared before the final whistle allowed Fiji celebrate a place in the final four.

Fiji will now face Japan in tomorrow evening’s semi-finals (18.30) after they defeated France 12 – 7.  Team GB needed extra-time to secure a 5 – 0 win over Argentina after regulation time ended scoreless. They will meet a South African side bang in form after beating Australia 22 – 5.

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Sean Farrell

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