Fiji send warning to HK Sevens rivals with Tokyo triumph
Ben Ryan’s team gear up for defence of their crown with a stunning victory over South Africa
Imperious Fiji sounded a clear warning they will not give up their Hong Kong Sevens crown without a fight after the magical islanders won the sixth leg of the IRB Sevens World Series in Tokyo yesterday.
Fiji, coached by transplanted Englishman Ben Ryan, won the Tokyo Sevens defeating South Africa 33-26 in a breathtaking Cup final at the Prince Chichibu Stadium. Skipper Osea Kolinisau said the victory would increase the pressure on the most successful team in Hong Kong - 14 Cup wins - to win back-to-back titles in the World Series this Sunday.
"Expectations are even higher now for Hong Kong and for our people back home," said Kolinisau after the thrilling win over the Blitzbokke. "The Hong Kong Sevens is a big occasion but we are taking it one step at a time. We still have a lot of things to get right before Hong Kong."
Fiji will enter the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens bidding for a hat-trick of Cup victories and as top seeds for the three-day tournament at a sold-out Hong Kong Stadium starting on Friday.
After finishing runners-up, South Africa overhauled New Zealand on the IRB Sevens World Series and lead by two points, 116 to 114. Fiji are third on 95 and yesterday's win will make it two tournament victories this season.
"It is good to get on the podium again and the boys played really well today. When they want to turn it on they are not an impossible team to stop but they are pretty hard to beat. We're working hard, it's not been plain sailing but you can see what happens when you get the boys together," said a pleased Ryan.
"To finish above South Africa is a great way to end the two days. We will keep working hard and if we can knock over more trophies then it will give us impetus for next year. I'm really proud."
While Ryan is pragmatically looking ahead to next season, believing the race for the overall World Series is between New Zealand and South Africa, Kolinisau was more optimistic.
"We are very excited because it keeps us in the race for the title. Our goal for this season is to win the series and we have closed the points here," Kolinisau added.
Fijian speedster Waisea Nacuqu broke the deadlock in Tokyo when he scored the ninth and decisive try of the match after a sublime pass from Pio Tuwai.
New Zealand finished a disappointing fourth in Tokyo, losing 21-12 to England in the third-place play-off. It was their worst finish in the series this season and coach Gordon Tietjens will have plenty of headaches on his hand with skipper DJ Forbes sitting out the final game with an injury.
New Zealand are also missing influential playmaker Tomasi Cama, who was injured and wasn't picked for the legs in Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Fiji had knocked out New Zealand in the semi-finals yesterday, winning 17-12 while South Africa booked their berth with a 17-0 win over England.
Japan also sounded a warning that they will be hard to stop as they bid for core team status in the 12-team qualifying competition this weekend when they knocked out Samoa 42-12 before going down narrowly, 24-19, to Wales in the Bowl semi-final.