Fiji stun NZ, Blitzbokke third
The Springbok Sevens team bounced back from their semifinal disappointment to grab third place at the Gold Coast Sevens with a 17-5 victory over hosts Australia on Saturday.
But they were overshadowed by a magnificent come-from-behind victory for Fiji as they stormed back to prove their win against the Blitzbokke was no fluke, downing World Champions New Zealand 26-12 in an epic final.
The Blitzbokke dug deep after Fiji blew them away with a stellar performance in the semis, and were way too powerful for the young Australian side, with tries from Chris Dry, Boom Prinsloo and Freddy Mercury-lookalike Paul Delport enough to seal a good victory and some vital extra points from the tournament.
But while the Blitzbokke came third, they will have a lot of work to do before the next leg kicks off in the desert of Dubai next weekend, with their performance below par for their standards.
There also isn’t clarity yet about the injuries to captain Kyle Brown and IRB Player of the year Cecil Afrika, while Branco du Preez will be back hopefully for Dubai to take his place at halfback.
Coach Paul Treu will know that his side were well below par, struggling in all their games thus far and looking ring-rusty in the opening game of the series.
Above this, they will also need to find a counter to Fiji’s resurgence, as the Blitzbokke were manhandled and pushed around in their 24-7 loss in the semis, meaning a lot of hard work ahead for the management of the team.
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All this of course would not concern the Fijians, who lost 26-5 to New Zealand in the pool game before finally finding their mojo to storm back on day two of the tournament.
The New Zealanders looked a classier side in the first half, absorbing the pressure more and getting the favoured calls as they went into the break with a 12-7 lead, but a top performance in the second stanza ensured the Fijians would get their first final win against the Kiwis in the series since 2002, and first final victory since the World Cup win in 2005.
The Fijians were a different team in the second half, forcing the All Blacks into mistakes and were quickly level when Joeli Lutumailagi went through to score. A minute later a crucial turnover at the ruck on the Kiwi line saw Emosi Vucago find open space and head to the tryline to open up a 19-12 lead.
The All Blacks tried hard, but were no match for the Fijian defence, and after some thrilling ball handling it was Watisoni Votu who sealed the deal and scored to take the final away from the New Zealanders.
Wales beat Samoa 26-15 to win the Plate final, while Argentina pipped Scotland 17-14 to win the Bowl final. Papua New Guinea took their first ever title when they beat Japan 31-19 to win the Shield.
The Series now moves to Dubai next weekend before heading to Port Elizabeth but the Fijians have made their intentions clear. Its now up to the Blitzbokke to respond.
Tonga 7 Kenya 5
Argentina 38 Japan 12
USA 24 Papua New Guinea 5
Scotland 36 Niue 0
New Zealand 24 England 14
Australia 14 Samoa 12
Fiji 33 Wales 5
South Africa 14 France 5
Kenya 14 Japan 19
Niue 0 Papua New Guinea 38
Tonga 15 Argentina 24
Scotland 19 USA 5
England 14 Samoa 17
Wales 14 France 12
New Zealand 26 Australia 7
South Africa 7 Fiji 24
Papua New Guinea 31 Japan 19
Argentina 17 Scotland 14
Wales 26 Samoa 15
South Africa 17 Australia 5
Fiji 26 New Zealand 12