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Fiji Triumphs in Sydney Heat

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Fiji Triumphs in Sydney Heat

The USA took 3rd in Sydney. Mike Lee KLC fotos for World Rugby.

Fiji came out on top against South Africa for the second time in eight days, although this time their prize was not ninth place but a first HSBC Sydney Sevens title.

Both teams had been determined to bounce back from that disappointment in Hamilton and served up a Cup final every bit as thrilling as their last meeting in Singapore when Fiji had led 19-0 at halftime only for South Africa to storm back and triumph 21-19.

Fiji nearly had the dream start in their first Cup Final of the season, but JC Pretorius and Selvyn Davids managed to hold Meli Derenalagi over the line. It would only be a temporary respite, though, because as the rain began to fall again the ball skewed out the side of a breakdown and Napolioni Bolaca reacted quickest to score the opening try.

A barnstorming run from Zain Davids created the momentum for Pretorius to score with Fiji suffering a double blow with Josua Vakurunabili yellow-carded for a tackle earlier in the move. Fiji managed to hold out in his absence and then increased their advantage when a powerful hand-off from Bolaca gave him the space to run-in his second of the final. 

Zain Davids crossed for South Africa midway through the second half but his namesake Selvyn was unable to add the conversion, leaving the Dubai champions trailing by two points. They were unable to find another score, and Fiji and their huge contingent of fans celebrated after South Africa knocked on in their own 22 on the final play.

Fiji captain Derenalagi said: “First of all I would like to thank the almighty Lord for giving us the strength and the power to come and deliver what we have been planning.

“Before we entered the field the message I told my team was just to go out there, enjoy it and do the job. We delivered that and I want to thank the soldiers behind me for that great effort you saw here today.

“Shout out to all the fans here in Sydney for coming out in numbers and for supporting your national team—this win is for you too.” 

It was a thrilling Sydney 7s despite temperatures on the field that went well past 100 degrees fahrenheit (37 celsius) on the field, and one in which the USA produced its best performance of the year. 

USA Takes Bronze

A subplot to the bronze final, delayed by more than 30 minutes due lightning, was whether Perry Baker or Carlin Isles would become the first USA player to score 200 series tries. Baker drew level at 199 by running in the opening try before captain Ben Pinkelman and Naima Fuala’au made it 17-0. Will Hendy scored with the final play of the first half for England.

USA lost Stephen Tomasin to the sin-bin but his teammates held firm in his absence. Then just as it appeared that Isles was set for try 200 Dan Norton caught and hauled him into touch. Instead it was England who had the final say, Ollie Lindsay-Hague turning Isles inside out to cut the deficit to 17-10.

New Zealand
Battles To 5th

The 12 teams that missed out on the Cup semi-finals were ranked according to their placing in the pools to play-off for fifth to 16th positions.

The trans-Tasman battle for fifth place was dominated by New Zealand, who scored tries through Sione Molia, Regan Ware, Dylan Collier and Caleb Clarke before Lachie Anderson ran in from long range for a consolation try. That try took the total raised by the Australian men for the Red Cross Appeal supporting those affected by the bushfires to $18,000 across the weekend.

Argentina made the better start in their encounter with Ireland for seventh place, Rodrigo Etchart and Rodrigo Isgro scoring in a first half that saw them lose two players to a clash of heads. However, Ireland came storming back with Jordan Conroy’s try at the death sealing a 21-12 victory on their first visit to Australia.

Sacha Valleau’s early try for France proved the only score of a ninth place playoff with Canada that was played in pouring rain, while Scotland ran out comfortable 21-5 winners over Wales in the all-European contest for 11th place. Sam Pecqueuer, captain Robbie Fergusson and Ally Miller ran in Scotland’s tries before Joe Goodchild added a late consolation for Wales, who still recorded their best finish of the season.

The 13th place play-off was closely-fought between Spain and invitational side Japan. First-half tries by Ignacio Rodriguez-Guerra and Pablo Fontes ultimately enough for Los Leones to win their second match of the weekend with the Tokyo 2020 hosts only able to find one try in reply from Shotaro Tsuoka.

Samoa found themselves in the 15th place play-off for the second weekend running—this time against Kenya—but again ensured they finished on a winning note with Paul Scanlan’s late try enough to secure a 19-12 victory for Gordon Tietjens’ men.