Fiji denied Gold by New Zealand in Men’s Commonwealth Games final

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Fiji denied Gold by New Zealand in Men's Commonwealth Games final
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15: Gold medalists New Zealand pose during the medal ceremony for the Men's Gold Medal Rugby Sevens Match between Fiji and New Zealand on day 11 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Robina Stadium on April 15, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

After a memorable tournament, Fiji were denied Gold by New Zealand in the men’s Commonwealth Games final, at the Rugby Sevens competition. In an riveting match, the All Black Sevens triumphed 14-0, to claim another games title.

The two rivals faced off, after each side swept past the England and South African men’s sides, to fight it out for the prize which Fiji coveted most. The South Seas nation had won all the titles on offer – except a Commonwealth Games medal.

The 2016 Olympic champions must now applaud the Kiwi men, who showed a match-control missing from the side for many years. They held off the competition, to follow-up on the Gold medal win by the New Zealand women only minutes earlier.

Fiji denied Gold by New Zealand in Men’s Commonwealth Games final

This victory was a great reversal of the 2014 Commonwealth Games result for New Zealand. Knocked out of contention for the gold by Fiji, they can savour this victory on many fronts.

Veteran of that side is co-Captain¬†Tim Mikkelson. He spoke to 1News Sport after the final, and said “I was in the team that lost in Glasgow, so it is amazing.

He was pleased that his team could follow the efforts of the Black Ferns 7s. “Yeah, it is pretty satisfying. We were watching the overtime match, and their win at the end inspired us.

“It was awesome to get the double this weekend.”

Fiji on the other hand will feel that their team just didn’t react during the final, after having given so much over the course of the two-days. Dulled for much of the first half, Fiji did show some fight, but once the weight of possession and territory counted against them, strangely they had no answer.

Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens semi-finals

Fiji 24 South Africa 19

This match was worthy of a final. The familiarity of both sides means they have answers for the others play. After a blistering opening salvo, the South Seas team scored twice to pull out an early margin. It lasted well into the second half, with Sevuloni Mocenecagi crossing within minutes, to make it 19-0.

But as happens, South Africa suddenly ‘switched it on’. Determined, a double from¬†Rosko Specman soon had the game even again. 19-19 and the clock elapsed. It would be extra time. But undaunted, the Fijian team served up the perfect response, in last week’s Player of the Hong Kong final,¬†Amenoni Nasilasila crossing for the match winner. Phew!

If anything, the Blitzboks will think that they were one pass away from making the final. And it is always that close. Never usually a large points difference, and on another day, both sides might have grasped the gold medal which New Zealand now wear.

Fiji had to first survive a fiery Welsh team. Under the gun, Fiji just pipped them 21-17, in a close-run match. Semi Kunatani scoring an important try, that saw the Fijians advance from their pool on their experience, more so than on outright attack.

South Africa had been ruthless in the opening matches, and only needed to run in fourth gear, to better Scotland and top their pool. Up until Jamie Farndale crossed late in the game, the Blitzbok were unchallenged, and they appeared to be on course to defend their crown.

New Zealand 17 England 12

The Kiwi side showed their focus in this semi-final. Not cruising, but in a mindset that the England team could not trouble. The three-tries-to-two result, Regan Ware showed his experience in crossing twice. Always a danger, his combination of guile and speed helped the side to see-off England.

The efforts of Dan Biddy and Tom Mitchell have seen the British men undermine many of the cup aspirations of the Kiwi men, but this time at the Gold Coast games, the All Blacks 7s would not be denied a path to the gold medal final.

The Kiwi team were unbeaten in pool play, and by dispatching Canada 33-7, showed that they had the focus which has evaded them on the World Series circuit.

England stopped Aussie celebrations

England had earned their place, after dispatching hosts Australia. Winning 17-26, they had achieved what some thought impossible – if the huge support for Australia would have proved an motivating factor. Yet, even after an early¬†Ben O’Donnell try for the hosts, the English side never gave up. A man down on the bench, they saved plenty and went into halftime 12-12.

Then¬†Ruaridh McConnochie scored the telling try. It boosted the men in white, and while Aussie try almost caught them, they showed resilience to send the hosts into an fifth place play-off….instead of the semi-finals.

England Men secure Bronze Medal over Sevens Series leaders

In one sense, nobody wants to ‘play-off for Bronze’. But on the other hand, when you can defeat the HSBC Sevens Series leaders, then it is something to be proud of.

Note: Australia would go on to thump Scotland 26-0 in a telling match, but it would not be the dream result for the men’s team on the Gold Coast.

Commonwealth Games final – Gold medal match

Following the epic women’s final, the Kiwi men felt inspired. No doubt it had left the crowd on edge, so they wanted the same high standards. Yet, while New Zealand kicked off with an early try for Etene¬†Nanai-Seturo, the Fijian men were slightly lax. The semi-final appeared to have taken it’s toll, as they did not secure possession and were left ‘hanging off’ the Kiwi side.

That was to the advantage for Regan Ware. He soon scored his forth try of the tournament, to see his side out to an impressive 14-0 lead. That was nearly 19-0, when Ware advanced down the left hand side. The referee needed a review, which found the Kiwi player had lost control, so at the break it was 14-0.

Still not looking themselves, Fiji did reactivate to some degree, but the clock was ticking away. In one serious attack, Paula Dranisnukula looked to be flying his way to the corner. But in a sensational defensive effort, co-Captain Scott Curry cut him down on the sideline. Real heart shown by the leader, and it was repeated by the players and substitutes up to the final minutes.

Tempers fray in Commonwealth Games final

With frustration setting in, the Fijians were stretching to make their chances stick. And when sub Kurt Baker came on, he brought instructions from the coaching staff. The team needed to ‘play to their own pace’ and not let Fiji dictate terms.

It was out of character, but some Fijian players showed their disappointment at the tactic. After several penalties, a scuffle on the left hand corner nearly got out of hand. And when a last minute penalty kick option was chosen, even some in the crowd voiced their displeasure.

While the game is mostly played at pace, when it comes to major finals – which this Commonwealth Games final was – the smartest team can often out-survive the most thrilling.

With the final kick bouncing off the posts, and with time up, Baker hoofed the ball out and the gold medal was New Zealand’s.

That moment, all the weight of previous failures dropped off the shoulders of the senior Kiwi men. Helped by new heroes like Vilimoni Koroi, they had survived the threat from Fiji.

The fact that head coach Clark Laidlaw had targeted this pinnacle event; only sending a young team to Hong Kong, showed the group were fully-focused. That was realized today in the final. And to the delight of New Zealand fans across the globe, they peaked at just the right moment. For the Commonwealth Games final. 14-0

“Main photo credit”
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