Daveta dumped at SCC 7s
Highly fancied Fijians undone by errors, charge for Ablitt Cup thrown wide open
He was stopped for one photograph after another as he made his way out of the Padang yesterday, by those who could still imagine seeing that Olympic gold medal hanging around his neck.
In town for the Singapore Cricket Club International Sevens (SCC 7s), Jerry Tuwai's presence on the Daveta roster was one of the key reasons the Fijian side were favourites to win the tournament.
Understandably so, too, since Fiji had won the rugby Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August.
But today, Daveta will contest for the Shield instead of vying to lift the Ablitt Cup for what would have been a record seventh time.
Tuwai and company were booted out in the quarter-finals yesterday, after falling to a resolute England Academy team 7-5.
And it was not pretty for the Fijians.
They made too many mistakes and were punished by their disciplined opponents who took the lead, and then held on stubbornly after Daveta failed to convert their second-half try.
A Fijian player remonstrated with the referee after the final whistle and was joined in his protests by a Daveta official, with the team later lodging a protest against what The New Paper understands was poor refereeing.
ANYONE'S CUP NOW
While the name of the referee was not released by organisers, they confirmed that the complaint will have no bearing on the result of the match.
But Tuwai insisted that they themselves should have done better.
"For me, you cannot blame the ref for what happened. Some decisions he made were really disappointing, especially the last one," said Tuwai, who did not wish to elaborate.
"I've played for three years now in the World Rugby Sevens Series, and I know when there's something wrong."
After the horn sounded to signal that the game will finish following the next stoppage, the referee whistled for what appeared to be a knock-on foul against Fiji, then ended the game.
Tuwai, 27, said: "But we gave of our best and it came down to mistakes that we made, and discipline."
It was England No. 4 Ethan Waddleton who scored against their mighty rivals and no wonder he was still buzzing after the match.
"You look over across the field and you see Jerry Tuwai there, and it's impossible not to think about the gold medal," said the 19-year-old.
"We forced a few errors from them, stayed patient throughout the game and defended well.
"It's unbelievable, it's great to get a win against them and this is definitely a confidence booster, but we'll need to come back down to earth soon, recover, regroup and we'll have to play again (today)."
England will play Penguin International RFC this afternoon for a spot in the final, where the winners of the Sunnybank-France Development Team clash await.
The Penguins just managed to overcome Malaysia's Iskandar Raiders 14-12 in their quarter-final tie.
Their skipper, Gareth Bautz, was not exactly surprised that Daveta were ousted.
"Daveta are on a bit of a break after the Olympics and, two weeks ago in Australia, we beat them too. They're slowly coming together and will be a force again in one to two years - they've got great players," he said.
But the 25-year-old prop did seem to sympathise with the Fijians, after being himself frustrated at some of the refereeing at the SCC 7s.
Said Bautz: "A few calls were frustrating, but there are also good referees here. We've not had a decision that cost us the game - yet.
"But the referees are getting better with each game and I really appreciate having them here."
France's skipper Alexandre Lagarde now believes that all the teams left in the Cup have a chance to win it and it will boil down to who manages the fatigue better.
"It gives confidence to everyone that (Daveta) are out. But the remaining teams are close to one another, and it's going to be tough.
"Sunnybank are playing very well, and we lost to the England team in the pool game," he said, pointing to Sunnybank's 29-12 win over Daveta in Pool A.
"Whoever's the freshest will have the best chance."
Daveta will face Iskandar Raiders in the Shield semi-finals at 1.20pm today, while the Cup semi-finalists will take to the field from 2pm onwards for a place in the final, which takes place later in the day.