CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Dec 9 – Fiji ran out convincing winners of the Cape Town leg of the World Rugby Sevens series after beating the United States 29-15 in the final on Sunday.
Fiji turned the tables in emphatic fashion after they were beaten by the Americans in the quarterfinals of the first leg of the series in Dubai a week earlier.
The match was effectively won and lost in the last minute of the first half. Fiji were leading 5-0 after a long-range try by captain Kalione Nasoko but the United States were on the attack before a loose pass was intercepted by Vilimoni Botitu who ran unchallenged from deep inside his own half to score under the posts.
The woes for the Americans continued almost from the kick-off when world sevens player of the year Perry Baker dropped the ball and provided an easy try for Sevuloni Mocenacagi to make it 17-0 at half-time.
Man of the match Botitu and Nasoko added further tries in an evenly-contested second half during which the United States scored crossed through Ben Pinkelman (2) and Carlin Iles.
The United States went top of the series standings with 38 points thanks to two second place finishes, one more than Dubai winners New Zealand. Fiji moved up to third on 35 points, followed by England (30) and South Africa (29).
“We were disappointed last week when we didn’t perform to the level we did this week,” said Fiji coach Gareth Baber, who hailed a “great effort” from his team.
The United States outplayed New Zealand in the semifinals, avenging their defeat in the final in Dubai with a 31-12 win.
They scored five tries to two, including a sensational individual effort by Danny Barrett who sent two would-be tacklers sprawling as he barged down the right touchline.
“To make two consecutive finals is great,” said Barrett. “Our goal is to be a top four team.”
– Cape Town silenced –
Fiji silenced a capacity crowd when they defeated hosts South Africa 17-12 in the other semifinal.
The Blitzboks, wearing colourful jerseys to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of former president Nelson Mandela, seemed to have a great chance to win the match with the scores at 12-12 when Fiji’s Vetema Ravouvou was yellow-carded and the hosts were awarded a penalty inside the last two minutes.
But despite being down to six men, Fiji took advantage of a handling error by South Africa with 20 seconds remaining, winning possession from the resultant scrum setting Alosio Naduva free to race through for the winning try.
South Africa went on to clinch third place with a hard-fought 10-5 win over New Zealand.
Spain recorded their best finish in a sevens tournament by taking sixth place. They were beaten 14-7 by England in the fifth place final at the end of a campaign during which they defeated higher-ranked teams Argentina and Scotland.