Fiji close in on World Rugby 7s title after fifth straight win in HK
Fiji are within striking distance of the World Rugby Sevens series championship after they stormed past a determined France 21-7 to clinch a historic fifth consecutive title triumph in Hong Kong yesterday.
With the win, the Fijians surged past New Zealand and into second place in the World Sevens rankings, behind leaders United States (130 points).
The top-four nations qualify directly for next year's Olympics in Tokyo. The battle for rankings is set to intensify in the Singapore leg this weekend.
Fiji coach Gareth Baber, who dedicated the victory to victims of last month's Christchurch mosque attacks, said: "It's a fantastic feeling and I'm sure that it will sink in over the next two or three days."
Fiji's reliable band of supporters, celebrating the country's 19th overall win in Hong Kong, cheered and sang in the north stand long after their team had left the championship podium.
The Fijian side came into the final after spoiling the Americans' hopes of a maiden Hong Kong Sevens championship with a 28-19 semi-final win over the series leaders, recovering their customary precision after a scrappy quarter-final victory over Argentina.
Fiji opened the scoring against the French in the fifth minute when a quick pass behind from Aminasi Tuimaba 20 metres from the try line set up an opportunity for Vilimoni Botitu to weave around Remi Siega.
Tuimaba followed with a try of his own for Fiji to lead 14-0 at the break, before a yellow card for Josua Vakurunabili saw them concede a penalty.
Tuimaba was sent off with 90 seconds to spare, two minutes after his second try, in a match where the Fijians made full use of their strength advantage.
The US beat Samoa to third place without injured captain Madison Hughes. They will stay No. 1 on the standings following their Vegas win and four other finals appearances.
France, continuing the form that saw them finish second in Vancouver last month, knocked out Samoa to book their first final appearance in Hong Kong after earlier dashing the All Blacks Sevens' chances in a shock 14-12 quarter-final win.
New Zealand went on to lose 21-14 to Argentina in the fifth-place plate final. - AFP