2018 HSBC London Sevens: Fiji closer to Series title as Ireland impress with Bronze
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 03: The Fiji team celebrate winning The HSBC London Sevens during Day Two of the HSBC London Sevens at Twickenham Stadium on June 3, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images for HSBC)

Fiji continued its dominance of the HSBC Sevens Series, after claiming their fourth consecutive series title at the 2018 HSBC London Sevens. The South Seas Islanders defeated South Africa in the final, 21-17.

The home of English Rugby Twickenham was the venue of the two-day tournament. And with the popularity growing, a large crowd turned up on both days. And they were thoroughly entertained by all the sides present.

With the 2017/18 title in the balance, the core sides targeted Fiji, to halt their run of wins. But teams like New Zealand and England faulted, as it was left to the Blitzbok to deny Fiji gold. But to the credit of the Olympic champions, they survived a tight final, to claim yet another Cup final; the fifth of the season.

However, the weekend belonged to the flamboyant Irish team. They created history, by being the only invitational side ever to reach a Cup semi-final. Here, they defeated England 18-21 to famously claim the bronze, with speedster Jordan Conroy grabbing a hat-trick.

Both Fiji and Ireland celebrated their success, along with Kenya – who claimed the Challenge Trophy.

Fiji leads the series by seven points from South Africa. That will make it very, very hard to deny the Pacific nation another title, unless disaster were to occur. Few see that happening, with the form that the Fiji sevens group are in.

2018 HSBC London Sevens: The LOWDOWN

South Africa started well in the final, capitalizing on a numerical advantage – Fiji’s Sevuloni Mocenacagi was binned after infringement in the opening kickoff. With the extra man, Stedmans Ganz opened the scoring in London. However, like a champion side, the Toulon-based Josua Tuisova leveled the scores 7-7 at halftime.

With strong words from both camps during the halftime huddle, the Fijians made the first strike through Paula Dranisinukula. From the ensuing re-start, the islanders were ‘in again’ with super-subs Jasa Veremalua and Josua Vakuruinaibuli combining well. Leading 21-7, it seemed to be all to easy. South Africa responded bravely though, with two late tries. However, the Fijians hung on to claim the win by their actions early, and through a prolonged run of form in 2018.

This was their 30th consecutive winning match, grabbing their fourth consecutive series title with a strong weekend. The inclusion of Tuisova and the magical Semi Radradra, was ‘too hot to handle’ for the rest of teams.

Reactions after the final on worldrugby.org

Jerry Tuwai“There were a lot of new boys in the squad but we performed as a team, that’s why we overcame South Africa today. We are so blessed that we have a lot of supporters here.”

Player of the final, Semi Radradra: “I found it tough today but I got help from the boys and was hanging in there. I know we trust each other and finally we get the win.”

Blitzbok head coach hails Fijian quality

Neil Powell: “We’re happy with our performance. After losing against Samoa last night and coming into the second day with only 11 players, the guys showed a lot of heart out there. For us it’s all about those inches, to take away inches from teams and to make sure everybody understands their roles and responsibilities on the field, especially in defence. We pride ourselves on defence but unfortunately we let in a few tries against Fiji but that’s the quality that they have.”

Fiji head coach, Gareth Baber: “We’ve tried to emulate what South Africa did last year in terms on the consistency – they were fantastic last year and credit to them again here as they pushed us all the way. By the bounce of the ball, it could have gone the other way.

“Picking 12 players is the toughest bit – I’ve had some difficult conversations in the week.”

“But credit to them, they show humility in everything they do and they are good people to work with. They realise it is about the team and not the individuals.”

2018 HSBC London Sevens: notable results for Ireland

Ireland was the talk of London and, of the entire sevens world. They came, they conquered and found most teams wanting…. like the United States and England. Incredible stamina, and impressive for a team who were only invited for the last two legs of the World Series.

Ireland finished third, in a wonderful victory over the English. It proves they will be a threat in Paris next weekend; as LWOR eluded to before the tourney start.

Russia will be replaced by Japan next season, after another dismal outing. That side have slipped down the standings, and must hope to rebound in Paris – to restore pride to the jersey – and aim for a good finish at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July.

DHL Impact Player accolades

Justin Douglas holds his lead on the series DHL Impact standings. He is ahead of the reliable Ben O’Donnell and Amenoni Nasilasila and Eroni Sau. This group might have to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at the Paris Sevens, in an effort to claim the overall title from Douglas.

HSBC London Sevens ‘Dream Team’

Two players from Ireland force their way into the HSBC London Sevens group. Roache and Conroy played ‘out of their skins’ and it will be interesting to watch that teams progress next weekend.

Last Word, with Jovilisi Waqa

With the season finale to be held in the City of love, it will be a two-way battle between Fiji and South Africa.

Even as confident as the boys are playing, Fiji is in a tough pool in Paris. So to claim the title, Fiji need only to reach the semis to win. But like New Zealand found, if you miss one step, it can ruin your chances.

All to play for next week, with eyes on the Irish to follow that teams awesome progress in 2018.

Follow the action next weekend, when both the men’s and women’s series reach their climax. It will be a thrilling three days, with all the finals being held on Sunday in Paris.

 

“Main photo credit”
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