Fiji 7s win at their ‘home away from home’ – HSBC New Zealand Sevens

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Fiji 7s win at home away from home; New Zealand Sevens
HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 27: Fiji wins the CUp FInal during day two of the 2019 Hamilton Sevens at FMG Stadium on January 27, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

With massive support, it was no surprise when the final whistle was blown after the HSBC New Zealand Sevens cup match, that the unofficial home team won. With style and with humility, the Fiji 7s win at their ‘home away from home’.

Raising the cup, Fijian supporters literally outnumbered local New Zealand fans when cheering for their team. Winning their fifth New Zealand Sevens title, the second in succession for the Fiji 7s side, it was a brilliant display by Fiji to outlast the challenges from hosts New Zealand and finals opponents, the United States.

It wrapped a great weekend where both the men’s and women’s games of sevens were on show in front of a passionate audience. So many Fijian fans are located in Hamilton, there was also a flood of fans traveling up and down the country who swept into the FMG Stadium Waikato, with the colour blue being the most evident in all camera shots.

Fiji fans show their support at FMG Stadium on January 27, 2019. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

New Zealand (who play in black) held much fan support, in amongst 20,000 strong costumed rugby sevens fans. As they do on all 10 legs of the World Series, dressing up can mean both a ‘bit of a laugh’ or, to show who you believe will win.

So just as their players on the field performed, so did the spectators. The loudest, the most humble and the most embracing – it made the weekend something special for Last Word on Rugby to be a part of.

Emphatic performance as Fiji 7s win New Zealand Sevens

From match one, to match 45, one team stood head and shoulders above all others. In acknowledging that the series leading United States side had swept through pool play, and brushed aside New Zealand to reach the Cup final, they had no answer for power and precision of Fiji 7s.

Epitomized by Jerry Tuwai, he was in much of the play and scored two tries that contributed to a one-sided outcome. 38-0 showed how hard it is to score against this side. The US men could not overcome the 17-0 halftime score, which was more than doubled in the final 10 minutes.

Contributions from all the players helped the Fiji 7s win in Hamilton. Waisea Nacuqu, who crossed for a try and kicked a conversion. He was joined on the scoresheet by Tuwai, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Terio Veilawa, the sensational Alosio Naduva – who was equally impressive in 2018 – and the young rover, Vilimoni Botitu.

Introducing young talent is a tribute to the Fiji 7s management; since Ben Ryan coached the side, and including current head coach Gareth Baber. Including young players like Botitu alongside a Meli Derenalagi or the huge Sevuloni Mocenacagi, it makes the side a multi-faceted attacking team. Hard to defend against but as exhibited in Hamilton, an equally impressive defensive unit.

The USA may not have achieved all they wished for – even after the nasty injury suffered by speedster Perry Baker in the opening match – but in reaching their third successive Cup final, the US men retain a share of the HSBC Sevens Series standings. That is a real focus for all sides in 2018/19, as the final results will see the top four ranked sides automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.

2019 NZ Sevens goes mostly to form for top sides

With the goal of Olympic qualification as a plus for every leading side, the outcomes during the New Zealand Sevens ‘mostly’ went to plan. The top four were obvious, and Scotland and Samoa did fantastically well to go far over the two days.

That is unless you were an English or Argentinian rugby sevens fan.

Those two sides were unable to reach the Cup quarterfinals, each losing two games on Day One. Going against form, it saw the England team having to settle for a run to the HSBC Challenge Trophy final. Yes, they defeated Kenya 36-7, but will leave for the next leg deflated. Wanting to remain in contact with the top four, in fact they have now allowed a 16 point break for the third placed New Zealand team.

Much work will need to be made by England, by Argentina and certainly by France, Wales and Kenya, if they wish to make a claim for the 2018/19 title and Olympic qualification.

Positives will be held by Samoa, who managed a big first-up win over England, which propelled them to the Cup quarterfinals. Results like this for Samoa, fifth-placed Scotland and for Canada will give those sides motivation to aim higher than midfield.

New Zealand Sevens results: Day Two

  • Bronze medal match – New Zealand 29 South Africa 7

  • Fifth place playoff – Scotland 24 Samoa 19

  • Challenge Trophy – England 36 Kenya 7

  • Women’s Fast Four gold medal game – New Zealand 31 France 0

HSBC Sevens Series Accolades

Last Word on Rugby sevens lead writer Jovilis Waqa was confident that young Fiji player Vilimoni Botitu would produce something in this ‘home away from home’ tournament, and he was not wrong.

Jerry Tuwai won the HSBC Player of the Final award, with the head coach Gareth Baber awarded the UL Mark of Excellence award.

Along with the praise for those men, a Fiji 7s win only means that picking a Dream Team is going to be harder….harder not to leave out any of the Fiji team. The below group is evident of that.

World Series now heads to Sydney

This weekend has seen the Fast Four women’s tournament as a bonus for New Zealand fans, who got to see their World Champion Black Ferns 7s team play. They were successful in holding the trophy high, but the Women’s Sevens Series will be a full part of the massive Sydney Sevens weekend across the Tasman.

The men will again arrive in Sydney, fully focused. Some will mend to injuries; like New Zealand. Scott Curry was seen on crutches, withdrawing him from the bronze medal match, as well as Sam Dickson who broke his nose, on his way to collecting his medal.

Efforts like his, and that of others like James Rodwell who overtook DJ Forbes’ all-time appearance record. 90 times he has appeared in an event of the World Series, and senior men like he are a fine example for young players like Botitu or Sione Molia, to look up to.

The draw above will pit Fiji against their Pacific neighbours Samoa, the USA against their bordering nation Canada, New Zealand up against Scotland and South Africa playing both Australia and Argentina – the draw is open, and it will take plenty for the sides to perform well over the two days in Sydney.

The women’s draw will see all 12 sides competing hard, with similar hopes to the men.

Watch for all the results, and it is thank you to World Rugby, New Zealand Rugby and the organizers of the 2019 New Zealand Sevens for inviting Last Word on Rugby to be an official part of the HSBC Sevens Series.

 

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