Fiji stuns New Zealand

Meli Derenalagi goes in for a try against New Zealand in the Tokyo Olympics 2021. Inset: Rajnesh poses with captain Jerry Tuwai’s parents wearing Jerry’s first 2016 Olympics gold medal. Picture: MARTIN SERAS LIMA

Wednesday night was special and historic, as Fiji stunned the All Blacks in the Tokyo Olympic Games rugby 7s final to win gold medal again. Tears flowed freely, as the tiny Pacific nation tasted glory again after an emphatic win.

The flamboyant Flying Fijians maintained their dominance of Olympics rugby 7s with a comprehensive 27-12 gold medal win at the Tokyo Stadium, retaining the title they won in Rio five years ago.

Five years after their inspiring victory in Rio, Fiji sealed an emotional second consecutive Olympics gold medal with a thrilling win over the reigning HSBC WRSS title holders, the Commonwealth Games 7s gold medallists and RWC 7s champions.

It was a special and emotional win for the Flying Fijians who have been in a bubble since Easter and haven’t seen their family. This is what 7s coach Gareth Baber said in an interview, “It takes a special kind of person to make that commitment.

We knew at that stage it wasn’t going to be easy, but I think the journey we’ve been on, we’ve recognised it would be tough and I think what you’ve seen out there today and the last three days is the resilience of the group dealing with whatever’s been thrown our way.”

For New Zealand, the gold medal match was a chance to redeem themselves from their quarter-final loss to Fiji in Rio (12-7), where they finished fifth. But they had a monumental task up against them considering Fiji was undefeated in Olympics competition, and even before the match begun, the raw emotion from the Fijian team could be felt as players welled up singing their national anthem.

It was Fiji’s day, as they ran in four tries to cap an excellent tournament. Fiji raced into a 12-0 lead, as Ratu Meli Derenalagi and Sireli Maqala touched down in the opening three minutes.

All Blacks captain Scott Curry then crossed over for an unconverted try, but Fiji had fire in their bellies, and Jiuta Wainiqolo, who was in tears at the anthem, beat two defenders with a rampaging run down the right wing side to score.

Sione Molia showed great leg drive to power over the line after the half-time hooter, but Fiji dominated possession in the second period, and Asaeli Tuivuaka crossed for the try that sealed the win.

Fiji then added a penalty to their tally.

Newcomer Sireli Maqala shared in his interview, “I am very proud. It means a lot to me and the boys, and for all the people back home who have been going through the pandemic. It is a really big thing for all of us in Fiji.”

As the only member of the Rio 2016 winning squad to continue on to Tokyo 2020, Fiji captain Jerry Tuwai holds the unique title of being the only double Olympics gold medallist in rugby 7s history.

Comparing Tokyo with the previous Olympics triumph in Rio, Tuwai said, “I think this is very special for us and for Fiji with everything that has been going on in Fiji. It is more special than 2016 because we have been away from our families for about five or six months. I have three kids so it is really hard for me. My mum and dad sacrificed to buy my first boots. Those boots took me to Rio, to my first gold medal, and now my second. That is why I am really grateful to my whole family who has helped me along the way.”

As they huddled together, the Fiji team broke out into song at the playing field, and after receiving their medals, the team broke out into a stirring rendition of ‘Na Draki Oqo Jiova Ga’ (This day belongs to Jehovah).

Fiji and NZ had battled out at the Oceania 7s in Townsville, and Fiji beat the All Blacks 21-19 and 17-7, respectively.

Prior to these battles, the All Blacks had defeated Fiji in 2018 twice. They beat Fiji 14-0 in the Commonwealth Games 7s final, and in the semi-final of the RWC 7s 22-17.

However, last year in Sydney, Fiji hammered the All Blacks 26-5, and knocked them out from the pool.

The last time Fiji met the All Blacks was in Vancouver on March 9 last year. I had watched that match with my mother, which ended in a lot of despair and pain, as Fiji went down 17-5.

Unfortunately, that was the last match

my beloved mother watched, as she slept away peacefully on that fateful Monday morning.

Like me, she was a crazy and an ardent 7s fan, and she was looking forward to the Olympics which was scheduled to be played last year.

On Wednesday night, she would have been jumping with joy beside me, and celebrated Fiji’s epic and historic win.

This is one reason it was hard for me to contain my tears when the boys outclassed the All Blacks in Tokyo. Such moments are experienced by true lovers of the 7s game.

Isa, vinaka vakalevu boys for the sweet and memorable win! I also commend The Fiji Times and our veteran sports writers- Jo Makaba, who did a wonderful job, covering the RWC 15s tournament, and Maikeli Seru for the stories, pictures and reports!

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